I’ve recently come back from Australia. I visited there with a team of our top executives from our UK office to get to know better the business that we’ve bought into there, Employsure.
I think the Australian market presents a fantastic opportunity for Peninsula and I wanted to share some of the experiences we had, as well as some of the lessons we’ve taken away from the experience.
The first important thing that we did when moving into this market was to buy into an established business, taking a share in a company called Employsure. The regulations are quite onerous and complex in Australia, so buying into an established business is an easier way to enter this market rather than setting up from scratch. Buying into an established business there is my recommendation to you, rather than setting up a new company.
The main reason that we took this route was that we were really buying into the people there as well as the opportunity we felt the market presented. Ed Mallett, who is a major shareholder and now Chairman of our Australian operation, was a top employment barrister in the UK who moved to Australia and founded Employsure which he built up from scratch. Peninsula brings in not only investment but also the 30 years of experience we’ve gained in developing the leading employment law consultancy in the UK.
It was thought that our business model might not work down under and we’d need to approach things differently. But we believed a good business model would be transferable to such a comparable market and we were proved right. We are already beginning to see Peninsula disrupt the cosy, high cost, traditional employment law business model dominated by expensive lawyers; as we’ve done in the UK for the past 30 years.
David Price, who led our Employment Consultancy field division in the UK has brought all his experience to the Australian business. He also brings the culture of our UK office, along with his knowledge of our processes, procedures and systems, which is important for customer service and client satisfaction. Together with Ed Mallett, he is leading the team and building a highly successful business.
We found when we arrived in Sydney that the business was thriving and the office was buzzing with anticipation and enthusiasm. The Australian market is very similar to the UK. In fact, red tape is even more onerous in Australia than it is here. So, just as we’ve done in the UK, we’re now on a mission to cut red tape and make life easier for Australian businesses when dealing with their employment issues. The opportunity there is similar to that of Peninsula 30 years ago. At that time, we had a small company which had 12 employees and 50 clients. Now we have over 1,000 employees and 26,000 clients. We have expanded into other areas such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), tax advice and online services. We believe Australia presents a similar growth opportunity.
And how has our Australian business performed so far? In its first six months, it not only hit all its targets but exceeded them significantly. On every measure, it is way ahead of expectations. The team is doing incredibly well and is going from strength to strength. They were fired up and even more enthusiastic after the training sessions from our National Training Director Darren Chadwick. I’ve got every confidence that this will be a substantial business over the next few years.
Whilst we were down there the weather was great and we all went to see Andy Murray play Roger Federer in the semi-final of the Australian Open which wasn’t bad either! There’s another good reason for setting up in Australia….well, somebody has to do it.