11 Ventis HQ
Blair Milnes, 42, Mike Kennedy, 37 and Dave Kennedy, 42
- Head Office
New South Wales
- Year Founded
Sales, manufacture and installation of home ventilation systems
Blair Milnes says he still feels the home ventilation company he founded with his two good friends four years ago is in “startup mode”, despite now employing 80 staff members and growing to a network of eight franchises.
Milnes, who founded Ventis with brothers Dave and Mike Kennedy in 2010, told SmartCompany part of the reason is financial.
“Until you get to a point where you can relax … you can’t afford to,” says Milnes.
But Milnes believes getting to that relaxation point would also bring with it an element of disengaging with the business, which is not something he wants to see happen.
Ventis has grown by 136.52% since the first sale of its one-of-a-kind, environmentally friendly home ventilation system in March 2011. The trio had spent the best part of a year developing their product before taking it to market and are now seeing the fruits of their labour: Ventis turned over $17.7 million in the 2013-14 financial year.
“We’re still optimistic and we always will be, but we’re past the ‘we’re enjoying everything’ phase,” says Milnes when describing how the company has changed in its short lifespan.
“Reality bites a little bit … we’re more measured, less gung ho,” he says.
Part of the success of Ventis has been due partly to the franchise partners that have come on board, and who had been personally invited to join the business by the founders themselves.
There are currently eight franchises in the network, four of which are wholly owned by the founders, with plans to add another six within coming months.
“We’re a communication-based business,” says Milnes when asked about the ingredients needed for a successful franchise network.
“I think we actually communicate better internally than externally,” he says.
Ventis franchisees participate in weekly conference calls and the whole group gets together for three conferences a year to celebrate their successes.
“We’re a close-knit group,” says Milnes, who says the founders regularly socialise with the franchisees outside of work as well.
“Our franchisees are entrepreneurs in their own right … we’re all cut from the same sheet of cloth.”
Milnes says the founders had originally planned to exit the business after five to seven years, but things have now changed and the trio are working on their strategy for the next five years.
“We’ve just celebrated our third birthday in the marketplace so we’ve had a bit of a reset,” he says.
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