Dynamic Products, Direct Customer Service

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-By Aleisha Parr

Since its inception, Astro Alloys (Aust) Pty Ltd has played a prominent role in advancing the state of the art for the specialised welding and maintenance industries, simultaneously blazing forward with innovative and inclusive workplace strategies. The company, based out of Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast of Queensland, specialises in the development, manufacture and marketing of high quality innovative specialty products for a broad range of markets. In particular, Astro Alloys’ welding products and eco-tech and green products – including industrial and domestic cleaners and agricultural fertilisers – have garnered a strong reputation for the Australian company.

“We try to fit a niche that other businesses don’t bother with or don’t have the technical expertise to deal with,” says Brett Hore, son of owners Gayle and Ken Hore, who established the business in 1979 to provide Australians with specialised welding equipment that simply wasn’t otherwise available. This passion for providing adaptable customer service is alive more than ever before, with brother and sister duo Brett and Danielle advancing the company by leaps and bounds each term.

“Other companies might perceive something to be a problem,” explains Danielle Hore, Human Resources and Marketing Manager, “but if it’s something that proves to be a bit more difficult, we tend to see it as an opportunity because it’s something that no one else knows how to handle or wants to bother with. Because of this, we will then be the best at it.”

“What we aim to do,” adds Brett, “is to provide products that are designed specifically for our purposes. If a product is made and a part wears out, then our product is designed to replace what was worn out or broken under stress, but to a higher level of quality to ensure that problem will not happen again.”

These products, after being designed, developed and created all in-house, are then provided directly to the customer, something Danielle says adds significant benefit to the customer experience. Many of Astro Alloys’ customers live in remote areas, and just as with the company’s original customer base in the late 70s, would not otherwise have access to such products.

“We provide those direct to the customer so they have the benefit of the convenience,” she says, “and they can talk with a company that knows all about the product, they’re not dealing with people in the middle.”

These relationships, which Brett says are the core foundation of the business, are equilateral, allowing customers the freedom to contact the Astro Alloys team directly or to have regularly scheduled visits directly to the customer’s location. Such visits provide customers with the opportunity to keep abreast of product developments whilst not requiring them to undergo the inconvenience of travel or uninformed online shopping.

At the root of this commitment to customer care stands the real secret to Astro Alloys’ continued success in the industry – its adaptability derived by listening to the specific demands of its customer base.

“We do most of everything ourselves,” boasts Danielle, “everything from selecting the ingredients and developing the products, through to marketing them and providing the customer service, and then we also handle all the dispatch ourselves, too!”

It was through this process that the company first diversified into fertiliser products. Explains Brett, “We really try to listen to our customers and so, when we saw that a number of greenskeepers were buying our welding products to fix their machinery, we found that there was an opportunity to provide liquid fertilisers for them also. We sat down then with an agronomist and formulated a range of fertilisers that are fairly specifically targeted to the needs of the Australian greenskeeping industry.”

Says Danielle, “Our products are from an Australian company and are Australian made. They are designed for Australians and take into consideration Australian conditions, especially the fertilisers.” Astro Alloys has also made a commitment to produce all of its products in an environmentally friendly manner, personally developing each product to ensure that it is truly the best on the market. “We’ve built that into the design of the product so that they’re safe for people and they’re safe for the environment.”

Adds Brett, “Anywhere where there is an opportunity to provide a quality product that customers can use, then we’ll look at what we can formulate to meet that need.”

Helping to enable this dedication, Brett says that the company has developed an in-house contract management system, which helps to keep order in the chaos. “We’ve worked fairly hard over the years on developing our own contract management and inventory database. So we can basically follow everything right from contact with the customer through to entry into the system through to monitoring the inventory, and even track the goods throughout Australia.”

This system is just one of many workplace initiatives undertaken by the dynamic company to support its staff in providing the utmost in customer care. Another recent initiative that has garnered significant press and respect for Astro Alloys – as well as a host of Diversity@work awards – is its Mature Worker programs.

These adjustments, implemented by Danielle, cater to the nearly two thirds of Astro Alloys’ workers who are of a mature age. Wanting to provide the best possible workplace for these workers, while also capitalising on their well-developed skills and experience, she went about developing a flexible workplace system whereby workers are able to take advantage of phased retirement, staggered starting hours, casual and part-time options, as well as paid vacation times.

“We really try to be an inclusive workplace,” Danielle explains, “especially with mature age employees, and we’ve won a few national awards for that – including the national award over Australia – for the things that we’ve done in that area. We do our best to do well in all areas of the business.

“I’d like to see the company expand to reach its full potential, but we need more staff,” she laments. “Unlike many other Australian businesses who are in the process of outsourcing and offshoring, Astro Alloys is actively seeking Australians for their workforce. There are currently plans for expansion in the sales department both at Head Office in Hervey Bay and Australia wide.” In fact, Danielle informs us that the company is looking to add more than a hundred new employees to its sales force, with an additional twenty to thirty for its Head Office.

Like many others in the area, the company has been struggling most to find people who have the necessary sales background, people who can demonstrate an innate ability to understand the nuances of sales and product demonstrations, and who are able to build rapport with customers. To that end, Astro Alloys has undertaken its own education initiative, working with the QLD government to create its own training certification program. The program, already starting its second year, teaches students and professionals those skills necessary to enter directly into the Astro Alloys workforce for a rewarding career in sales – working for a dynamic company proud of its truly Australian values.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 19, 2018, 2:08 PM AEST