Xylem is a global water technology business with operations in more than 150 countries. Jim Athanas came on board twelve months ago as Managing Director of its Australian operation. With his broad experience in water systems in the food and beverage, building services, mining, oil and gas, and steel industries, it was felt that Jim was the perfect choice for finding new, post-mining-boom opportunities for the company.
“The main purpose for me to come on board was to align the organisation to get after the growth opportunities in the market. We can’t use mining as an excuse not to grow. And really, it’s come down to having people that are united around a common purpose, working towards a common goal, and working with common values,” Jim explains.
He spent his first days on the job doing a discovery tour and didn’t make any decisions apart from things required in the usual business operations.
Jim visited sixteen branches across Australia and New Zealand, as well as seven global manufacturing sites, all within a 120-day period. “During that time, I also spoke with a lot of our existing customers, who are predominately within the mining, metal, and municipality sectors. And from that, I understood that, while we have great products and services, we predominately just took them to market in two particular sectors; mining and municipality.
“We really took advantage of the mining boom,” Jim says. “That said, mining still exists but they have moved from capex to opex. It will always be a very important part of the business, as we have a successful ongoing rental business, and we are investing in building a new branch in Karratha, Western Australia, to service the Pilbara region. If you look at food and beverage and agriculture combined, they contribute similar GDP to the Australian economy as the mining industry does. And what do they use a lot of? Water. So I realigned the organisation to take what has worked really well for us in the mining and municipal sectors, and broaden our portfolio to target other market sectors which are growing. Australia exports a lot of food, and agriculture is a big part of our industry.”