“Always stick to quality over price”: Why this Aussie watchmaker doesn’t make its products overseas

“Always stick to quality over price”: Why this Aussie watchmaker doesn’t make its products overseas

 Grant Menzies with his father Bob

Grant Menzies joined his father’s watchmaking business, Adina, 20 years ago. The company buys components from global sellers and assembles the watches in its Brisbane factory.

Adina produces more than 40,000 watches in Australia every year and employs around 19 people. Despite the massive upheavals in Australian manufacturing, Adina is turning over close to $5 million a year.

We spoke to Menzies about why he chooses to build his watches in Australia and what it’s like to have the family business passed down to you.

My dad started the company 44 years ago.

He was a watchmaker by trade and, as sometimes happens in business, an opportunity came along through one of his mates who said to him ‘you be the watchmaker and I’ll do the importing’.

One thing led to another, dad was put into contact with factories, he started outsourcing to different component makers and the rest is history.

I came into the business as a 24-year-old, but there was never any pressure on me to join the family business.

I was doing 40 weeks in the car every year and, to be quite honest, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m still doing a bit of road work, but I’m more in the office now.

As a young fella I was in hospitality and opened nightclubs.

I feel the hospitality experience and exposure to a whole host of people from different walks of life put me in good stead to work with our retailers one-on-one.

Dad’s plan was to come to work every day and try to be better than the day before. He said if we did that, we’d grow.

I’ve got four kids and although they’re still young, I’d love to think at least one of them would become involved in the operation.

But I also feel they have to be their own person as well, and I don’t think I’d be the sort of bloke to put pressure on them to join straight away.

So I think I’ll just wait for them to find where their expertise lies. As a father, I’ll encourage them to go out and experience the world.

Worldly experience for me means a lot.

In our business, we’re definitely stock-rich. So we have a huge inventory that ties up a lot of our capital.

Obviously, if you had a more steady cash flow, to not have so much tied up in stock would be the thing that keeps me awake at night. You think you’ve got 1000 cases coming from a particular supplier, I’ve got to pay them in US dollars now, but when I ordered them it [the exchange rate] was 70 cents.

The current thing that worries me is the fluctuation.

The only way forward is to lift your sales, but we have to make every watch a minimum 1000 cases at a time.

To say we’re from a little country and have a little market doesn’t wash with these sorts of guys. We’re lucky we have a good relationship with them.

When we tell people we make watches in Australia, they look at us like we’ve got two heads.

I would definitely say to other businesses, tell your story as it doesn’t come easy.

Dad says to me, if we’re having a tough day, that if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Being the only person in Australia doing what we’re doing isn’t easy and we don’t take any success lightly.

The best advice I’ve ever had is definitely back yourself. People will say it can’t be done, but it can be.

You just have to try harder.

A great example is, in the mid 70s when the first Japanese Seikos were being sold in the Australian market and dad was finding it difficult to get traction.

So he asked himself “what can I make that no-one else has in their range that is going to find me my niche”. It was waterproof watches for women.

As a young person, you could easily get knocked down and say I could easily do something else.

But dad stuck to his guns and mode those watches. That’s where our whole range has derived from.

I’m following in dad’s footsteps in using quality suppliers from the start.

If you’re not starting with quality, no amount of marketing can make people like it. Especially with a watch.

Always stick to quality over price.

In terms of people in business I look up to, Alan Joyce is doing well. In hard times, hard decisions need to be made and I respect that.

I also rate our new prime minister well, even though he’s not wearing one of our watches.

We’ve got to start addressing the way we communicate with our consumers.

Instagram and Facebook are becoming more and more important for our customers and they want to talk to us about what they like and what they don’t like about our watches.

Sometimes family business can be difficult, but at the end of my time at the helm I’d love Adina to be an iconic Aussie brand spoken about with the passion of Akubra and the like. If I can get in their company, I’d die a very proud man.

It’s so rewarding to see someone walking down the street and wearing your watches.

Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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