As the Co-Founder and Director of Comsol, an importer, manufacturer and distributor of connectivity solutions, Bryan Hedley admits that cables aren’t glamorous. “It doesn’t sound glamorous,” he says.
“But we care about everything we do. It comes from us founders of the company. We care about what happens in the company, we care about what happens in the warehouse and we care about what people think of the brand. We’ve seen this attitude flow through to our employees and management, like Teresa.”
Teresa McMellon started at Comsol straight out of high school as the receptionist, and 20 years later is General Manager. “We’re easy to do business with, which is important for our customers,” she says.
“They know that they can pick up the phone or send an email and they’ll get an answer. Many of our competitors can take days to get back to customers.” If someone places an order for large volumes of cables, Comsol holds enough stock available to support these requests.
“We don’t have to say, ‘you need to wait until next month’,” Teresa explains. “Our strength is that we have so much stock that we can provide quickly for our customers.”
Bryan adds, “Quite often there is a rollout of technology at different companies with tight deadlines and when they get there at the last minute, they notice cables or adapters are missing. We need to carry deep levels of inventory, so we invest a lot into our stock and have well over one million cables in our warehouse at any one time.”
We're all in this together.
In 1991, Bryan and his business partner, Darren Bourke, started the company with a handful of customers.The technology was immensely different then to what it is now, and over the years they’ve had to adjust their focus to expand their client base.
“In the beginning, Darren and I manufactured cables and switches ourselves here in Australia. By the mid 90s, people started to import technology from other countries, like Taiwan and China,” he reflects.
“It became impossible for us to compete against Chinese imported brands, cables and switches. So we had to start importing them ourselves. The biggest change we’ve seen is that we’ve gone from stocking locally manufactured products to ones made overseas, and we ended up joining the ranks of those importing products.”
The business has two distinct paths, the commercial space and the retail space, and is focusing on reducing waste and environmental impact within these. “Comsol has 380 products in 160 different Officeworks stores,” Bryan explains.
“Officeworks is always trying to minimise its impact on the environment, and as a brand and a supplier to them, we are also looking at ways to do that. For example, we want to move our blister packaging across to cardboard packaging.”
Teresa adds, “In addition to our Comsol retail products in Officeworks, we’ve created a new brand called Klik for our commercial customers. We’re growing this brand across the commercial space and keeping it separate to the Comsol brand in Officeworks. We’ll continue to drive efficiency and invest in improving the systems we already have in place.”
Our strength is that we have so much stock that we can provide quickly for our customers.
Comsol also continues to innovate with connectivity and charging products. “There is so much choice for people these days, and we need to stand out,” Bryan says.
“There must be a reason why the customer wants to buy it. We tap into this by doing something as basic as making a cable more fashionable. We’re designing products for a younger tech market.”
The company’s internal and external salespeople get paid a financial incentive based on budgets, which is common for many organisations, however there are financial incentives not only for sale staff but also for support staff, technical staff and warehouse staff in senior positions.
“It’s all based on company targets; no-one’s target is for certain customers,” Bryan explains. “We’re all in this together. Every month we have a budget and if we make that budget, everyone on those incentives gets paid bonuses based on what we do.”
Teresa notes that if the company is doing well, it wants to thank its staff because they are the ones contributing to its success.
“It’s always been a philosophy that Darren and Bryan put in place; that if Comsol is doing well, it’s a result of the team working for the company. It’s about rewarding those people for that effort.”
Bryan believes in leading by example. “When Darren and I started the business, we did everything,” he recalls.
“We know what it’s like. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. When things need to be done, our management will roll up our sleeves, go downstairs and pack an order that we know is urgent.”
Darren and Teresa are inclusive leaders who like to include others in decision-making. “Whether it’s a decision about a project or something within the company or something with the customer, we always try and make a joint decision,” Bryan explains.
“It’s important to make staff feel invested in that process.” Teresa believes it’s essential to acknowledge people for their work. “People should feel that what they do is important,” she says.
“They feel validated for what they do. They get paid and get bonuses. But having someone say, ‘well done, you did a great job’ is invaluable to their day.”
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