Chris Marshall bought into a small regionally-based steel fabrication business, DJM Fabrications, in 2009. A former leading hand boilermaker who says he always wanted 'a crack at running my own business', he is now a co-owner and has taken the business through strategic expansion via product and market development.
Chris, his Operations Manager, David Hilder, and other staff regularly update their skills through the Small Business Victoria’s workshops program, which has already helped them get a new product to market.
Back in 2009, DJM was a small business employing a handful of people when Chris saw its potential, so became a partner in the business.
He is now Managing Director, employs some 35 people, has a growing client base and a renewed focus on product research, development and innovation.
After a few years of consolidated growth, the business went through a downturn where Chris says, 'we didn't fully appreciate the market moves or forecasts.'
Chris knew that he had to get more strategic about his business. He and his team realised they needed professional and skills development training.
I’d always worked in businesses in growth phases. I was used to exciting, motivating environments where there was more than enough work and positive morale. This rough patch was a real eye-opener for me and I realised that I had to take steps to get out of the hole and build a sustainable business.
Chris and David completed a series of Small Business Victoria Workshops through their local host organisation, the Baw Baw Shire Council.
They undertook a range of workshops with topics including winning government business and business planning for growth but agree that they got the most benefit in learning how to commercialise their new idea.
'At the workshop, we learned that just because you have a great idea, it doesn’t mean it will be easy to sell. We learned about assessing feasibility and testing the market to understand potential. We then used what we learned to write a Commercialisation Strategy which was realistic and practical. The workshop has been invaluable to get new products up and running.'
Chris and David also undertook the mentoring opportunity.
The 5 hours of individual mentoring with an experienced business mentor was invaluable. David says their mentor was very objective and the advice they received was beneficial as it was tailored practically to their business and the stage it was then at.
Having the opportunity for a mentor – an expert outsider – to sit with us and talk us through our ups and downs was invaluable. We were able to see how we should be maximising our potential and innovation to position us into the future.
DJM Fabrications is now in a growth phase.
After securing a long-term contract with a major client – an international manufacturer of rail rolling stock – it is now in a position to invest in new equipment and people.
'We have the confidence and the continuity of work now to look to the future. If we can keep our skill level up and look for development opportunities through things like the Small Business Victoria Workshop Program, we hope to be able to plan better, refine our current products, develop new products and commercialise them long into the future.'