What’s it like to be a 71-year-old startup?
I can tell you one thing, it’s not easy.
And just to be clear, I’m not 71 years old, Macnaught is.
Macnaught began making lubrication equipment in 1948. The company is based in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. It employs about 350 people and has annual sales of about $75 million. In Australia, they have a commanding share of the market. Not so much in other parts of the world, and certainly not in the United States and Canada.
You see, back in the 80s when Macnaught set up shop in Tampa, Florida, they decided to be the best private-label supplier possible. And they were damn good at it. You have likely sold, used or seen Macnaught products in use for decades and you just didn’t know it. As I prefer not to kiss and tell, let’s just say that most of the top brands of lubrication products in the Americas sourced products from Macnaught at one time or another. And then, slowly, that business began to dwindle. Why?
China. Plain and simple.
Macnaught’s private-label customers began buying products from or manufacturing products in China and later India. I had the first-hand experience as I worked for one of those top brands that set up joint ventures in China and established relationships with suppliers in other low-cost-manufacturing nations. I remember the challenges of addressing quality issues that operations folks faced. There was endless travel and even the relocation of some key personnel to China to ensure minimum standards were met.
I am not here to disparage the decisions of most in the industry to look for ways to reduce cost. It’s the way of the world. Yet I have to say I am proud to work for a manufacturer that continues to do things the way it always has. Are the Australians the best at manufacturing? Germans would say no, and those firms still making products in the United States might argue. What I have learned is that Australians are independent and tough, with a work ethic second to none. After 71 years of making pumps, reels, meters, grease guns and accessories, they have the process down pat.
About two years ago, leadership in Australia decided to take the Macnaught brand to America. They hired a savvy and tenacious vice president and general manager for Macnaught USA Inc. who worked diligently to put the pieces together. At first, he concentrated on the industrial flow meter business as there was less competition and plenty of opportunities. Then less than a year ago, he began a search for someone to lead the introduction of Macnaught’s Fluid Handling products in the United States and Canada. It must have been a difficult search as he ended up hiring me.
Now I’m no slacker, and I know my way around lubrication equipment as I have decades of experience in the industry. I understand the sales process and I know marketing more than most. The challenge of this 71-year-old startup is that the lubrication equipment business is a crowded playing field. Those leading brands are not going away and there are upstarts from all over hawking their own lines. Just do a search for a grease gun on Amazon and see if you don’t give up counting the number of brands available.
So what are Macnaught’s value propositions?
- Made in Australia
- 71 years of experience
- The Industry’s Best 10-Year Warranty
- Innovative new products
In every meeting with prospective channel partners, we get their attention with the new products and then talk up the signature products Macnaught has been perfecting and trial testing in some of the most difficult environments on planet Earth. Australian mines and farms might as well be on the moon. And its other industries are just as challenging. That’s how Macnaught is able to offer such a fantastic warranty.
After accepting this challenge, I began to think about the message I wanted to send to end users, channel partners and competitors. I focused on my perception of Australia. A beautiful country, with hard-working people, unique ecosystems and some of the most curious animals you will find anywhere.
And then it hit me. That’s it! Kangaroos!
Take a look at the first ad with advertorial content we ran in April’s issue of PTEN. We are just getting started, but we continue to invest. We continue to build momentum. We have great products with equal or better quality and list pricing often far below the competition.
If you want to know more call me, Kenneth Walsh, at 813-712-0792 or send me a message at email@example.com.