Keeping a business alive during challenging times is one thing, but to see it undergo growth amidst extensive uncertainty is a whole other ball game. This is the reality for Peter Braid, owner of Townsville’s distribution company Braid & Co, who picked up trade during the pandemic and is now expanding his business to keep up with increased demand.
WHAT IS BRAID & CO?
Based in Townsville, Braid & Co is a local distribution company providing representation, sales, support, and warehousing for several manufacturers in the electrical market across the North Queensland region.
“As supplier’s agents we support a number of suppliers with representation, the stocking and sale of products from our facilities based in Townsville, and act on behalf of businesses that want to have a presence in the North Queensland market but can’t justify having their own warehouse or salesman,” explains Peter.
With over 34 years’ experience in warehousing, distribution sales and project management, Peter made the leap from Contract Manager to business owner in 2016, and has since rebranded and expanded the business, formerly known as Coaction Agencies.
The business also operates outside of Townsville and services territory from Maryborough and Hervey Bay, right up the coast to Cairns, West to Emerald and as far out as Mount Isa.
“As the Sales Representative, I regularly travel throughout that territory on a rotating roster, liaising with electrical wholesaler contractors and building relationships to get our products requested and recommended on jobs,” he continues.
CUSTOMER SERVICE THE KEY TO BUSINESS SUCCESS
The distribution industry has become an increasingly competitive market, but Peter ensures his team continues to deliver exceptional customer service and maintain strong relationships with both industry professionals and Queensland locals.
“Prior to purchasing Braid & Co, I worked as the National Contracts Manager for CNW Electrical and looked after large mining and industrial projects, and provided customer service to many of the same people I interact with today through Braid & Co,” he explains.
“You also need to maintain good relationships with your suppliers and my team does a great job of managing that side of the business because customer service really is the key to establishing a good reputation.”
EXPANDING THE BUSINESS AND IMPLEMENTING NEW PROJECTS
Braid & Co has expanded rapidly since 2016, with the business currently representing 18 manufacturers across North Queensland. They plan on increasing this number over the coming months, and recently relocated to a larger warehouse in Aitkenvale to ensure they have the capacity to take on additional suppliers.
“We started in 2016 with only me and one staff member, in a tiny warehouse, and now we have grown our suppliers and have a new 1200 square metre warehouse in Aitkenvale,” says Peter.
“With the current COVID situation, we are starting to see more people regularly supporting local suppliers, so we need to be able to expand our stock, add some local range and increase our suppliers, which we can now commence doing thanks to the new warehouse space.”
Part of this growth process has come in the form of a new venture for Peter, who opened B2B Supply, a safety and workwear clothing business, that despite its untimely opening in March, has already established a loyal customer base.
“We opened B2B Supply just as the COVID outbreak began, and while it didn’t grow as quickly as we hoped due to the circumstances, we now have regular customers that source their workwear and safety supplies from us,” he says.
“Now that we have that stable customer base, we are looking at training staff members and putting on a new full-time staff member, with the intention of growing B2B Supply in the coming months.”
THE IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON BUSINESS
While Braid & Co have been fortunate to keep business flowing amidst the pandemic, Peter makes note of the conflicting guilt he feels for his success when others have not been so fortunate.
“The outbreak of COVID has been awful and while it has been stressful not knowing if we were going to have to close in the early period, it has actually helped our business due to the fact that the representatives from other companies haven’t been able to travel, so our competition hasn’t been as active,” he explains.
“I also felt a lot of guilt because while Braid & Co has been doing really well during these times, we have friends in the hospitality sector and those hard-hit industries that are still struggling to get back on their feet.”
Peter credits his success over recent months to the support of Townsville locals, and says the community’s loyalty to local businesses during this unstable period is a true testament to the Townsville spirit. He plans on returning the favour by assisting people with their transition back into the workforce.
“Since we are continuing to expand, we are already looking to put on a new staff member and help two more with their rehabilitation back into the workforce,” he says.
“We are fortunate to have that opportunity because we have been able to stay busy and keep growing during this uncertain period.
“It really is a flow-on effect.”
“When you are helped by others, you want to return the favour and that is what is really special about being a part of a community where locals support locals.”
A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE AND RUN A BUSINESS
Aside from a short stint in Brisbane, Peter has spent most of his time in Townsville and Cairns, and notes how between the loyalty of the locals and the central location, Townsville has it all when it comes to running a successful business.
“If you have been here long term and provide a great service, locals tend not to stray away,” he says.
“It is a central location, especially for our business as every area we service is within reach, and the facilities available in Townsville are also great, because you get that city feel without the large crowds of people.
“There is also the regular income from the defence force spending which means you are not reliant on one industry such as tourism or mining; instead, you have other opportunities, and have a lot more happening.”
GROWING INTO THE FUTURE
With many upcoming projects in the works, Peter is optimistic about the future, and says his focus will continue to remain on growing both Braid & Co and B2B Supply.
“Going forward we want to get the new warehouse set up and finished so we can look at further expanding our product range,” he says.
“We also will continue to focus on growing and increasing B2B Supply, while also working on other opportunities for a new business that focus on the delivery aspect of the industry, so there certainly is a lot happening.”
By Georgie Desailly for BDmag.