Although Stealth Global Industries specialises in ensuring the seamless delivery of complex supply chain processes for its clients, its commitment to quality products and experiences is anything but covert. Its growth is also no secret to its customers, who now have access to more than 300,000 products via both catalogue and e-commerce platforms, sourced from more than 2,000 suppliers, divided into twenty-nine categories, and growing.
Behind the proud smile of CEO Mike Arnold is thirty years’ experience in supply chain and third party logistics. Leaving school at fifteen, Mike started his career as an apprentice mechanic in his father’s civil contracting business. After three and a half years, Mike had a change of heart and began pondering how he could make a new future for himself. “While working for my father, I realised pretty early on that I didn’t want to spend my life rolling around in grease. That’s when the opportunity came up to be a transport clerk with one of the largest transportation businesses throughout Western Australia — the Bell Group. So I applied and was fortunate to get in,” says Mike.
Taking to the new role like a duck to water, Mike was promoted to a supervisor position with the company within three months. “In that new role, I ran all the metropolitan and port transportation. I then proceeded to take on the Northwest operations, so by the age of twenty-one, I was leading about 120 people, including transport drivers, clerical staff, as well as people who worked on the docks loading all the trucks. By the age of twenty-five, I had moved on to new horizons and into my first executive management position.”
A rapid rise
Mike’s rapid rise to the top was due to a combination of hard work, determination, good luck, and recognising the relevance of good working relationships. “I learned pretty early on that you have to get on well with people, and that’s at any level — whether it’s your employees, customers, managers, or people that offer you counsel and support along the way. I always manage to grab on the shirt tails of those people in my life.”
Buzzing with excitement for the next venture, Mike branched out and founded his own logistics company in 2000 at the age of thirty-two. He built the Lakewood Logistics Group from the ground up into one of Western Australia’s largest third party logistics operations. It wasn’t long before bigger fish started sniffing around for acquisition opportunities. “Five years in, Australia Post took a majority shareholding and we collectively grew that business for another three years before the size of the organisation meant Australia Post needed to integrate it into a wider business without a minority shareholder, so that’s what we did.”
I learned pretty early on that you have to get on well with people, and that’s at any level — whether it’s your employees, customers, managers, and people that offer you counsel and support along the way.
As well as concurrently taking on leadership roles with other companies, including as Group General Manager of SWADS (State Warehousing and Distribution Services) and Interim CEO for AirRoad Logistics Pty Limited, Mike moved into the public sector with an Australian listed global supplier business, serving as Executive Director and COO for ADG Global Supply. “That’s really where I cut my teeth in the international space, and I have been able to get experience uprating the company into new global markets. I took that business from its $32 million revenue base and in two years built it up to $83 million. It was a high growth business and I have learned a lot on the job,” explains Mike.
Taking the complexity out of a complex supply chain
From there Mike went on to become founding CEO of Stealth Global Industries in 2014, establishing the business as a competitive global force, and growing it into the successful business it is today. The company connects market-leading brands and complementary products with B2B customers of varying sizes around the globe, providing a single point of contact for all product requirements.
“We moved from zero to fifty staff very quickly — across all nationalities and different cultures — which allowed us to put a global footprint in place and set the foundations.
It also built our local presence — we quickly grew the Australian customer database to around 60,000 with our initial products, which allowed us to enter into the healthcare market, and then continue expanding into new areas.” Stealth Global Industries has expanded to work across global product distribution and complex supply chain management solutions for safety clothing and protective gear, healthcare items, industrial needs and everyday workplace supplies.
“Establishing and building up Stealth was really about utilising my many learnings from all those prior experiences, and knowing already how to go to market, knowing where are we going to position ourselves, and so on,” explains Mike. Through those learnings, Mike has built the business from nothing to having a revenue base of around $14 million, expanding it from Australia into new global markets across Asia, Europe and Africa, with plans to develop into the Middle East, all while forming new ties with recognised partners in the region.
“We have been able to not only establish ourselves in those markets, but we have also worked very hard and invested considerable time attracting leading brands to the business,” says Mike. “What that’s done is provide us with a core range of trusted products specifically around safety, healthcare and industrial markets, and we’ve helped to take those brands international.” Stealth’s strategy when forming business alliances has always been centred on brand recognition, aligning with companies whose products have been proven to be high quality, competitive on price, and associated with good service and customer support.
Building a marketplace takes time
“Building marketplaces doesn’t happen overnight, and attracting the calibre of partnerships that we have been able to establish takes time and effort to build trust. The team has invested considerable time to attract leading brands to the business and establish solid foundations, and the success we’ve seen with our partnerships has been about creating value for them as well as for us, and making sure that this benefits both sides,” says Mike. “We also make sure to create clear and upfront expectations, but also define and revisit roles with ongoing quarterly reviews. We all share in the uptake, and we share the risks,” says Mike.
Building marketplaces doesn’t happen overnight, and attracting the calibre of partnerships that we have been able to establish takes time and effort to build trust.
Global conditions over the past few years have forced leaders to think differently, Mike believes, and Stealth has been working to continually present new business concepts to its strategic partners and collaborating with them to explore new ideas. “The success of that, going forward, is really about sustaining a long-term partnership, keeping the promises that we have made and keeping that integrity in our dealings,” he says. Through the collaborative power of its strategic network, Stealth was also able to establish a foundation customer and investor base that helped to underpin the company’s growing revenue, and build up its strong employee count across each new market.
But business is as business does, and just as Mike thought he was getting ahead, a new challenge would rear its head — the evolution of consumer habits and the growing demand for digital services and e-commerce options. Digital disruption rippled through the industry, and Mike saw it as a golden opportunity to display Stealth’s customer-centric approach.
“The whole success of the multi-channel selling is around maintaining quality face-to-face contact but also offering the convenience of the online system, so now repeated sales can be done online,” he says. “We are absolutely embracing technology; we see it as a central requirement of our growth. We have a long-term global vision and e-commerce is an essential requirement of that. So we’re spending a lot of time investing in and introducing digital channel capabilities and that really is creating a new era for Stealth.
“Indeed, as more customers migrate to online shopping and demand increases for e-procurement and e-commerce platforms for ordering and product catalogue management, Stealth has emerged as a multi-channel business. “Connecting with customers through digital channels is an essential requirement of Stealth Global’s positioning and a core differentiator for success in order to continue to retain and attract more customers, while still integrating with leading brands and suppliers,” says Mike.
Taking a tailored approach
“I have really focused on making sure that we fit between the mass-market approach and also the individual product-centric approach, so that our offering is still tailored. We want to provide customers with the option to buy a single product or multiple products through various sales channels, but at the same time they can get a one-stop-shop solution for ordering, delivery and any customer service along the way.” Transparency around cost, profits, and end-to-end communication is also a big element of Stealth’s success, with Mike implementing many policies to support an open and honest business environment for partners and customers alike.
Looking ahead, Stealth’s continued growth strategy is focused around geographical expansion, with Mike considering various merger and acquisition opportunities. The company will also continue seeking to extend its strong network of partners, distributors and agents that will subsequently grow its product range and drive the direction of the company’s evolution. “We have also been looking at new products and new strategic suppliers so that we can continue to penetrate new marketplaces,” says Mike.
On a more experimental note, the next twelve months will see the company branch out from its usual selling model by introducing new cross-regional products. It will trial uniquely Australian brands or products in Europe based on their success at home. When asked what he loves about his job, Mike says: “Everything. I love the people that I work with; I love the partnerships that I have created with suppliers and the customers we work with.”
Mike says he never realised just how much of the world he would get to experience by building up his business — driven by commercial success, the personal growth and expanded horizons have been a real bonus to the whole experience he’s had with Stealth. “The fact that we are working in international markets across all these different cultures is a wonderful experience for me as a leader. One week I will be in Perth, the next week I will be in London, the next week I could be in Africa, Singapore or Malaysia interacting with different stakeholders there,” he says.
“I have been to nineteen different countries thanks to my career,” says Mike. “I am a lot more humble today just from experiencing all of those different cultures. It’s opened my eyes to just how differently other people operate, and what’s important to them. Most people wouldn’t get the opportunity to do that. I have been really fortunate.”