Robert Cazzolli - D&D Group
Member of TEC 3, Chaired by Andrew Jetson
Sydney, New South Wales
Since 1998, D&D Group has developed from a small family business into an award winning market leader. Commencing with the business in 2000, and as Managing Director for the last 13 years, Robert Cazzolli has seen the company grow from just three office staff (including himself and founder Diego Diaz) and 15 field based employees, to a total of over 250 today.
The business started with just one crane, eventually expanding to offering supporting traffic management, recruitment & labour hire and property holdings. It was a process that saw major changes in terms of the services it offered to clients.
The business moved to a larger location in 2001, and by 2003 undertook its first major restructure as it expanded into the traffic management services market. The traffic management side of the company changed significantly with the acquisition of a smaller traffic control enterprise, while the crane business was sold on in 2007. D&D Group chose to sell the crane hire business at that time because there was significant demand for cranes in the Australian market, presenting a good opportunity to divest and use those finances to grow the traffic management offering.
However, Robert will be the first to attest that there were forces at play beyond just a good understanding of the market, such as a bit of good luck.
'It was lucky that the economic factors were there for us and we just said let's do it. We didn't realise how lucky we were to actually have made that decision and gone for it, because the market in that space changed dramatically over the next 12 months. I think if we waited even six months we would have missed our window.'
Responding to the company's first financial challenge
Despite its ongoing success, like any business, D&D Group was not immune to issues in the wider industry. During the first part of 2015, the company was put under significant pressure after years of stability having always worked with a value-based proposition. As more businesses joined the market, clients started to look for those that could offer similar services but at the lowest price.
'The market was shifting, becoming saturated and highly competitive. For instance, there were two large projects where we went into tender and believed we were giving great value in the service we were offering, but because of the shift in the market it was basically a race to the bottom.'
'We actually lost about 25 per cent of our revenue. So really in one month, we went from a healthy, profitable and stable business, to still a good business with a good product, but no profit - or barely breaking even,' said Robert.
Understanding how to grow as a leader
As the market had become saturated with other competitors, the same strategies that had always worked for D&D Group were no longer as effective.
'When businesses lose revenue - it's nothing new, it happens all the time - you hear stories about how they cut their expenses, downsize, regroup, consolidate and all the sort of stuff,' Robert explained.
'I'm not a believer in that; I didn't want to do it.'
Robert’s decision to join TEC, came out of a desire to improve his own capability in a business environment that had changed dramatically, he didn’t want someone to simply give him the answers. Instead, he needed to be asked the right questions.
Understandably, Robert had a lot on his mind at this point. With 200 staff to think about, and the pressure to be the person with the answers, being able to draw on the experience of other experienced leaders within the TEC group was a huge benefit both personally and professionally.
'When someone is asking you the right questions, it sort of all becomes clear. The answers are there, and they are able to lead you to them rather than just give them away.'
‘It’s amazing how focused you remain. How all that background noise and all the clouds just disappear. Andrew Jetson, my TEC Chair, had a huge impact in helping me with this’.
This advice when paired with the ongoing group sessions, is what challenged Robert to be accountable for these concerns, creating proactive ways to face them.
'So, I appeared before the TEC group, and I had a whole new plan about re-positioning the business. [It was] a new vision, a new growth strategy, new people and a strategy around how we're going to model it and market it,' he said.
In Robert's words, TEC keeps people honest and challenges them to really take ownership of what's happening within the business. Robert also stresses that you don't need to be having trouble to get in touch. In fact, he believes it's better to seek support when things are going well, building a valuable safety net in cases where things go wrong.
Exceeding growth expectations with a new vision
The results speak for themselves in Robert's case, as D&D group was able to grow its revenue significantly throughout the rest of 2015, easily recovering from the tough months they experienced at the start of the year.
'We not only found that 25 per cent [we lost] 14 to 16 months later, but another 35 per cent on top of that. We're trending for 60 per cent growth for this year.'
For Robert, his decision to turn to TEC right before a major professional challenge was much-needed coincidence. In hindsight, however, Robert says he should have joined a year earlier. While he can't say for sure, it may have even allowed him to see the challenges he faced ahead of time.