Akubra is a fifth-generation family business that has been operating out of Kempsey, NSW, for 140 years.
Over this time, respect for tradition and a tireless dedication to quality craftsmanship have seen the iconic and trusted brand weave its way into the very fabric of Aussie culture.
But things have really kicked things into next gear for Akubra these past few decades, and this can be traced back to it having the foresight to work with Chartered Accountants as its auditors and tax advisors.
This business-savvy move led to another 24 years ago, when then-owner Stephen Dixson Keir invited Chartered Accountant Roy Wilkinson into the fold as company secretary and CFO.
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Since coming on board, Roy’s helped to shake up the business from back end to boilers, streamlining systems and recently saving them big bucks through sustainability initiatives.
Putting the spotlight on sustainability
Over the past two and a half decades, Roy’s versatile skill set and creative problem-solving abilities have made him an integral member of the Akubra team.
Among other innovative projects to reengineer the company’s back-end and expand its customer base beyond rural Australia, Roy has helped Akubra modernise through sustainability initiatives.
This is a smart move for any future-focused business, as sustainability has been a growing concern among consumers and switched-on business owners in recent years — and it’s predicted to become an even bigger priority in 2021.
Solar power and LED lighting lead to huge savings
Two years ago, Roy was part of the team driving the transition to more sustainable practices at the Akubra warehouse.
They had the boilers changed from coal to over gas, which produces nearly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy, and led the charge for installing 528 new solar panels, as well as LED lighting throughout the warehouse.
“It’s pretty daunting to start new stuff, but we have kept up with the times,” says Nikki McLeod, whose family has owned Akubra for five generations.
“We have LED lighting throughout the factory; we now have solar panels on the roof. Roy has been instrumental in helping with those projects.”
The result is both more energy efficient and cost effective, with the solar panels reducing the company’s energy consumption by 50% in cooler seasons and up to 75% in the warmer months.
Meanwhile, Akubra’s new LED high bay light fittings use 85% less energy, resulting in more significant environmental and cost savings.
An iconic business stays on Australian soil
Roy’s expertise, forward-thinking and innovative solutions have not only made Akubra more future-focused and sustainable, they’ve also helped it reduce operational costs to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
These savings have allowed Akubra to retain more than 100 factory floor workers, and will help ensure the business, as a whole, stays firmly planted in Aussie soil.
“A lot of manufacturers have gone offshore, especially in the textile industry, because of the compliance cost of having to bring your factory up to date and your employees along for the ride,” Roy says.
“As a 140-year-old business, we weren’t interested in going offshore at all — Akubra is very much a fabric of the country, and all of us are committed to making sure that continues on for generations to come.”
Like all Chartered Accountants, Roy receives rigorous on-going training to hone his technical expertise, people management and soft skills. This is what makes him such an effective leader and ideas man.
But it’s his dedication to his company and community that really makes him an enduring asset. And this commitment shines through in his lasting relationship with Akubra, where he remains as CFO and now a board member too.
“I think they hired me because they knew who I was, they knew I knew the business intimately, and they felt it would be an easy transition,” Roy says.
“The previous company secretary had been with the business for 40 years, and I think they wanted someone who they knew would stick around for a long time.”
Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ) represents over 128,000 members globally.