Growing his business from a two person operation out of an Adelaide home 15 years ago to a national company with 160 employees and an annual turnover of $24 million a year, Accuweigh Group chief executive Brenton Cunningham has emerged as a winner of this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year awards.
Awarded the accolade in the retail, consumer and industrial products division, Cunningham said the recognition had re-motivated him to strive for his big-picture long-term business goals.
Cunningham, along with long-term friend and business partner Greg Brogan, started Accuweigh Group in 1992, after recognising an opportunity to provide weighing, measuring and packaging services to the industrial sector.
Before long, the company began signing on a number of South Australian and Western Australian-based agencies through which to sell its products.
After identifying strong business and lifestyle opportunities in the west, Cunningham and his family moved from Adelaide to Perth in 1996. The move soon paid off, when in 1997 the company made its first acquisition—the industrial division of major international scale company, Avery.
After taking over Avery’s industrial operations in WA, Accuweigh then moved into SA and Victoria, giving the company its first eastern states operation.
The company then continued on the acquisition trail with each acquisition expanding on the company’s product offering and geographical reach.
Cunningham said that in addition to organic growth, its strategic acquisitions allowed Accuweigh to accelerate its expansion across the country and introduce new products and services.
Accuweigh’s next acquisition was Victorian-based Ultrahawke, a specialist weighbridge manufacturer, in 2000. This allowed Accuweigh to become a vertically integrated weighbridge supplier.
Accuweigh continued to strengthen its east coast operations with two acquisitions, a Queensland based weighbridge company and a scale operator with extensive operations in the eastern states.
Last year also marked Accuweigh Groups entry into the New Zealand market, with the acquisition of a Christchurch scale company. Still on the acquisition trail, Cunningham said the company would look to make four to five more purchases over the next three years, with the overall goal of doubling its turnover within that timeframe.
He said the company was particularly interested in strengthening its exposure to the packaging area, as well as acquiring additional weighbridge and scale operations.
Cunningham said the company would ultimately list on the Australia Securities exchange if its expansion goals were met in the three-year time frame.
With an estimated 30 scale companies operating in WA, Cunningham said an ideal acquisition for the company would be a baby boomer owned and operated company with a strong customer base and financials, with the owner looking to retire.
“It’s a combination of knowing what you want to do and being ready to take action when the opportunities arise.” Cunningham believes Accuweigh’s robust business systems and the strong business acumen of the management team have enabled it to make good investment decisions.