This month we caught up with Mark Farrell from BRiLiANT POLISH, a quiet achiever steadily growing an export business through passion, product excellence and the support of family.
Tell us about BRiLiANT POLISH and how the business came about?
I’ve always been into cars and motorbikes and a few years ago I bought a superb Harley Davidson – very “bling”. I tried a few polishes but I wasn’t very happy with them. Regular polishes tend to be hard work and messy. One day I saw a bunch of Harleys in Bendigo and they looked great. I mentioned I needed a decent polish and one of the guys said the only one worth getting was British. I googled it, found the company and ordered some. Wow. It was fantastic.
You couldn’t buy it in Australia. I have a history of sales and I rang the guy and asked him if he had a distributor. It took about a year for it to happen but Linda and I became the Australian distributor. We really only sold locally and the business grew, but slowly. The biggest problem was supply.
In 2014 we went to the UK for a holiday but mainly to see the company and to talk about different products. I mentioned that if he ever wanted to sell the company, he could call me. In 2015 the owner wanted to retire and he asked if we wanted to buy the company.
We made the final purchase twelve months ago.
Where are you based and how many staff do you employ?
We opened the factory in Eaglehawk in August 2016. As the business grows, we will need to expand from here. At the moment it is Linda and I, plus our daughter but we have a plan to grow the business and employ staff across various roles.
Where are your clients based?
We supply the majority of the elite show cars in Australia. Some of the top detailers have started using our products. We export back to the UK and into France. We’re just starting to move into the US and we’re excited about our prospects there.
I see you are looking for new distributors. How do you manage your distribution network and find new distributors?
Mainly word of mouth and referrals.
What did you do to build up your client base?
Again, word of mouth and referrals are very important for us. We’ve been in a couple of magazines and we go to shows such as SummerNats in Canberra, car shows, bike shows and swap meets. Equestrian is a growing market and we never would have thought of that. Harnesses and coaches are polished to a high standard for events and displays.
How has the business grown since you started? What are some obstacles you have faced?
The first bottles of polish came off the production line in November 2016. Since then we’ve grown retail outlets, distributors and established systems and processes.
The biggest obstacle is letting people know we exist. We have a good following at shows but the general public needs to know about us. The after-market polish industry is worth $200 million globally. We can match other polishes on price but we are far ahead on performance.
What do you find most challenging about owning and running a small business?
It’s been exciting but also hard work. I’ve only had three days off since Christmas!
The biggest obstacle is having the money to be able to do what you would like to do or need to do in terms of marketing, automation and so on.
The marketing side is always a challenge.
How do you keep ahead of the competition?
In terms of quality and performance, our products are ahead of the competition but in terms of the company, we’re not because of our size. The big players probably spend more than $10 million a year on marketing. Of course, we can’t match that.
What are your ingredients for success?
You need to be passionate about what you’re doing and have strong determination to make it succeed. You need to work at it every minute of the day and keep telling people about your business.
Get as much support as you can. If you don’t have the support of your family don’t do it!
Support from the community is terrific too. There are a couple of Bendigo people who have top cars and they come to us. If I’m having a down day, I can talk to them. It means a lot.
You also need to know what you’re doing. You have to have a plan.
Innovation – does this play a part in your business? Are you inventing new products or processes?
Basically innovation is the biggest thing I think about every day – from how to promote the product to how to make it, smarter and faster.
Tell us about a time when you made a business mistake and what you learned from this experience?
Do you know how complicated labelling is? And barcoding? Early on, we had labels printed quickly and they were wrong. I learnt you have to sit back and consider the big picture. Double check everything!
If you could share one piece of advice with other business owners or aspiring business owners, what would it be?
You have to have something that’s different otherwise why would anyone come to you? Good service and a friendly approach are important.
It’s important to enjoy what you are doing.
What digital channels do you use and why / why not?
BRiLiANT POLISH is active on social media. It’s a great way to connect with people.
What is an avenue you would like to invest (in terms of marketing/digital presence) that you have not yet pursued?
Down the track, we’d like a better website and make improvements to our online store.
What’s next for BRiLiANT POLISH?
We plan to take on the world. We want to get into the US, New Zealand and Japan. (Custom cars and muscle cars are big in Japan.)
We are planning for growth in staff over the next four years and in automating equipment.
We believe we make the world’s best polishes. BRiLiANT POLISH – One “L” of a shine.