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Client Interview: AGM Automation

Updated 29 June 2020 (Published 9 July 2019) in Business Tips

On this episode of Bombcast (season 2 of The Bam Creative Show), we sat down with Tim from AGM Automation to discuss:

Industry trends and changes
The things that have given AGM a competitive advantage in terms of marketing at sales
His experience with working with Bam Creative
The results AGM Automation has achieved in the time they have been working with Bam Creative

Client Interview: AGM Automation

A Little About AGM Automation

AGM Automation has maintained ahead of its competitors for over 25 years, by being dedicated to delivering Perth with high quality and reliable products supported by outstanding customer satisfaction and aftermarket help.

AGM Automation prides themselves on top quality workmanship, extensive knowledge, customer satisfaction and aftermarket support which are the 4 key aspects which AGM Automation continually strive to achieve for every client.

AGM operates with a structured future goal for excellence in aftermarket customer support and workmanship. With a long history of being ethical, professional and prompt, AGM Automation is proud of its reputation with clients in both the private and corporate sectors of Perth's communities.

Tell us about your business

Well we supply, install, service and repair any type of automatic gate, commercial, industrial, residential yeah, we're a family business and we're all qualified electrical workers and contractors as well, starting from contract licenses to restricted licenses.

Obviously said family business, we have Mum in the office and Dad is the leading hand and director to keep the boys in check and then myself, my brother. So that's the team and yeah, that's pretty much what we are.

When we talk about getting started in the business, it was really always just family, right?

Yeah. We never look outside of the family cause obviously we want to keep the work inside the family and it's a lot easier to sort of strive, uh, pushing the business because the more work and the harder I push and my brother push for, then obviously the better the business will be.

Dad just sort of oversees it, makes sure that, you know, he just lets us run as far as we can and then sort of pulls us back in when we need to be pulled back in and that keeps things nice and easy and Mum gets to go on holidays and stuff like that. Now she's happy.

Do you think when your Dad was starting up as well that he had the forethought to think this is going to be a legacy?

Yeah, his vision always was that. When we were kids we used to go to work with him and stuff like that on school holidays. Just one or two days and stuff like that. Like, you know, you're getting L plates and you have got to drive them around all day for work.

So that's how you get your hours up, which is pretty funny. Interesting driving around with the old man and stuff like that. He did always say to us, look buy businesses and stuff like that and look into something bigger than just working for someone because working with someone's great, but if you really want to advance in, you know, in buying houses and getting yourself set up and you need to actually think a bit further ahead than just turning up every day for work.

So yeah, he always did have that sort of thought and um, yeah, it's also sort of happened in the last five years for him and us. Yeah, he's pretty stoked I think and so is Mum.

Do you think that's always been just your Dad in terms of his unique approach to business or do you think there's also a bit of immigrant mentality there?

Oh, he is Swiss, so is Mum they're from Switzerland, so they literally came over here and couldn't speak the language, did the farm thing, worked on the farm and had to make, you know, etch their own sort of path in Australia, their own piece of land and everything like that they tried to buy, um, probably is the immigrant thing, you know, working hard to get ahead.

But when you can't speak the language and stuff like that, you got no friends over here, you’ve got to forge your own way I guess, and yeah, last 30 years I'm thinking I've been here and come with nothing and built a little family empire for himself, which is pretty good.

So from your perspective, what do you think makes you different from others in the market?

So it's always a tough one because obviously everyone's got their own way, everyone sort of makes it work their own way, um, think ours is more just coming from three trade backgrounds. I'm a plumber/ gas fitter and then I was doing that on and off for a while.

Then the old man just said, look, just come work for us if you want, but you got to also improve your knowledge there as well. So I went back to get a restricted electrical license and stuff like that, so always, sort f think that we all come from an area where you had to work hard as an apprentice and stuff like that.

So you're always driven to be the better tradesman and that sort of helped us then sort of go, right, we'll try this, try that, don't really enjoy that, let's try something else. And the opportunity was just there to sort of jump on board.

Then I guess there's also the self-driven stuff though, I don't know, all the sports and stuff you do. You always try to be the best as you could be when you're younger. So that always helps you. Really just having the support from the old man to sort of push you in the right direction, I think that sort of is where we really came into, I don't know where we can drive a business as a unique sort of thing.

There's not that many WA family businesses sticking together with three boys working together.

It's pretty tough to get, you know, I’m the youngest so, I've got to sort of listen to what the two oldest say, but I've also got my own opinions and um, think we've found that if you find your own area in the business and you just stick to that, you don't try jump into the other guys shoe and try be, like compare yourself to them.

That sort of helps you really just, how do you say, define what your role is in the business. So if I'm sales maintenance and then sort of, bit of helping around the outside and drive the business, that's my area and my brother's area is just installation and be the tech guy.

So he's really good at installing tradesman skills and tells us, you know, um, you missed this on the job, you could've got this, you know, I had to do this and then that improves us. But yet you can't, we can't overstep the boundary and then expect more from him to do the things that we're doing.

And then if, you know, the old man steps in, he just oversees it, so everyone knows their role and I guess that definitely helps in it knowing your own role and sticking to that and suck up your pride sometimes and just say yes, no worries, I stuffed up there.

And I think that sort of helps, but a good family relationship between the three of us also helps.

Would that be the same reason why you expect clients keep coming back to you for business because you guys are growing significantly, right?

Yeah, it's definitely aftermarket support, man. Just continuous communication. But you've got to keep that level of support and also that level of tradesmanship, tradesmen skills, tradesmanship skills, yep, that's it, it’s a tongue twister and keep that level good.

Also don't try dropping down and compete against the lower guys. Don't drop your level of work just to get the job. If they don't want to come with you because you're too expensive, you say, well this is a quality that you're going to get.

This is what you're paying for. And now you pay for quality, you get the service. If you want to, you want to compete in the low end of the market. Obviously, your skills aren't probably going to be that good in tradesmanship stuff.

Um, but yeah, you got to really back the product full heartedly and just go, this is the best product that we can do. If you want to come with us, this is what we're selling. Otherwise, yeah, sorry, we can't help you. And don't try.

Take every job that you can because you know, you just, you're not going to make any money at the end of the day, if you do a job for nothing, just for the sake of doing it and you're better off spending more time doing something else than wasting time on that job.

When we talk about other competitive advantages for you in terms of say, more sales and marketing, what are some of the more unique things that you feel you've done other businesses in your space haven't bothered to do?

Well before I even came to Bam, the first thing that we did was, I went through and made a full, um, we only had documents, so a filing cabinet with every single client that we did an install for.

So the first thing I did was go through every single email address, phone number and all that sort of stuff and reconnect with every client and sent out just a reminder "hi look, we're still here. Do you want us to do a service on your gate or anything like that?" Um, a few.

Well, how can I say it? A few guys rung up and said, Hi. Yeah, look, we actually haven't heard from you for five, six years actually. Yeah, we do want to get a service and we need to get this done and this done and this done. And then I also got a friend who, you know, who needs to get something done and we've been really happy with your gate work and stuff like that.

So just reconnecting with old clients before we even got into redeveloping the website and pushing us to the next level was the starting point, which has now created, I guess a little industry that is called preventative maintenance servicing, which is literally just sending out a letter to your customer that you haven't spoken to for a year or two years.

Say, "Hey, we're still here, do you want your gate serviced?" Um, yeah, look, give us a bell. You know, it's around this time of the year, winter and summer, you want to get it done. And that pretty much got us back in everyone's sort of mind in the residential area, not so much commercial.

Then just after that year, we jumped in with you guys and then we started targeting, um, more strata and stuff like that. And that really just pushed us in the right direction before, I guess we go for the next level, which would be more commercial, everything like that. So get the fundamentals re-secured and then you can drive further I guess, but yeah.

If we can jump to that snapshot of where you are at before you came to us, if you can kind of detail or walk us back through that journey of why you engage with us, why you ended up partnering with us and what we've done since in terms of results.

Well, the first thing was, we had a look at the website when me and my brother jumped in and you know, we were pretty keen to get things moving and the old man was like our, it was like, I'll just slow down, let's just take it one step at a time.

The website was like a thing from 20 years ago with a shopping cart thing on it. It was all black and had a photo of the old house on it and all sorts of funny things and you know, get one or two phone calls out of that out every six months or something.

Then all the yellow pages and everything like that as well we had in there. But um, I just said, well, why not? I'll just play with it and just get a format and just change it around and just have a play with it.

So I did that. I just went through the website and just, you know, I didn't have any skills or anything like that, just started playing with it, changing some photos and everything like that. And then it sort of lead into, I went and did a bit of a course online to just, I didn't end up finishing it.

I only did the three month part, which was about all the marketing and all that sort of stuff. And then I didn't want to know that the accounting stuff, so, I got what I needed yet.

I've learned so much from it, which helped me exactly target audiences and stuff like that and how to sort of understand how the SEO campaigning works cause that's sort of what I needed to do is just build knowledge.

Dad knew about it, but he just wasn't interested in it.

He's like "look I can just sit back and just cruise, I got all my employees and stuff". "Well, not employees but my customers and stuff". So he could just sit back a one-man show and cruise, but the old man was like, "look, if you want to drive the business, it's up to you and your brother, to drive it.

So from then on I just said, all right, what do I need to do? Go get your restricted electrical license so that you're not so worried about touching electrical stuff and that was good because that gave me a bit more knowledge obviously because I'm a plumber/ gas fitter jumping in the family business with two sparkies which was always going to be a bit hard.

Then just had to get a bit, uh, dedication from myself and my brother, I had a lot more at the start cause I sort of was sitting in one area where I wanted to drive and my brother, he was a bit like "I want to move away and I want to do this, I want to be a fireman" and all sorts of stuff.

Then when we finally came together a year and a half ago, we sort of said, what are we actually going to do? Is this going to be legitimate? Are we going to try to drive this because it's a great opportunity? We've all got mortgages.

You know, I'm getting married next year. My brother just got married last year. We're looking at probably having kids next year. So it was like alright, let's start making some calls here.

Then, yeah, we just sort of started ringing around and the old man said, why don't you just suss it out and just figure out what we need to do because it's not working with our last website company. And then I said alright, I started ringing a few different companies and came across Bam Creative, which is obviously great for us. I just sent out the email to have a meeting.

I think it was with yourself or with David and stuff and with yourself, Josh. And then from there we just caught up and I'll sort of said, look, we're a West Australian family business. We want to market ourselves as a West Australian family business and we want to start slow and just gradually build as we go.

So you can came back to me with a few all ideas and stuff like that and said, look, should be pretty easy to market your family business that you got everything in line and under control at the moment. And all our strategic sort of goals were set pretty, pretty strong.

Then I requested that I didn't want to just be a number like we were in the last company because you know, we need a bit more personalisation for the image that we want to sell and promote to people.

We actually needed a bit more of a personal touch so that Bam and yourself and the boys working with you guys knew who we are and exactly what we were trying to do because there's no point in us trying to be someone and then we're not promoting it in the background and no one sort of understands and all that.

Which then I worked, I think with David and someone else for, for a while on the, on the website. And it was a lot of emails back and forth and meetings and stuff and a few long conversations and everything like that.

But eventually, we got to where we wanted to be and pretty much since launching the website, um, back in May, 2018, I think the first, first job I won directly from the website was in June. And from then for the, for the last six months of 2018, I got 31% increase in sales just from the website solely from the website, which was amazing.

So that went from, yeah, you know, a couple grand jobs to, you know, almost about 10 grand a week or something, not a week, a month or something like that getting turned over for us. So directly from the website, which was a great, great return for us. And, um, I think we're at about 52% increase in website sales now since, since then, which has been just about a year.

When you think about digital advertising, what do you feel is the opportunity for you going forward?

Yeah, we're probably at the limit as what we can take on with three guys now with the business and stuff like that. So when it comes to me writing blogs and stuff like that and obviously Bam Creative, behind the scenes doing heaps and stuff for the SEO campaigns and all the links and stuff that's happening behind the scenes that I don't see or get involved with because I don't need to.

So, yeah, probably at the limit with how much I need to be out there now chasing work, not spending time writing blogs and advertising on I guess Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, all that sort of stuff. I need to now pass it over to Bam and say, look, let's push this side of the business.

Obviously, there's certain areas that we're going to go for because we don't want to get too big too quickly.

So we're at a point now, obviously, we probably need to get someone in another six months because I'll be out chasing work flat out with the digital side, which I think is going to be, yeah, like I said, Facebook, LinkedIn, more Instagram.

The blog still on the, on the site, email will be a good one. I think we're going to be doing, what would be good is to chase up once again all the old customers again because I haven't done that for about a year now.

So that'd be good to get a system set up where once a year, you know, I think I've done a uh, excel spreadsheet database with about, I think 1300 customers now with all the email addresses, phone numbers, and all that stuff.

So that's pretty much just one email out of that goes to each customer, doesn't matter if it's a Strata builder, doesn't matter cause they all obviously pass it on because I want my stuff serviced hopefully.

Other terms of digital strategies and stuff like that with you guys. I think what we want to get out of it is increased in bigger commercial jobs, which is where we're leading to now. We've got the residential side pretty down packed.

Just that emailing that we'll do to the residential customers, just keeps them happy and keeps us in the loop, the commercial side and maybe chasing some mining work that's going to be an interesting department that, you know, we'll have to work one on one with you guys on how exactly we're going to target it and who we need to target.

With the digital stuff, I guess, you know, digital means, a few different things and they're not just pictures and all of that. So that's going to be interesting to learn about that also with you guys. And I'm going to give you guys some ideas to work with because we got ideas.

You guys got ideas and I guess we come together on that and then make it happen.

If you could wind the clock back, would you do anything differently?

Everything's, obviously you got the ups and downs with your family and stuff like that, but that's, that's part of it. When you got three guys together who just want to, you know, they all want to do the best. That's sometimes the problem.

Everyone's trying to do as best as they can. And then there's conflicts. So, you know, um, there's nothing that you can really go back on because we're where we want to be. And I think, um, yeah, it's all just up for us at the moment, which is great, but touching on that blog stuff that you're saying that every time I write a blog within one or two weeks, our increase in website hits come straight away.

So that's just figuring out how to write, not too much about your keywords and stuff like that for the SEO stuff, it's about putting the right amount in there you know. And also if I wanted to chase a certain different area in the, in the SEO Marketing thing I'd write about that area that I want to chase.

So if I wrote more about servicing, suddenly our servicing hits would come up. If we're doing a new installation somewhere, well then our install supply and install, so that area would come up on the website inquiries. So it's always writing the right stuff and you know, you can, you've got to tell the story with the pictures, which sometimes is a little bit hard.

If you had to give any advice to other businesses who might be in the position you were in a couple of years ago, what would you say? What would that advice be?

Well the advice that I got from older guys as well that I sort of ring up and have meetings with so, well, there's one thing now you just, just ask outside of your area, ask people that have not sort of done what you've done, but who are higher up in the industry have been around for a long time or like either even other industries.

They will tell you, just build slowly because if you build too quickly, you'll get too stressed out and then you'll just be too much and just go, this is way too hard.

I'm out of here. So we always tried to work on six to eight hours a day, which is plenty. If you do six to eight hours and actually work six to eight hours a day and put your head down from the moment you get into when you leave, you'll figure out that you can get so much done.

You don't need to work 10, 12 hour days, you're only going to be doing that if you're uh, you know, just sort of mucking around and not doing, not being time effective. Um, so the only thing I would say really is, yeah, go out, ask other people for some advice because you don't need to listen to it.

You just need to hear and you can take a little bit of that, implement it into your business and then just try to build from there. But definitely just keep your ears open and listen to what other people have to say because they, they're the ones that are going to sort of point you in the right direction.

I think one thing I got told was, so you want to cross a river or something and you're building a boat, you're not going to build that boat with things which aren't going to get you across that. You get halfway there and a breaks down or something like that.

You get a hole in that hull or something like that. And you've got to actually build your boat and surround yourself with people who are going to get you across the river. So that's sort of, you know, you've got to cut people out and you know, that's, that gets, it gets a bit hard.

But you know, that's just the way it is. And if you can focus on the positives and not worry about some of the negatives that you got to let go, well then you're going to get, get your business in the right direction and then it's up to you to put the time and effort in. So yeah.

In Summary

Thanks again for your time, Tim, and I hope that business owners find this interview, and your answers, valuable to their digital marketing efforts.

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