Natalene Carter has business in her blood. Growing up with a father who owned a motor company for 51 years meant that dinner conversations always revolved around one topic: business.
Now the woman who was once her father’s bookkeeper is at the helm of one of nations most well-known brands, RID Australia, and is the first to admit that you don’t need to know every aspect of an industry before working in it.
“It’s not all about what you’re selling. Yes, you need to know your products. However, if you understand good business practise it does not matter what product or service you are selling as it is all very similar,” says Natalene, who was previously a senior accountant with Griffin and Associates, Townsville for 20 years.
“The fundamentals of business remain the same. Understanding aspects such as managing cash flow, and having the ability to go from the books to the business, are the keys to any business regardless of how big or small and no matter industry you are in.”
When she and business partner, David Griffin, travelled the world in search of their perfect venture, the duo identified the equity and potential in the national brand. When they acquired RID Australia in May 2013, the only thing they knew about the insecticide industry was that it did not have the luxury of a quick turnaround. However, thanks to their forward thinking and robust business acumen, they immediately began rebranding the company and successfully doubled the RID range in four years.
“There was considerable interest in acquiring the brand, including some multinational companies, however, when we acquired RID it hadn’t undergone a brand refresh for a number of years and we felt that the packaging and the product offering needed rationalising and reinvigorating,” she explains.
“We started designing new packaging to get efficiencies in the manufacturing processes and clearly define the role of each individual product.
“It was also important to start stretching the brand and add additional products to the offering to take advantage of our existing channels to market such as mosquito coils, which were a natural extension to the repelling range.”
Natalene says the products RID were working on prior to the change in ownership would not see supermarket shelves for two years. As a result, Natalene and David took the innovative path and started constantly tracking the trends to see what aspects they could develop to match future demand and get ahead of the business game.
“Because our products are heavily regulated by government authorities it can take up to three years to have a product registered before it can be sold in the Australian market,” she says.
“Due to our long lead times we must be developing products now for what we want to take to market in two to three years.
“We are constantly looking at the market to identify where the gaps are so that we can work this far in advance.
“It also became clear that we should be looking at other products outside of the repellent market that aren’t seasonal and that aren’t heavily regulated by the government, which is why we expanded the RID range.”
An iconic Australian brand in the insect-repellent market for more than 64 years, RID continues to be the only Australian-owned and manufactured repellent. David and Natalene established their head office here in Townsville, and regularly fly down to the disruption centre and manufacturing facility in Brisbane.
“I am only a plane flight away from anywhere I need to be and can manage the business from my phone,’ says Natalene.
“North Queensland is also the ‘epi centre’ for mozzies so this really is the major market for our products.”
She and David purchased not only the brand but also around 52 worldwide trademarks that provide a platform for international trade.
“RID currently exports to a number of countries particularly in the Pacific Islands, Africa and New Zealand regions however we are currently working with a large international distribution group to manage the pharmacy and retail channels throughout Asia,” she continues.
Natalene is involved with all aspects of the business and manages it alongside her key staffing team. She credits her 20 years’ work as an accountant for assisting in her understanding and knowledge of the business space.
“It is always so important to manage business from the books first and truly understand your cashflow position,” she says.
“Being an accountant gave me exposure to many businesses across many industries and my training in analysing the figures has been invaluable.
“However, each day there are new lessons to be learnt which is probably what excites me most about what I do.”
Despite their success over the years, Natalene says there have been many challenges that have accompanied building and extending such a well-known brand.
“Firstly when your business is in manufacturing and logistics there are always issues every day and you have to learn very fast to roll with the punches and be able to make decisions quickly to work around any problems,” explains Natalene.
“The retail space has also been incredibly challenging in recent years with the competitive landscape changing rapidly.
“We are up against some huge multinationals in our category, so we just have to ensure we are providing a better product, on time and for the right price in our market.”
Fortunately, the sales of RID Australia have not been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. This has meant Natalene and David can continue their pre-COVID plans for the business, where they will be branching outside of the insect repellent space.
“We have multiple plans on a few levels for the business which are not necessarily in the insect repellent space,” she continues.
“RID is our personal insect repellent brand however, this has now become only one sector of the business with us developing new products and new brands to truly take advantage of our channels to market.”
By Georgie Desailly for BDmag
Image credit: Flicka Photography