Blokes About Town: What sets your business apart?
Ingrid Nelson catches up with the Blokes About Town over a delicious lunch at Ricks Garage, Palmwoods for their take on what sets them apart in their field.
Being in business is tough. There will always be competition, periods of uncertainty when the economy is challenging and pressure to stay ahead of the pack to find that elusive niche in the marketplace. But for those who are passionate about being the best in their field, the rewards far outweigh the challenges as I discovered during a recent lunchtime chat with the Blokes About Town at Ricks Garage, Palmwoods. Despite being from vastly different industries, there was a common thread among these successful businessmen when it came to what they considered to be most important to their business – customer service. To find out more I was joined by my co-hosts Gerry Morris of Think Speakers and Events, Craig Levitt of Think Business Development and guests Neil Underwood, of Underwoods Fine Jewellers, Leunis Kruger, assistant sales manager Pacific Jaguar Land Rover, Malcolm Mitchell, state sales manager with Flight Centre Business Centre, Scott Christie, director of SPC Finance and Paul Anderson of Aspire Real Estate.
profile: Tell us a little about you and your business?
neil: I have been in jewellery for 40 years. We started off in a shed behind my grandmother’s house in Parramatta in 1968. My eldest brother kicked it off, then my other brother joined him and then me. We started our apprenticeships at 14 years of age. My uncle and cousin are also jewellers. We later discovered that 100 years ago the family were silver smiths in England. I opened Underwoods Fine Jewellers in the Sunshine Plaza 20 years ago and we also have a store at North Lakes.
craig: I work for Think Money. We provide investment advice for creating wealth through property. My background is in marketing and I am also a business coach. We test and measure everything so we know it works. Our lead generation and sales are up 30 per cent from last year. You have to spend money to make money. When business is tough you can’t pull back on marketing too much or you will have no business at all.
neil: It’s taken me 40 years to learn what you’re talking about. If someone had explained that to me 30 years ago, I would have been 30 years better off by learning from someone who has actually been trained in the skill.
scott: SPC is a finance brokerage business operating for 21 years. We do finance for motor vehicles, plant equipment, earth moving, trucks ... mainly for small business but also for consumers and individuals. We also have a home loan section which does commercial property, which is run out of our Brisbane office. Our niche is knowing how to put an application together particularly for new business ventures which are traditionally hard to get.
leunis: Jaguar motor vehicles deals in the upper end of motor vehicles. It’s extremely busy at the moment. The market on the Coast has grown quite significantly in the area of luxury SUVs and luxury sport cars.
paul: Aspire Real Estate has just turned 12 months old. It has been a big journey. My partner started the business and his goal was 24 properties for the first year and we have sold nearly 60. The market has been fantastic.
gerry: I run Think Speakers and Events, bringing high profile and entertaining speakers to the Sunshine Coast. We run business breakfasts, sports luncheons and inspirational dinner events. We have had the likes of Amanda Gore, Ray Martin, Lisa Wilkinson, Sarina Russo, John Anderson, who started Contiki tours and Glenn Cooper of Coopers Brewery. We finish the year with Allan Pease who is a world class guest speaker and very funny, so we are looking forward to finishing on a high with lots of laughs.
[Business is] about building relationships. We are dealing with people’s personal and business financial information so they have to trust us.”
profile: What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
neil: Ninety five percent of jewellery in Australia comes from India, Thailand or China and the life expectancy is roughly 14 years. However, we believe jewellery should last forever so we took that approach from the start. We might be 10 per cent dearer but we sell only quality pieces and give a 10-year warranty.
malcolm: I would say it’s the relationship we build with our customers, that is our biggest driving force. The person who is on the other end of the phone is that relationship. If you can get across the line with a client for one or two bookings and you deliver excellent service, they are a client for life.
scott: We have always been conscious of the fact ours is a service industry so we try to provide top class customer service every time. It’s also about building relationships. We are dealing with people’s personal and business financial information so they have to trust us.
craig: Two things. The knowledge and experience of our staff and providing excellent customer service. All clients who walk into the Think office for their initial free consultation will walk out with new information. The second thing is building relationships. The service levels at Think are incredibly high.
leunis: When we sell a car we don’t just say ‘here are the keys see you later’. People are spending a lot of money with us so when they leave the dealership we want to ensure they completely understand what they have bought and what the machine can do.
paul: Yes I agree. Service is what sets you apart. I’ve been on the bad end of real estate transactions. We are all about sitting down for a cup of coffee with our clients rather than communicating via email. We offer a very personal service.
profile: How have trends changed?
paul: We used to be the gatekeeper of information, whereas now, with access to the internet, people can get all their information online. Often they have researched it more than me so you can get down to the nitty gritty earlier because they are informed. I think that’s a positive.
neil: I think people are collaborating more across different businesses and thinking more laterally. We are always introducing new things and moving with the times. You can never stop learning, innovating, networking. When times get hard, just get into it!
malcolm: I find people are reverting to value versus price as far as travel goes. When the internet came about and people realised they could book online there was a flood towards that but a lot of mistakes happen and that is where we come into play.
Ricks Garage has become almost an institution on the Sunshine Coast. Well known for its award-winning burgers and unique,1950s-themed diner filled with interesting memorabilia from yesteryear, the family-owned restaurant has done remarkably well since opening its doors in 2011, putting the hinterland town of Palmwoods firmly on the map. I’m not surprised either, as a resident of Palmwoods myself and regular visitor to Ricks Garage I have never been disappointed. The meals are always generous, the service is warm and welcoming and the family-friendly atmosphere makes it a firm favourite among all ages.
Owners Rick and Lisa Jamieson, together with their sons Tama and Ben (BJ) are hands-on operators who are passionate about making every customer feel important.
On the day of our visit we were treated to a selection of delicious starters from the menu to begin with including spicy chicken wings, garlic bread, salt and pepper calamari (some of the best I have eaten) and delicious oysters.
The extensive range of mouth-watering burgers makes it difficult to choose. The signature Ricks Burger was a firm favourite among the blokes, with the chicken burger following a close second.
Vegetarians are also well catered for and I can highly recommend the vegetarian burger.
Diners can chose from regular or mini-sized burgers depending on your appetite and the chips are an absolute must!
The casual outdoor beer garden is ideal on a laidback Saturday or Sunday afternoon when you can enjoy some chilled live music and let the kids play on the grassy area.
Pop in, you’ll love it.
14-16 Margaret St, Palmwoods - Phone: 5445 0933