Back in the 1990s, brothers Trevor and Troy Wollard started a traffic management business, manufacturing their own road signs on the side. Over time, the company has grown to become a multi-million dollar operation.
And earlier this year, Bartco scored a massive deal – a $2 million contract to deliver traffic management signs for the London Olympics. Trevor spoke to SmartCompany about how they managed to win the contract – and gives some advice for SMEs hopeful of emulating their success.
So tell me about the business. How did you guys start up?
We started the business as a traffic management company. When VicRoads was privatised back in 1995, they handled all the road traffic management. But when they went private, no one did that, so we started a service. We closed off roads, etc, doing general traffic management.
Out of that business came this type of equipment we used called variable messaging signs. They’re predominantly made in the US, and used old technology to display a message. They flash and draw attention to road works, so we had some of those. But they were expensive and the tech was quite old.
So we decided to build them ourselves, basically. We put the specifications together, contracted out the manufacturing, and then started building up things with LED technology. We put them on the road, and to cut a long story short, people started noticing them and wanted to buy them off us.
So that became a whole new division of the company?
We eventually started focusing on that. It was new technology, solar powered and LEDs, and we were building the tech primarily for ourselves. But it just kept growing and we made a lot of sales.
It’s really grown because of the amount of research and development we’ve put back into the business. We’ve had to really invest that money in R&D to keep up with it all.
Talk about the Olympic contract – how did you lead up to that?
So we started creating a new type of sign that was different, in current tech you see LEDs in yellow or amber, but we introduced the tech to have colour, so red, blue, white, green, and so on. We solved the issue of power consumption as well using by solar, and that was something no one else was able to do yet.
We approached this as a practical application, rather than putting all the emphasis on the technology. We put them both together, and we were able to create a practical solution.