Australian Franchise News – 20-05-11
Thirty years ago Brent Dunning earned pocket money working in his father’s business, Gasweld, during his school holidays. Now, he’s preparing to take the reins of the business as Managing Director.
Neil Dunning established Gasweld in the 1970s to fill the void of specialist gas and welding suppliers in the Newcastle and greater Hunter Region. The company has since grown to 25 stores across New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and South Australia and employs 170 staff, including most of the extended Dunning family.
Capitailsing on his mechanical engineering background, Neil developed his own brand of tools ‘Toolex®’ in the mid-1980s which is sold across the Gasweld network and accounts for a considerable percentage of total sales.
This year the dynamic father/son team has begun the smooth transition which will see Neil gradually step back from the business and Brent grow into the MD role within five years.
“From a young age I’ve always been keen to follow in my father’s footsteps and with Neil celebrating his 64th birthday this year, the time now feels right for us,” Brent says.
“I definitely feel like I’ve got to know the Gasweld business very intimately over the years, it’s been a lifelong apprenticeship for me. From the retail space, warehouse and manufacturing to the repair and warranty department, I even spent some time on the road as a sales rep.”
Over the past few months Brent has started to build a team around him, freeing himself up from the day-to-day tasks so he can begin taking the workload away from Neil and focus on planning what’s next for the business.
Gasweld has experienced double-digit growth year-on-year across all stores since establishment and Brent is excited to take it up a notch, with a goal to grow the business to 50 stores in the next five years through a ‘hybrid’ franchising model.
This hybrid model means the Gasweld parent company invests in 50 per cent of the initial start-up capital and therefore also absorbs most of the risk traditionally involved with such an investment.
For the $200-$300K investment, franchisees will benefit from a centralised purchasing system, marketing, HR and accounts support, which means they’re not bogged down with back-end processes and can focus on building and maintaining relationships with customers.
“We explored a full franchise model as a means of growth but realised pretty quickly most people don’t have a spare $1million to invest, particularly with banks being increasingly tight on loans. So we developed a ‘hybrid’ franchising model which is pretty unique to the industry that gives prospective franchisees the best opportunity to buy into a Gasweld business,” he explains.
Brent says his ideal franchisee/business partner is someone with trade or sales experience that are willing to be hands-on in the business.
Brent concludes: “Neil will always be involved in the business, and that’s just the way I want it. I’ve been lucky because he is a good mentor and role model. He is one of those rare business people. He is an entrepreneur, visionary, a successful leader and risk-taker. In addition, he is my boss, my father and my mate and we truly have a fantastic time working together.”