Shining the light
– Lawrence & Hanson Group has been in existence for 128 years. They have survived because they are able to adapt to changing times and technologies.
Continuous improvement has been the goal of L&H Group since its founding days in 1886. The message of success and one that current CEO Robin Norris is keen to put forward, is that success is due to a program of innovation and continuous improvement, coupled with a strong focus on quality. It is a culture of commitment to continuous improvement, and the pride they take in meeting customer needs. The philosophy of quality is steadfast and ingrained.
According to Robin this is achieved in several different ways.
“We have a long-term commitment to learning and have always had a strong commitment to people. This commitment has become more relevant today as we try to keep pace with what is happening in the sector, but we feel we can do this by focusing on the development of staff through learning programs that turn staff into leaders.”
It’s the case of leadership versus management, which all organisations should focus on. For Robin, leadership is vitally important, as good management is the result of strong direction.
Throughout the organisation employees are encouraged to learn and lead. They are encouraged to have strong values.
“We don’t compromise on the values we have gone to business with,” Robin says. “We are definitive in what we will and won’t do and we stay true to those values. It’s a big part of how we communicate who we are to staff, suppliers and customers.”
This can be challenging when the company’s expanse takes in 180 locations across Australia and over 1400 employees. However using a range of mediums – onsite and off – Robin is able to communicate to his people so that they are eager to take the journey the company is on.
“We don’t want them to feel like they are being told what to do. We want them to feel that they are part of the way forward with the organisation.”
L&H pour a lot into its employees’ growth. As such the company joined the Australian Employment Covenant (AEC). The Australian Employment Covenant (AEC) is a private sector initiative aiming to secure 50,000 sustainable jobs for Indigenous Australians.
“It is the right thing to do and a good opportunity to become involved and help the wider community. We felt being involved would have a positive impact on our business. It is a way to show staff that L&H is a good corporate citizen who wants to be involved in all the right things.
“From a commercial point of view it provides us with opportunities to employ people in areas where it is difficult to find the right talent, particularly in remote areas where we need talented people.”
What is does from an outsider’s point of view is show commitment to
the growth of staff members and people in general. Indeed, as we mentioned before commitment is a cornerstone to this company’s success and it extends to clients and suppliers.
L&H has not only built loyalty due to its longevity, but according to Robin the company has never taken its customers for granted.
“We have always looked to bring business opportunities to our customers. These are businesses in their own right, small businesses, so we look for opportunities to help them grow which in turn helps us grow. We promise great service and that has been a focus in our business forever.”
In a rapidly changing industry service and growth are key. To be able to provide that service, it means a company must continue to evolve and track industry changes.
“Our focus has always been on trying to understand customers and the changing industry needs, so that we can solve their problems for them. We do this by taking solutions to them, not just product. We have always looked to add value to the customer. We have always looked to recognise new market opportunities and how we address those opportunities.”
Out of this commitment have come specialist businesses within L&H to cater to evolving technologies and practices. These businesses include Auslec, which is committed to meeting the needs of industrial, electrical and safety specialists, L&H Solar + Solutions, Pacific Datacom (PDC), a specialist distributor of copper, fibre and wireless data products and materials, Specialised Lighting Solutions is a national leader in the sourcing and distribution of lighting and Smarter Clothing, which supplies corporate clothing, workwear and promotional clothing. The electrical industry has seen a great number of changes.
“We have created businesses to cater to those markets such as data communications, solar and alternative energy. We are always keen to learn and keep our mind open,” Robin says.
As suppliers bring new product to market, L&H remains keen to present that to customers.
“We try to develop strong partner and supplier relationships that ensure we are getting their product to market quickly,” Robin says.
We have been market leaders because we are always prepared to innovate and try something new. We have a strong culture built around our values and that drives our decision-making.’
Match Master a supplier and manufacturer of digital TV antenna systems for domestic and digital TV commercial applications and Nexans Olex, an Australian manufacturer of electrical cables are valued suppliers. Nexan has been partners with L&H for a long time and a strong relationship has developed over that time. Master has been a partner for a shorter amount of time; however what they both have
in common is that they are innovative companies who share similar values.
Philips Lighting and L&H Group have been partners for over 50 years . In the new world of LED and Energy Efficient solutions, Philips is a great fit in both the L&H and Specialised Lighting Solutions value proposition.
Values create a bond, bonds turn into loyalty and this means that the organisation, the supplier and the customer are all in win-win situations. Which is great business practice.
“We have been market leaders because we are always prepared to innovate and try something new. We have a strong culture built around our values and that drives our decision-making,” Robin says.
Take for instance the solar movement. L&H viewed this as a market opportunity and acted accordingly.
“We needed to provide a solution, not just componentry. So we developed the L&H solar solutions. These are not restricted to solar, but also to alternative energy such as wind. These are new market opportunities and there are dangers that the market may be flooded with inferior non-compliant imported product, however the L&H emphasis is to have a solution package that gives customers all they need including the comfort in knowing that the product supplied by L&H is fully compliant and regulated.”
Despite some cowboy products entering the market, Robin feels the industry still has a bright future.
“There will be challenges in understanding new commerce and e-commerce, but again this is an opportunity. It is an alternative way to do business, but we are doing business with the same people.”
Another element Robin is looking at to continue to evolve the company is the supply chain.
“We need to improve our supply chain. It is one of the things that goes hand-in-glove with our e-commerce strategy. We want to bring safe product quicker to market and improve accessibility to that product. As an industry we have a responsibility to ensure that quality safe products are being brought to market.”
Robin’s goal is in unison with that of L&H. It is to adapt to new trends and opportunities and to do that with talented people, so that everyone grows. That ability is what has made L&H a market leader for so long.