Tell us briefly about the history of MGI.
I started the business in September, 1993 from home. What motivated me was necessity, as I had two children in school and needed to earn a good income to provide for them. The electric buggy business was small in Australia and historically, retailers did not stock electric buggies.
I suppose my father really got me started as he called and asked if I could get him an electric buggy (as I was working in the golf industry)…so I contacted a company in Queensland and the gentleman running the business said if I wanted an electric buggy, ‘do you want to buy the business?’ He was prepared to sell me the stock he had…so that is where it started. I needed to sell 200 to break even and sold 1,000 in the first year of business. My first office was located in Park Orchards, Victoria and in 2002 we moved the business to Nunawading, which is still our location today.
We are now number one in the remote control electric buggy industry worldwide and have 80 percent of Australian share in the electric buggy industry. Nowadays, retailers aren’t taken seriously if they do not carry an electric buggy and MGI has on average 3-4 buggies on retail floor with most shops.
What is the most unique aspect about MGI? What makes it a great business?
Our business ethos is to be the best at what we do and not accept second best. To learn from our mistakes and always remain motivated to improve ourselves. Not giving in is the MGI DNA and this is what makes it unique and a great business.
Tell us about your staff, and what it’s like to work with family in the business.
In total we have 35 staff which includes three family members; two daughters and one brother. This business has given me the opportunity to see my daughters, Miranda and Carrie, and my brother Neil, most days of their lives. It has strengthened our personal and professional working relationship together…And I know they have our best interest at heart because it is a family business. I believe family is the most important thing in one’s life. I have been working with family in the business for 10 years now.
You recently designed and released the Quad and Tri series of buggies. What are you most excited about with these products?
The Quad is our biggest innovation yet in electric golf buggies. This is in addition to the Gyroscope technology on the Navigator we designed – which makes it number one in the world. The market seems to be full of three-wheel electric buggies and there was a need for four-wheel electric buggies.
We proved a four-wheel would work and showed it is more stable with the different terrains. It also allows them to be more compact with the two wheels to the side of the design as opposed to out the front (like the three-wheeled buggies). It has captured the imagination of the retailer as it is something exciting and different and also gives the golfer a reason to update their model with a new four-wheel design.
For all the people who love their three-wheeled buggies, we will also be launching a new Tri Series this year, but I believe the Quad Series will lead the way in the export business.
You recently made a giant step in the overseas markets by exhibiting at the PGA Show in Orlando. Tell us about that experience, and/or other overseas endeavours.
The reception of the new Quad Series at the PGA show was a great success. We even picked up new accounts in some new markets.
The last 15 years has allowed us to dip our toes in the water of the export business. Exporting from Australia is a challenge in terms of reputation as Australia has little experience at a global level in selling manufactured products. To be successful I believe you need to have a desirable product at a global level, and provide a product that the world market wants. What Australians want can be very different to what the world wants, which is why we have designed the new Quad Series for golfers around the world, with the Quad Series being a true global product and due to its compact size, it easily fits into the trunk of a car.
Our aim for exporting is to export worldwide and into new markets over the next three years, with a goal of exporting the same numbers of what we sell within Australia. Our move into exporting will begin with the new four-wheeled electric buggies in the Quad Series. At the moment we currently have USA, Europe, Canada and some countries in South America covered.
It is an exciting time in the business as the global market means further growth and to export will not have a great impact on our existing operations as we already have systems in place and the production line to manage the global demand. We will simply be increasing our output and MGI will become available in more countries around the world.
While MGI is primarily known for your exceptional buggies, you also have the Sureshotgps brand in the market. How is that brand tracking, and what are you excited about with the latest technology in that arena?
About 10 years ago I wanted to put golf mapping on a golf buggy as it would make MGI different to everyone else. It was going to take a lot of technology and the opportunity presented itself to purchase Sureshotgps 10 years ago. Apart from electric buggies it has been one of our greatest successes. Since then we have proven to be the only company that has done this.
Sureshotgps is the only Australian company owning its own GPS business as most companies are based overseas with a distribution company in Australia. Sureshotgps is a technical business and we have dedicated in-house team members who can assist customers with their technical enquiries. We have a hotline dedicated for our customers and retailers if they need any technical assistance whether it is mapping related, software or hardware support. We have handheld devices, watches, voice devices and lasers. Lasers are a great innovation in golf although they may not be the product for everyone as they require you to have very good eyesight.
There is always innovation going on and it’s more about what the GPS can do for the buggies. The future of Sureshotgps and how they will work with buggies include: helping our buggy get around the golf course; avoid any hazards like bunkers and water; our buggies will understand the layout of the golf course. This will provide the golfer a much easier game of golf.
What is your greatest achievement, so far, in the business?[chuckling] I hope I haven’t had my greatest achievement yet!
Being number one in Australia for electric buggies for a long time is a huge achievement. A long-time being the key word as not many businesses survive a long time. I have seen many companies come and go. I am thinking about the next 10 – 20 years after celebrating 21 years in business last year. I am proud that I have grown the business and provided stability. Having family wanting to be part of the long term future of the company and creating a positive work environment have been huge achievements as well.
Golf is currently undergoing a difficult phase. What do you think needs to be done to re-invigorate the game?
Like all sports they go through cycles and golf is no exception. The obstacle is overcoming the belief you need to play 18 holes and it is a long game. But in fact you can play a shorter game and go for 6 or 9 holes. It needs to provide for those who want to play the game but don’t have the time to play 18 holes.
What are your main goals for MGI moving forward? What’s in store?
The main goal for MGI is to be less reliant for the Australian market and expand the business so the Australian part of the business accounts for 50 percent of sales and the export side accounts for the other 50 percent. I believe if we get this right we will be around for another 50 years. If we can have 80 percent of the Australian market share there is no reason why we cannot have a solid share of the global market. We would also like to increase our Australian share to 90 percent over the coming years.
Bonus question: Do you play golf yourself? Any other sports?
I play golf twice a week (Thursday and Saturday afternoons) and am a member at the Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne (handicap: 14.3). I have been a member there for 20 years. What I love about golf is the walk, the friends, the competition, the fun, the travel opportunities and never knowing if you will play well. As for other sports, my first love was tennis and I also play twice a week generally. I am a member at Kooyong. And I think tennis is also going through a lot of changes as well. We need to encourage people to go out and play sport as it brings our community together and bonds them