In this SME Association of Australia Member Profile, we catch up with Sydneysider Kerry Henry and find out how he and business partner Tony Ruppas are succeeding with their business, Aussie Bonds Australia.
WHAT: Aussie Bonds Australia
BUSINESS OWNERS: Kerry Henry (58 years old) & Tony Ruppas (52 years old)
WHAT: Issue deposit ponds for real estate purchases
WHERE: McMahons Point, Sydney, NSW
OPERATING SINCE: 2007 (origins in 2001)
SMEAA: Please tell us a little about your business in your own words.
Kerry Henry: We are a leading provider of deposit bonds that clients use as the (typical) 10 per cent deposit required when purchasing residential or commercial real estate.
SMEAA: How has your business evolved since its inception?
KH: We have had several small business entities across insurance and finance since 1997. Our businesses are largely influenced by the finance cycle, so the period post-GFC hasn’t been a heap of fun and we’ve had to downsize to keep going. Technology has made a difference, so we’re able to do more with less.
SMEAA: What motivated you to start your own business?
KH: Getting away from corporates that prefer to have endless meetings to bleat their own egos versus focusing on clients and staff.
SMEAA: How many staff do you currently employ?
KH: Seven full and part-time.
SMEAA: Who are your clients and where are they mostly based?
KH: Our clients are Australia wide and include mortgage finance brokers, real estate agents, accountants, solicitors and insurance brokers.
SMEAA: Are you targeting new clients or more so focusing on getting more business out of your existing customer base?
KH: Our transactional business is one-off, so we need to develop repetitive referral relationships. Knowing that we consistently deliver top quality service and have a pricing edge, we’ve recently started to spend more on online market positioning with Google and Yahoo and it’s had immediate impact.
SMEAA: What business challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
KH: We’re impacted by movements in property sales, particularly ‘off the plan’ developments. Since the GFC, there haven’t been as many cranes in the sky. The property development market is starting to return, however another GFC event will put the industry backwards for a few more years. Our business is scalable, plus we have three other small businesses, so we have great economies of scale. Plus we maximise technology as much as possible.
SMEAA: Many businesses are doing it tough at the moment; how’s the outlook for your business?
KH: If property development and real estate sales are strong, our business is strong. We have diversified into several businesses to soften any reversal in one or more.
SMEAA: Do you have a business motto or any business advice you’d like to pass on to fellow SME owners?
KH: Be consistent in service delivery. Some clients may sometimes walk away for a slightly better deal, but quality service will win out. Plus, don’t have all eggs in the one basket. We have four small businesses that assist to share operational costs and each one is not equally impacted in any downturn. Embrace technology. We now have a number of staff working full-time from home, so better quality of family life for them and we’ve been able to scale back our infrastructure costs. We’re now paying 1/8th rent costs compared to 18 months ago, plus less travel, taxi and toll costs, saving in excess of $150K per annum.
SMEAA: When did you join the SME Association of Australia and why did you decide to join?
KH: Last year. The SME sector is the backbone of Australia’s broader employment opportunities in the past and more so in the future. The SMEAA has to make much more political noise to demand a better environment for small business – not handouts, as SME owners are already mostly survivors. It’s about governments, at all levels, providing a more level playing field. Big business shouldn’t be given handouts. As an ex-vice president of a major global bank, these handouts haven’t, and don’t, deliver the results these large corporates claim. Governments have been big suckers to big business! It’s time to focus on where the future lies for the majority of working Australians – SMEs.
SMEAA: What benefits have you and your business gained/enjoyed from joining the SMEAA?
KH: Mainly hearing news about others in the SME sector. We have been to some SMEAA events and have gained knowledge and contacts.
SMEAA: Will you be renewing your SMEAA membership?
SMEAA: What would you say to other small business owners who are considering becoming a member of the SME Association of Australia?
KH: Do it and get involved in the future of this important business sector.
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