Australia produces more than 800 million tonnes of usable iron ore each year, representing half of the world’s iron ore exports. In fact, it’s the world’s largest producer of iron ore. The majority comes from Western Australia’s Pilbara region, which, although a backbone of the national economy, is a dry and sparsely populated region.
The mining industry, and indeed the Pilbara community, could use all the support it can get right now. Fortunately, Bennco Group is on hand to ensure the Pilbara thrives.
Founded by Managing Director Todd Bennett in 2016, alongside his business partner, Operations Manager Ben Williams, Bennco’s origins lie in the wake of a mining economy downturn. Rather than leave the industry behind, the pair created Bennco to provide comprehensive services to the construction and mining sector.
“Safety is our number one priority – old cliche, I know, but it truly is,” Todd says. “We work in a high-risk environment on several work fronts. Every day brings a new challenge around safety and executing our projects safely. Our clients entrust us to deliver a safe, quality project.
“It’s an important part of any workplace. If you can turn that safety mentality into a positive safety culture, you’ll have an enjoyable place to work where everyone goes home safe to their friends and family. That’s our number one goal, to provide a safe and enjoyable workplace.”
Its workforce receives constant encouragement to pursue safety above all else. If total safety can’t be assured, the Bennco team has complete support from management to shut down work until all risks are mitigated.
Given the projects Bennco undertakes – building and construction, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration, concrete, civil, site maintenance and upgrades – this emphasis on safety is crucial. But once safety is assured, innovation is the watchword for Bennco.
“Since we’re a small local business, it’s some people’s perception that we only do things a certain way,” Ben explains. “We’re consistently changing our team’s mentality to ‘think big’. Our vision and direction changes daily to suit the market, so we need to ensure we’re challenging ourselves to make necessary changes. We endeavour to think of ways to better ourselves, our business, our service, our culture and our safety to ensure we provide sustainable business solutions to our clients.”
As an example, Bennco has moved away from physical record-keeping, embracing digital management systems. Ben says it has improved efficiency, reporting and accountability, while limiting their environmental impact through reduction of paper use. He also recognises that, as the economy moves into the future, it will be increasingly technology driven; to fall behind would be disastrous.
But the most important element of Bennco’s strategy includes its efforts to maintain a strong network of relationships across the region’s industry. Todd says that, like any kind of relationship, it requires communication, time, effort and trust, although he believes that honesty and transparency are key, in the mission to build and empower the broader Pilbara region.
“Most people in business can talk the talk, but it comes down to walking the walk,” Todd says. “This is where businesses struggle to deliver what was asked of them. Be realistic in what your capabilities are – you can’t take over the industry with one job. You need to build the necessary traits with your clients and be a sustainable supplier that your clients can trust and rely on.”
Bennco’s dedication to the surrounding community goes far beyond healthy business relationships. For the past three years, the company has been a major sponsor of the local AFL (the Fortescue National Football League), while sponsoring small events in schools and sporting clubs.
Bennco was also a Platinum Sponsor of the 2018 Karijini Experience, a local event to bring everyone together in celebration of the social, cultural and economic achievements of Indigenous people in the Pilbara region. “We’re very active across our local community,” Todd says.
“I believe it’s important to support the community that supports us. We endeavour to contribute to the Pilbara in any way we can. Being so entrenched in such a small community, it’s humbling to know that we’re a big part of that community’s success.”
“Be realistic in what your capabilities are – you can’t take over the industry with one job.”
When it comes to Bennco’s own internal community, Todd is passionate about supporting them. “Some people say that comes naturally – maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t,” he ponders.
“Being in my early thirties, I’ve learned a lot and still have a lot to learn, but the qualities that have helped me in my role have been asking questions, listening and decision-making. Just because your title is Managing Director it doesn’t mean other people don’t have interesting ideas that need to be listened to, nor is it your way or the highway. Those old-school management styles are long gone.”
He credits his management team (including Ben) with the insight and involvement necessary to create a collaborative, thorough decision-making process. They also offer a huge contribution in terms of experience – Todd believes anyone can develop professionally by listening to the “people who have done it all before”.
But it’s not enough to just be like someone else, he says. It’s essential to forge one’s own path, to get out in front and remain front of mind with clients. Bennco now provides services across 15 mine sites, and the universal feedback is that the company’s work crews have a positive attitude and are team-oriented. A productive culture, Todd says, breeds trust and facilitates communication and, most importantly, leads team members to view Bennco as more than just a business.
“The right culture also helps staff retention,” Todd says. “In turn, our clients see the same faces coming to complete projects, which gives the client confidence in the brand and the continuity of our workforce. Culture can make or break a business. People want to be part of a team – a successful team – and with the right culture, success will come.”
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