Long his­tory be­hind suc­cess

SA fam­ily cel­e­brates 130 years

Big Rigs - - OPERATOR PROFILE -

WHEN a busi­ness is ap­proach­ing 130 years of oper­a­tion, it’s a sure bet they’re do­ing some­thing right.

For South Aus­tralia’s Kool­unga Garage Farm Sup­plies, it’s a case of mov­ing with the times and de­liv­er­ing qual­ity ser­vice.

Sit­u­ated 200km north of Ade­laide in a rich agri­cul­tural area, the Kool­unga town­ship boasts a pop­u­la­tion of 195; seven streets (named first street, sec­ond street and so on); and a pub. Right next door to the pub is Kool­unga Garage Farm Sup­plies.

At a time when busi­nesses in tiny ru­ral town­ships are strug­gling, this gem has been in the same fam­ily since doors opened.

In its time it has op­er­ated as a black­smith, a work­shop, a farm ma­chin­ery re­pairer/dealer and now a car and truck me­chanic and agri­cul­tural chem­i­cal and mer­chan­dise sup­plier.

The fifth gen­er­a­tion is now at the helm, a band of cousins who each have their role, in­clud­ing Brad Jones who heads up the truck side of oper­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Brad, the busi­ness’ suc­cess is down to re­la­tion­ships, qual­ity work­man­ship and rep­u­ta­tion.

“We know ev­ery­one we work for. We’ve got a lot of loyal cus­tomers and word of mouth is grow­ing ev­ery year,” he said.

He said most of their cus­tomers are lo­cal farm­ers from within a 50km ra­dius, but word is spread­ing and some cus­tomers are now trav­el­ling up to 130km.

“I pride my­self on do­ing a job prop­erly. I also un­der­stand how the farm­ing game works and know that some­times a job has to be done now,” he said.

“We work un­til it’s done and dur­ing busy times, like har­vest, we work day and night. Our cus­tomers sup­port us all year be­cause we sup­port them when they need it most.”

Brad’s cousin looks af­ter the cars, leav­ing Brad and his ap­pren­tice to con­cen­trate on trucks.

Aside from a cou­ple of owner driv­ers, most of his cus­tomers are farm­ers who have their own trucks, pre­dom­i­nantly for grain trans­port­ing, with some also cart­ing stock and hay.

“In the last 10 years a lot of farm­ers have gone from hav­ing noth­ing to hav­ing two trucks. They’ve also gone from sin­gles to B-dou­bles, so it’s def­i­nitely grow­ing as farm busi­nesses get big­ger.”

Brad grew up on a farm but, like many coun­try kids, fled to the city and then over­seas for a while.

“There wasn’t an op­por­tu­nity to stay on the farm so I ended up go­ing to Ade­laide and do­ing my ap­pren­tice­ship with CMV Trucks, which is Ken­worth. From there I went to Canada and worked as a me­chanic on a har­vest crew,” he said.

He then headed to the mines in Queens­land where he con­cen­trated on high­way trucks, be­fore a can­cer di­ag­no­sis for his un­cle bought him back.

“In my time off I’d come back and help him out, then he got sicker and sicker and I ended up just stay­ing and tak­ing over the work­shop with my cousin.”

It’s been 10 years since Brad came back to the busi­ness full-time and the truck side of the oper­a­tion has gone from strength to strength.

Iron­i­cally, but not sur­pris­ingly given its lo­ca­tion, one of the big­gest chal­lenges for Kool­unga Garage Farm Sup­plies is freight, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing har­vest time.

“We’ve got lim­ited freight ser­vices com­ing to us from Ade­laide. Farm­ing’s not a 9-to-5 job and we can’t al­ways wait days for a part, es­pe­cially dur­ing har­vest time, so this was a real is­sue for us,” Brad said.

For­tu­nately, he found a so­lu­tion thanks to a part­ner­ship with lead­ing af­ter-mar­ket truck and trailer parts busi­ness, Truck­line.

Brad ini­tially turned to Truck­line be­cause he had had deal­ings with the busi­ness in pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ment, but it wasn’t long be­fore a strong re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped.

“Truck­line Wing­field would go out of their way to get a part up here, with staff of­ten driv­ing it to the freight com­pany them­selves so it ar­rived be­fore cut off,” Brad said.

“Now we’ve got con­sign­ment stock, that’s been set up in the last year, and it’s just made it eas­ier.

“If I can carry a part here on con­sign­ment it makes my busi­ness bet­ter – I can get peo­ple go­ing quickly with­out hav­ing money sit­ting in stock on the shelf.”

Brad re­pairs all makes of truck, Amer­i­can, Eu­ro­pean and Ja­panese, and car­ries most of the high turnover parts, elim­i­nat­ing many of the freight is­sues he had pre­vi­ously.

“With con­sign­ment stock we rarely have once-off re­quire­ments now, but if some­thing does pop up I just ring Steve at Truck­line Wing­field. On the odd oc­ca­sion that he doesn’t have it he rings his con­tacts for me, finds it and gets it to me. So I don’t have to spend half an hour on the phone,” he said.

“I do turn to Steve if I’ve got a prob­lem. Even if it’s not some­thing Truck­line deals in.

“Steve has ac­tu­ally rung a

cou­ple of his cus­tomers in the past in or­der to track down some­one who can help me.

“I also ask him things like tool­ing and he’ll ring his reps for me and fig­ure it out.”

It all comes down to know­ing your cus­tomers and know­ing their pri­or­ity, which is ex­actly what Brad strives for at Kool­unga Garage Farm Sup­plies.

“When it comes to both parts and ser­vice, most of us are look­ing for value for money. Truck­line’s qual­ity for the price is spot on which is good for my cus­tomers – most of whom are farm­ers who want qual­ity but don’t want to pay through the roof. And if it’s good for my cus­tomers, it’s good for me.”

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

MEM­ORY LANE: Brad Jones is proud of his fifth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily busi­ness. IN­SET: Brad’s un­cles Bill and Keith Lawry with cousins Gary and Derek and the strip­per Richard Lawry de­signed and built.

Brad’s great-great grandpa Richard Lawry (sec­ond from left) c.1900, out­side the orig­i­nal black­smith shop he opened in 1890.

Brad Jones with ap­pren­tice Harry Mills out­side their shop.

Richard Lawry and his son Jessy (Brad’s great-grandpa), c.1900.

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