Taking over a door-manufacturing business just as the economy stalled in the early 1990s, Keiran Wilson defied the odds and achieved business success for three decades on the back of superb craftsmanship, dedicated workers and a committed finance partner.
As he eases into retirement, Keiran Wilson can stop to reflect on his pride at running a door-manufacturing business in Victoria that held its own for 30 years in good times and bad.
“Our doors would be the best in Australia, I reckon,” says Keiran, who sold the business in January 2020.
He also acknowledges the role of ScotPac, which stood side by side with Specialty Doors and provided a long-term Debtor Finance package that guaranteed cashflow and business continuity.
“ScotPac, take a bow,” Keiran says. “You should know that you helped us keep 15 to 25 people in work over a 30-year period.”
In its factory in Noble Park, southeast Melbourne, Specialty Doors makes customised doors for major retailers such as Bunnings and Bowens. Keiran and his business partner, John Ellis, took over the enterprise in 1990 in the belief that it had great potential, even as the so-called “recession we had to have” started to take hold.
During his time at the helm, Keiran was renowned for insisting on high levels of craftsmanship and service, with the business’s joinery, flush panel, fire and steel-clad doors setting the standard in the Australian market.
He also had high expectations of his partners, and in ScotPac found a debt-financing provider that ensured reliable cashflow and allowed him to focus on the day-to-day issues in the workshop during a prosperous 30-year relationship.
“Paying the bills and getting sales, that’s always a challenge,” says Keiran, who had been a doormaker for about 18 years before buying the business. “But our customers were very loyal and we were very loyal to them.”
Early in the piece, ScotPac suggested Specialty Doors adopt Invoice Financing, an on-demand line of credit secured by one or more outstanding sales invoices. The facility allowed the business to make the most of its assets and unlock opportunities by converting invoices into a strong and fast source of cashflow.
Keiran explains: “We could send our invoices to ScotPac and they would fund 85 per cent of the value of those invoices. So that meant we straight away had cashflow.”
One of the other key benefits of using ScotPac, according to Keiran, is that the ScotPac team helped manage and track invoices and chased them up. “If a customer is a bit tardy with payments it’s better for an outside company to call them and say, ‘we’re waiting on a payment’, rather than for me to ring them. It doesn’t damage the relationship with the client.”
What was really important to the business owners was that ScotPac’s style of funding did not require personal assets as security, so Keiran and John did not have to put their family homes on the line.
Flexibility the key
By contrast, Keiran feels he did not get any favours from banks when he bought the business. He thought he had a handshake deal with his bank for an overdraft of $50,000. However, the bank backtracked and would allow just $20,000. “I’m not bank bashing, but I should have got the agreement in writing,” he says.
He says fortunately that made him look beyond the banks, and ScotPac could see the strengths and potential of the business – the on-the-tools experience of Keiran and John; the excellent clients Specialty Doors was attracting; and the existence of stock and plant equipment worth up to $300,000. “ScotPac were willing to give us a go,” Keiran says. Just as importantly, ScotPac took the time to understand his business and was happy to back Specialty Doors. Together, they never looked back.
Relationships, not numbers
While appreciating the financial assistance he received, Keiran makes special note of the relationships that developed between his team members and ScotPac’s representatives, who were there regardless of whether the economy was thriving or tough.
“During the lean times ScotPac let us go a bit over our overdraft when we needed to, but we always brought it back into line pretty quickly. They were nice to deal with – a very good company.”
While the solid relationship was a constant, one of the big changes he saw over his 30 years of being funded by ScotPac was due to technology. When the world moved online, “you could virtually send ScotPac your invoices on a Wednesday and the money was in the bank that afternoon”.
Now 75 and pursuing his passion for horse racing, Keiran is content in retirement. He is proud to have maximised the value of the business, turning a battling business into an operation that for many years, with ScotPac at its side, supported Australian workers and the manufacturing sector.
“We didn’t make a fortune, but it was a nice place to work,” he says. “We had good people working for us. It was a league of nations and we all got on well.”