Southern Cross Protection is a good Aussie business.
In fact, it’s Australia’s most extensive security patrol network and a provider of integrated security solutions: a $100million company with the best margins in the industry and 1,400 people servicing clients large and small across the country.
This hasn’t come about by chance – it has required business model transformation and the courage to make difficult decisions along the way.
Southern Cross Protection’s Managing Director Patrick Bourke took ownership of the company from Chubb Security in 2008, looking to continue a legacy that began 88 years earlier when returned WWI servicemen began providing cost-effective night watchman services to companies in Melbourne.
No business journey is ever as smooth as you’d like. Environmental and regulatory speedbumps along the road can leave you flailing in mid-air and searching for a safe landing.
For Patrick, his first year after purchasing Southern Cross Protection (SXP) from Chubb Security for $6million was during the post-GFC turmoil of 2008-09 and funding was tight.
“The company had been running on break-even at best, and we were running out of cash,” Patrick said.
Good timely commercial advice can help you to change everything.
But Patrick knew the company needed to scale.
“We had issues with targeting the right acquisitions and getting a good management control system in place.” he said.
“It’s very easy as a business owner to get distracted or fall in love with your own thinking, so you need people ‘standing outside your head’ who make you articulate your strategy and then help to challenge it and tweak it and add to it – even disregard it!”
“I decided we needed an external perspective – business advice – if we were to reach our full potential.”
But that can be hard to find for companies in the $20-$40million range.
“The big accounting firms like KPMG and PWC really only want to play at the top end of town with people like Bain & Co, McKinsey’s and Boston Consulting Group. That means monster bills and they only put their best people on their large assignments. After that there’s a big gap to this massive tail of people who supply niche services for very small businesses.”
A business colleague recommended Neil Parker and BridgePoint Group.
“Neil helped us with getting a fix on what the future could look like and where we could take it,” Patrick said.
“A good business advisor can assist you with how to seek funds, how to source funds, how to make sure you are paying the right price for those funds. Then they can go that step further with you to work through how to structure a deal so that the covenants aren’t overly restrictive.”
Even the most experienced leaders are confronted with tough times.
As Patrick explains, “It’s only the frequency and depth of the tough times that varies.”
“Owning a business can be very lonely – It’s about making sure you have people around you who can help you navigate those moments,” Patrick advises.
For Patrick, this was when the relationship with Neil Parker and BridgePoint Group really came into its own.
“BridgePoint’s service is beyond what people would expect when they walk into an accountancy firm,” he said.
Patrick is a qualified Chartered Accountant himself and has an internal finance team at SXP, but BridgePoint brought the additional value of “a real commercial perspective”.
“It’s not about debits and credits or just getting tax or compliance advice. It’s being able to speak with someone who understands the business imperative and work with us to achieve the growth and profit we need.
“Having a good commercial perspective is also about understanding that it has to be actionable within your company. Understanding the resources you have internally and what’s going to best fit the capabilities of your team.
“Or perhaps if you have a significant capability gap, then they can help identify where you need to bring in additional capabilities into your team.
“All business leaders can benefit from advice from someone with a broader commercial perspective, but who also has enough experience and expertise to know when to say, “Hold on, we do need to get some in-depth advice on this particular element”… And, they know where to find it.”
SXP benefitted from a BridgePoint Advisory Board during this period. Looking back, Patrick sees this as a wise investment.
“The Advisory Board supplemented our company board to ensure we got additional expert assistance with getting our mix right with governance and compliance, measurement and control. It helped us get everything aligned with our business goals, so we could track what we needed for growth”, he said.
Structuring for Growth
SXP has tripled its revenue over the past 10 years and is now has a presence in every major regional centre as well as every capital and New Zealand.
“We now have our service offering aligned with our clients’ future needs, positioning us for growth. We also have the right corporate structures in place for effective risk management, and the flexibility to adapt with future environmental or regulatory changes outside of our control.”