Emma from Marketing sat down with Brett Thomas, General Manager of EFEX Northern Rivers to find out what lead him here and what drives him forward.
I know you haven’t been with EFEX for very long, but you’ve got a history in the print business. What were you doing before you joined us last September?
Well, right before EFEX I was actually working for my father-in-law! I had been in the printing/copying industry for 15 years prior to that, but I took the opportunity to spend some time working in my father-in-law’s water treatment business, NanoBubble Technology. It was a great experience, I learnt a lot about running a business, how to run a team. But I was flying down to Sydney every Monday morning and after 18 months that started to wear a little thin. Family is everything to me, I love my kids, I love my wife and I wasn’t around.
Being away from them 5 days a week, it wasn’t going to work. I negotiated to spend more time at home in Suffolk Park, but then they asked me to re-locate to Sydney and I didn’t want to do that. We were really happy up here. Around that time I’d been talking to Andrew Herman (Sydney EFEX BDM).
How did you know Andy?
We used to work together at another company years ago, along with Nick (Sheehan, CEO). I was talking to Andy randomly one day about one of my old print clients. This customer and I had stayed in contact and she rang me to say, “my contract is expiring, who would you recommend?” I told her to probably stick to the big print companies, but also to talk to EFEX. I knew they were growing and the guys were known for being easy to talk with.
I’d been keeping an eye on the industry via LinkedIn. When I was in Sydney one time I saw a couple of EFEX delivery trucks driving down the express way I thought “wow, Nick is doing well! He’s got trucks now.” And just through my industry contacts I kept hearing about EFEX.
So when I was talking to Andy I said, “Would you guys look at putting me on as Business Development on the Gold Coast?” And Andy said, “Yeah? Maybe?”
A couple of hours later I got a call from Nick and I explained the current Sydney job situation, and he straight away asked if I’d do Northern Rivers.
Out of professional courtesy, I rejected it. Based on the fact I’d worked in the area in the past and didn’t want to tread on any toes. Some time passed and I reached out to the local printer business, where I used to work, but they’d just put someone new on. And so I called Nick again and agreed to start in September.
How’s it been going?
It’s been a tough start, trying to create opportunities and grow my customer base. You get a lot of ‘nos’ but it doesn’t really bother me. I’m up for the challenge.
But for me, I’m home. I’m around the kids every night, and that’s really great.
What do you like doing when you’re not working?
I love running, I love trail running. Pushing myself beyond what my body can do. I’d never run a marathon in my life, but the first race I did was 100km trail race in the Blue Mountains. I got addicted straight away, I love it. And my wife also got addicted to trail running. She’s pretty good at it too. It’s good for us, we travel as a family together. The community around trail running in unbelievable. You go to an event and the energy is incredible.
Apart from trail running I love taking the kids to the beach, I love bike rides.
What’s your go-to beach?
Go-to would be Tallow Beach, it’s 100m from my house. The kids love it.
So EFEX sells print, which you’ve done for years, but we also sell IT services. How did you go learning about the tech side?
I’m switched on when it comes to printers/copiers, but there are already some long-standing relationships with people representing the big 3 print companies, so for me an inroads was working on growing the IT Managed Services and Telephony side of the business, the IT side.
I’m a fast learner and talking to Kevin Blair (GM Technology) and Ippa (Michael Ippaviz, IT pre-sales) has helped me better understand the products. The ITMS and Voice and Data is definitely a great opportunity for me to grow EFEX Northern Rivers.
What are the differences between working in metro and regional areas?
People are very loyal in regional areas. You get a new customer and they’ll probably be your customer for life! And everyone talks, so if you give poor service, everyone will know about it.
I think businesses are less likely to be proactive in upgrading their equipment. People can be a bit behind. They might have something that’s working, they don’t always see the advantage is replacing it with a better system. While in metro, it feels like the money is there to allocate to improving technology.
What do you want local Northern Rivers businesses to know about EFEX?
We can offer a one-stop-shop for local businesses. We can oversee their IT, manage their print, set up their voice. I want to help customers understand what we can provide, it’s a whole solution. We can take care of them locally, and give them great service. ■