John Driscoll has a track record of growing businesses. “Before I became a director, I’d been involved in improving businesses in the manufacturing environment,” he says. “I’d say that was always one of my strengths.” And it’s something he brought to his role as Managing Director of Anmar Group.
In John’s first year with the business, he oversaw the opening of two new factories. From there, he oversaw the build of a new manufacturing plant that would be able to house the whole business and consolidate three locations into one. This new plant was one of the largest in Australia at the time.
“I thought before we start growing really out of control, we need to make sure we have the fundamentals in place,” John says. “Because if you want to sustain a business, you need to make sure the right foundation is there first. The process of receiving an order, moving it through the office, working with suppliers, manufacturing and shipping also needed adjusting before we can really focus on growth.”
Anmar Group is comprised of three operating entities that manufacture, supply and install complete kitchens, bathrooms and lifestyle joinery – Claytons, Marbut Stone and InstallAUS. The Group has grown from 30 to 300 employees through a recruitment process that searches for talented people who have the right attitude and whose values align well with the company’s.
A priority is to invest heavily in people development, so Anmar offers extensive training through internal and external courses. “We’re focused on succession planning to make sure we secure and foster future leaders of the business,” John notes. Other core values include continuous improvement, teamwork and respect. “If you have the right values,” he continues, “they will create a good culture and environment to cultivate friendships in the business.”
Working hand in hand and striving for the same goals makes Anmar Group a unified front against the challenges it faces in a changing society and industry. “I like to think that we’re changing the way our industry has operated in the past,” John says, “to be able to offer better solutions and
seamless service to our customers, for example: quicker lead times, one-stop solutions, national coverage and more products to our customers. The building industry is looking for quicker ways to build houses, as well as better quality and more affordability. That’s what inspires me. I’m motivated by making a change; I’m not motivated by doing the same thing day in and day out, for years to come.”
“I’m motivated by making a change; I’m not motivated by doing the same thing day in and day out, for years to come.”
Eight years ago, Anmar Group acquired Marbut Stone and its world-class facility – one of the most advanced purpose-built plants in Australia, which has the infrastructure and automated systems to manufacture and deliver products almost anywhere in the country. “That has been the biggest game changer for our company and for the industry. Our competitors have had to look at doing the same thing,” John says.
The biggest challenge for Anmar Group is staying ahead of these competitors. John wants the company to “do things better than what we’re doing today” and for this it needs to offer the best service and quality, along with innovative ideas. “We’ve reduced onsite lead times from between two and four weeks to approximately three days,” he explains.
As the business continues to grow, it’s striving to maintain an edge in the market. To this end, the product development department tests the design and implementation of new products regularly. “We’re continually searching for materials overseas that will allow us to offer new and exciting products. We’ve also done a lot of investigation into making products that work in the harsh Australian weather conditions at an affordable price.
“Most of our competitors assemble their products at the factory and deliver them to the site that way. We flat pack most products to the site. Because of our machinery, we’re able to do this successfully. Flat packing is vital for keeping costs low and making sure jobs are ready when requested by a customer. Most of all, it’s better logistically. We can transport product all around Australia efficiently.”
Technological development has had a positive impact on Anmar Group’s manufacturing plants too, mainly through machinery improvement. The company can tailor its machines’ software and design to fit what it requires. Business-to-business technology also allows it to communicate easily with critical suppliers, providing speed, information and greater efficiency.
“We’re always looking at smarter and faster ways of doing things. Technology has played a huge part in our business environment,” John says.
Safety is imperative in the manufacturing business and Anmar Group makes it a top priority. For nearly 30 years, it has hired permanent safety employees and kept an OHS committee. Employee inductions have a focus on safety, and the Group arranges third parties to complete testing on the air quality and noise levels of its factories. “We make sure we have a good working environment,” John says. “I live by the philosophy that I would allow my children to work in any of our businesses.”
John adds that reporting is the most significant tool the company uses to ensure productivity. Television screens around the office and in the factories display reports for employees.
“It helps us to question: Are we hitting our deadlines? Are we meeting our budget? Are we doing unnecessary overtime? Are there breakdowns that are happening a little too frequently? If we don’t prioritise reporting, I don’t think the business can grow.”
John shares that he operates the business with a customer-first perspective and that this guides Anmar Group in everything it does. “More than 20 years ago, someone said to me, ‘do the right thing by the customer and success will come’.
I’ve never forgotten it and I pass that on to everyone. Never try to save a dollar to the detriment of the customer or get out of something that went wrong. I believe doing the right thing has allowed us to grow to where we are today.”
This is why John welcomes customer feedback, the good and the bad. “We are transparent in our performance, so we let our customers know as much as we can and we listen to what they have to say about their experiences with us.
Behind the scenes, the teams have regular meetings to discuss any recorded issues on a job. We report them, our senior managers and I discuss what we can do to resolve them, and we brainstorm how to we can stop similar issues from happening in the future.”
Since the age of 14, John has practised the same morning routine to which he attributes his success. He wakes up at 5.30am and begins his day with a weights and cardio session at the gym.
“I think working out in the morning allows you freedom in the afternoon; you’ll have commitments for work, but it also allows you to spend time with family and friends,” he says. “I find I’m in a routine that I can’t get out of and I think it’s a great way to start the day. As far as I can see, it’s a major part of where I am today and how I operate.”
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