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Safety first: Greg Nesbitt

greg nesbitt - article image

Marathon Tyres’ operations are predominantly on the East Coast of Australia and its core capabilities are providing multiple leading tyre brands with complete tyre management, tyre service, and tyre repair capabilities to clients across a range of niche industries. Managing Director Greg Nesbitt has had a long association with the business, as his father founded it in 1970 and he grew up around its operations; seeing the hard work that went into making it a success.

“There were five of us kids and if we ever wanted any pocket money we wouldn’t get it unless we went to work in the family business,” Greg remembers. “Pretty early on my parents instilled a good work ethic in all of us. We all had a lot of passion for it and worked very hard — a sale was never done until the money was in the bank.”

Some years ago Marathon Tyres left the Nesbitt family’s hands, but in 2011 the business once again became family owned. Greg took over the running of the company in 2002, and continued to look at niche markets in areas such as mining and civil construction to broaden the portfolio and increase opportunities. This proved to be a prosperous decision.

If we can’t add value to the customer then we won’t survive in this business.

“Since we repurchased the business we have invested a substantial amount of money into plant and equipment, training, and our premises. It’s a team effort with all of the staff,” Greg says. “I find that being a family business the staff tend to respond better than they would if it was a bigger company. We’re going in the right direction — we’ve increased the size of the business, expanded our geographical footprint and secured a lot more work on a contractual basis.

Corporate alliances strengthening strategies for success

“Half of what we do is in the mining space, 15% in the ports, 15% in the military, and 15% is in civil construction. Our corporate alliances are helping us to take the business to the next level in these areas. Our major supplier is Michelin, and when you’re a family business, suppliers like Michelin want you to succeed more than ever. I often say the relationships we have with our suppliers are just as important as the ones with our customers, because if you don’t have a good relationship with them, and our staff, then that will flow through to our clients.

“There’s a couple of things we concentrate on in our business: one is providing the most cost effective products, two is providing the safest, most efficient service possible to minimise customer downtime, three is managing the complete supply chain from the product forecast demand, to import, fitment, and disposal.

“This ultimately delivers our customers a cheaper total cost of capital. Therefore, we must have great working relationships with our key suppliers. We give them the required short-term forecasts so the stock arrives in a timely manner, and we make sure they’re not overloaded with stock or going to run out. We are always working with our suppliers and looking at ways we can work together to lower our customers total unit cost.”

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Despite the tough downturn currently being felt in the Australian mining industry, Marathon tyres is still actively investing in its business to develop better infrastructure, its people, and software. Greg notes that profitability is a challenge; however, being able to provide a safe and efficient service that can add value to clients is helping to overcome this.

Safety in particular is a huge issue and something that has always been a priority for Marathon Tyres. On a mining site, tyre fitting can be one of the most dangerous activities. Our TMaSS tyre management and safety software is designed to bring our safety systems and supervision closer to our people no matter where our people are working. It caters to a diverse range of company structures, and its Cloud-based architecture means users can securely access their data from any web browser. Also, the associated iPad app makes it quick and easy to navigate, even on the go.

Unique TMaSS software package connects people with the right information

“We developed the TMaSS software package internally and we eventually want to sell it to the market,” Greg explains. “Apart from the tyre management software, the safety system package is excellent. To give you an example, you put all your safety documentation onto the system — risk assessments, safe work processes, certificates of currencies, all the individual persons competencies — and it’s a mobile system that you can access on your iPad. From the information that has been uploaded, we can do safety observations of our people and the workplace.

The aim is to ensure that our staff are following our training and safety requirements. We work a lot with FIFO [fly in, fly out] workers on remote sites, as well as people based at both our own and our customer’s depots. We’ve found that by having the TMaSS system in place, it brings our workforce closer to management and to the customer in these types of environments. It has really improved our ability to ensure our people are doing the right thing in the workplace and keeping safe. That’s better for the employee, for Marathon Tyres, and for the customer.”

Marathon Tyres has a staff base of approximately 150 people, all of whom are passionate and enthusiastic about the work they do. In fact, many have been involved with Marathon Tyres for up to thirty years, which speaks huge volumes about the type of operation that it is running. This, Greg says, is perhaps the company’s biggest competitive advantage.

“We’ve got a lot of passion in the business,” he shares. “I’ve been involved almost all my life and we’ve got a lot of other long-term people here too. We’re all on the same page. We want to add value to the customer, to understand what the customer’s requirements are, and to address those requirements. If we can’t add value to the customer then we won’t survive in this business.

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The majority of people who come through the company develop into brand managers, supervisors, or senior managers.

“Our employees respond well to our hands-on leadership, which comes from being a family business. When you own the business yourself it doesn’t mean you can slack off, you actually have to work harder. I think our employees recognise that. If they know I’m going to work hard then they are committed to doing the best they can as well. There might be a few mistakes along the way, but it’s how we deal with those mistakes that’s important. If I lead by example then that’s what gets the best out of people.

Giving staff real opportunities for training and development

“I enjoy developing the people I work with and that’s a really rewarding part of my job. In business, you have two families — your own family, and your work family. What often happens is you end up spending a considerable amount of time with your work family, therefore the relationships developed are incredibly important. The majority of people who come through the company develop into branch managers, supervisors, or senior managers. 30% of our employees have been with the company for over ten years, while the three senior managers combined have over seventy-five years service with Marathon Tyres.”

Being a family-owned and -operated business has many benefits, Greg says. Marathon Tyres is debt free and this allows it to think quickly and act with agility. Decisions don’t have to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process, they can be made on the spot in real time, provided they make financial sense. This should hold the company in good stead as looks towards its future.

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