Smart50 Awards 2014

16 Universal Communications Group

Revenue

Over $20.8 million

Growth

119.81%

Founders

Rafael Luna, 57, Roger McArthur, 53, and Dale Anderson, 58

Head Office

Queensland

Year Founded

2008

Employees

110

Industry

Telecommunications

Website

Universalcomsgroup.com.au

Like a number of other companies in this year’s Smart50 Awards, the rollout of the National Broadband Network has been a game changer for Universal Communications Group.

UCG started out as a provider of open access broadband internet service into gated communities, such as Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, but the company recently won a contract with NBN Co to deliver services to multi-unit dwellings across the country.

“The NBN provided a significant opportunity, but also a challenge as our business model had to adapt and change as gated communities … that were our target market no longer wanted to invest in their own fibre networks,” says co-founder Rafael Luna.

“We overcame this challenge by providing expertise to NBN Co in the delivery of fibre networks into large residential apartment blocks and commercial premises, which is our niche market.”

Luna says it comes down to flexibility.

“We’re technology agnostic, so we don’t mind which technology needs to be rolled out,” he says.

“By not tying yourself to a delivery mechanism, you can be more flexible, roll with the punches.”

Luna and co-founders Roger McArthur and Dale Anderson have been working in this space since 1995, but UCG in its current form has been operating since 2008. The company has grown by almost 120% since then, turning over more than $20.8 million last financial year.

“You can’t plan for the future,” says Luna, when asked how he manages a company in a sector that is subject to significant fluctuations in government policy.

“You just have to look at what’s happening and any likely changes, and then steer the company in a favourable position.”

UCG has also recently been awarded a 10 year contract to deliver fast broadband services in New Zealand. Luna is hoping the project will provide a “roadmap or cookie cutter” that the team can take to other countries in the future.

“Our business model is transferrable to other countries because of the very good bespoke systems we’ve developed,” he says.

Luna, McArthur and Anderson have always thought ahead, choosing to establish UCG as an unlisted public company to give them the opportunity to go public at some point.

“A trade sale would be my preference,” says Luna when asked about his exit strategy.

“But from a governance perspective, we’re already operating as a public company. We deliberately put ourselves in that position.”

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