Trojan Trays – A Local Emerging Business Leader
“I think 99 per cent of businesses would have failed,” says Steven Turnbull, in his office overlooking the Trojan Trays Australia workshop in Edward Street.
“This time last year the place was like a morgue,” he tells me over the workshop noise rising from below.
It was two-and-a-half years ago that Steven and business partner Greg Robinson founded Trojan Trays Australia, after seeing the potential for a local manufacturer of quality steel and aluminium trays to service the region.
Between them Greg and Steven had the ideal background for the venture: Greg had worked more than 30 years in the car industry and Steven, born and bred in Orange and a fitter and machinist by trade, also had extensive experience as a project manager in the mining industry.
But nobody thought the rain would hold off this long.
“The constriction of new vehicle sales in the area would be at least 50 per cent because of drought,” says Steven.
“So, all of a sudden the numbers we originally started the business for were not there. Your farmers and primary producers, the mum and dads that are buying cars at the dealerships, those sales just weren’t where they need to be.”
“Basically, we had to adjust our business model and make some big decisions,” says Greg. “Many days we've been here in this room for 6 or 7 hours, locking ourselves in here working out what we can do.”
With their intended market in decline, Steven went looking for new markets.
“It was very hard,” says Greg. “Steve went down to Sydney and started knocking on managing director’s doors and it isn’t easy to get those guys to move away from people they’ve dealt with for years to Trojan Trays.”
“Yeah, two or three times a week I went down to Sydney,” adds Steven, “just knocking on doors and saying what I could do for people. You don't get the job after the first chat, it took us 18 to 20 months to get our first opportunity with Forestry and we now have relationships with Flick Pest Control, Komatsu and with the biggest Toyota dealership in Australia.
“We are now pulling manufacturing back from Sydney back to Orange, which is incredible!”
Getting these opportunities is one thing; keeping them, another. But in two-and-a-half years, Trojan Trays have proved their reliability and the Orange-based manufacturer is getting a reputation as a quality, one-stop-shop for trays and accessories.
“We are getting a name out there, not just in the Central West, but into the western suburbs of Sydney, Newcastle and interstate,” says Steven, who was recently named “Emerging Business Leader 18-34” at the 2019 Orange Business Awards.
“Even with our penetration into the metro areas, we cannot and will not forget the incredible support we’ve received and continue to receive from our local dealer network. The local dealers in Orange and the Central West have been extremely supportive of Trojan Trays and we can’t thank them enough” says Steven. “We keep our dealers and customers updated on all things Trojan Trays by way of a quarterly newsletter. We try to reciprocate this support assisting our dealers wherever possible, for instance offering specials during their sales and events which we frequent. We’re really looking forward to the upcoming Australian National Field Days at Borenore in October. We’ll be at our same site as the last two years; A63 and can’t wait to see all our friends, dealers, customers and anyone who wants to drop by.”
“I think a lot of our strength and dominance in this space is because we customise everything to suit the client, we don’t just have a shopping list of stuff and if it fits their needs, well that's good, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We actually go the other way and say, ‘what do you need?’ and then we adjust our design to give our customers what they actually want.
“And there are not many places that will do the auto electrical stuff, the bull bar, the accessories, the tray everything…but we’ll manage the whole process, so you don’t have to go to five or six different places.”
“The feedback we’re getting is, ‘Gee, I wish I'd known about you earlier’,” says Greg. “We've been trading two and a half years and haven’t had a break, so the proof of reliability is there.”
Steven and Greg are justifiably proud of building a successful manufacturing business in trying conditions, but even more so that it was done right here in Orange.
“We are big on using local suppliers. There is definitely nothing imported on our trays, it is all fabricated or sourced from Australia locally…90 per cent of what we use on our trays comes from within 60 kilometres of here, so we align ourselves very closely with everyone else in town,” says Steven, who is also conscious about giving back to the local community that supports them.
In their first year, Trojan Trays raffled a tray to raise $5,000 for Give Me 5 For Kids, who have remained their main charity partner.
“We also don’t simply want one-off-jobs and then never see the customer again. We want to create customers for life,” says Steven.
“We also ensure that we treat everyone as if they are a guest in our home and have a loyalty program for repeat customers and dealers.”
Steven now has his sights set on growing Trojan Trays into a nationally competitive business, with Orange at the centre of it all.
“In the first year to second year we doubled in size, this year we should be 200-300 per cent on our second year, and over three years of operating we should be five or six times our original size and if you look at that in light of how much the market has constricted that's pretty good growth,” says Steven, who is working hard to increase their production capabilities.
“Just this week we welcomed Treeve Andrew to the team. Having a Licensed Vehicle Certifier onboard is a gamechanger for us here at Trojan in what we can offer.
“The plan is, come October, November we will need more fabricators to come on board to run a back shift, so we can turn this business into a 24 hour a day operation six or seven days a week — that's the plan,” he says.
“We've gone from our biggest challenge being able to fill the workshop with work, to now our biggest challenge is being able to get it out fast enough to fit the new work in… and that’s a great problem to have.”