Client Story: Southern Design Group

Client Story: Southern Design Group

Originally founded by Graham and Denise Duff, Southern Design Group has become one of Australia’s leading suppliers of architectural hardware products, with a sales and distribution network spanning the entire Australasian region.

The company has gone from being a small, locally based business to distributing nationally and expanding to New Zealand. They’ve also broadened their product range to incorporate various product lines aimed at ‘high end’ markets, which has opened new opportunities for them.

The company recently underwent a major business restructure, to better protect the business and align with its size and growth strategies into new markets. As part of that process, Graham and Denise have begun to explore succession planning, and daughter Emily and husband Steve Bradley now serve as Co-CEOs.

Southern Design Group has received numerous honours in recent years, including being nominated as a finalist in the South Australian Impact Awards and being awarded a fully subsidised position in the Australian Centre for Business Growth program.

“Gaining a spot on the Business Growth program was a pivotal step in our growth journey,” says Steve. “The course helped us develop the knowledge to plan for and achieve our growth goals.”

Challenges during the business journey and through COVID

Plans to expand into overseas markets were well underway when COVID hit. Unfortunately, these had to be put on hold as the team was unable to visit the places they were targeting and they couldn’t export their products, either. They also faced delays from overseas suppliers, which lead to stock shortages and cash flow issues.

“While we’ve been fortunate to be a key supplier into an extremely buoyant building industry, we’ve had to manage our sales successes in the context of a severely disrupted supply chain and stock shortages during COVID,” says Emily. “Managing consumer expectations and reseller relationships while shoring up our supply chains were critical issues, and I’m proud to say our team has handled everything beautifully.”

Fortunately, the team was able to focus on local markets and solidify interest in their new upmarket products, and they believe they’re now well positioned to move ahead with their international expansion plans.

Keys to success

“The positive culture our founders instilled in the business four decades ago has not only been maintained but strengthened as we’ve grown, and has become one of our key value pillars,” says Emily. “Our values are something that we hold sacred and are used to guide all our business decisions, from who we hire, to who we sell to. We truly feel that success follows value alignment.”

“Cash may be king, but value alignment trumps all,” Steve adds. “Let a set of clearly defined values govern decision making in your company, and success will follow.”

Steve and Emily also note that planning, developing, and communicating clear growth goals that the team is united on achieving is also critical to success, as is building a top team of people who bring unique skills and expertise to the table.

Oreon’s role in the business journey

Southern Design Group first became an Oreon client when the company’s CFO, Jing Holmes, felt the business wasn’t getting what they needed from their current accountant. Jing had worked with Jarrad Dunn and Peter Featherston years ago and recommended contacting them.

Jing says, “Oreon Partners have been an outstanding taxation service provider and trustworthy adviser. They’ve freed up my team to focus on internal management reporting and business analytics, leading to long-term cost savings for our business.”

Oreon has provided ongoing advice and assisted with issues including succession planning, calculation of dividends and depreciation schedule issues. Perhaps most importantly, Jarrad and Peter assisted the company founders Graham and Denise in putting in place a structure which allowed them to distribute the historical profits (which had previously been absorbed back into the business), as well as working on their retirement plans.

“Oreon has been critical in advising us through our growth journey, particularly with rethinking our company structure to better align with the size and profile of the business,” says Steve. “The depth of knowledge in the team is unmatched, and we truly feel confident that we are in the safe hands of people who have our interests at heart.”

The future of the business

With travel and overseas markets opening back up, the company is now focussed on increasing the Australian market share of their brands, while exploring opportunities for international expansion.

“We have some exciting product design collaborations with Australian and international architecture studios that we’re eager to share in 2022,” says Steve.

To learn more about Southern Design Group, visit their website.