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Johns Lyng Group in focus By Anthony Black  Innovation combined with highly motivated people drive the Johns Lyng Group. Since 2004, Chief Executive Scott Didier has turned a single building services company generating $12 million in revenue a year into a diverse industrial conglomerate that will post more than $300 million in revenue in 2014/15. JLG is now a mini Wesfarmers with a revenue target of a $1 billion by 2020. JLG offers a diverse range of construction, building and support services. However, it constantly broadens the business mix to include software products, home maintenance services, call centre operations, shop fitting, retailing and glazing among its growing list. The company’s website is busy to reflect the 52 businesses now housed under the Johns Lyng Group (JLG) banner. (Take a browse.) It’s an integrated structure deliberately designed and developed by Didier to generate and extract maximum value from each business for the benefit of clients and the group. Didier introduced a partnership model, where two directors each own up to a 10 per cent stake in the business they operate. The remaining 80 per cent of any business is group owned. While the JLG website is comprehensive in informing browsers about the products and services it offers, this article will profile the JLG company and its major shareholder Didier from recent interviews. The article charts the company’s progress and discusses Didier’s attitude and thought processes behind building the group. By any measure, JLG is a growth company, and if all goes to plan, Didier will realise his objective of posting a $1 billion in revenue by 2020. In saying that, JLG is a company of opportunity on many fronts – from employment, to partnerships, to investment, to technology and to innovation. JLG is dynamic, constantly on the lookout to acquire and also establish new businesses provided it seamlessly fits into the broader company model.Johns Lyng Group CEO - Scott Didier AMIntrinsic to Johns Lyng Group is the partnership model. For the unaware, Didier loves business, sport and aviation and often draws analogies between sport and operating a successful business. For instance: “If you compare starting a new business or enhancing an existing one with a Formula One car, you can build the best car but it will never perform to its capacity without the best drivers,” Didier says. “Finding the right partners to run each business is crucial. “The partners are responsible for making decisions that hopefully will drive the business for their benefit, their employees and the group. “On occasions, in the past, we built the right business, but had the wrong drivers, so that particular business didn’t go anywhere for a while. So when a business is underperforming, is it the structure or the drivers? Generally, it’s the drivers (people).”  People Didier plans for the long term. He recruits top experienced professionals to operate the JLG businesses. The JLG partners come from varying backgrounds. He knows what he wants and patiently pursues his goals. He has long maintained that talented people are the lifeblood of JLG. It took Didier 12 months to talk Lindsay Barber into leaving construction giant John Holland for the COO position at JLG. “I knew Lindsay for eight years prior to buying JLG,” Didier says. “I wanted him to join us because he had all the skills and experience to successfully run a building company. I’m confident establishing new businesses and I know Lindsay is the best at running them.”Barber, Chief Financial Officer John McPhee, General Manager (insurance brands) Simon Plummer and General Manager (direct business) Mick Harford run group operations meetings each month. Partners of each JLG business are required to attend where operational performance – profits, cash flow, debtors and other financial metrics – are assessed against their business plans. Barber, McPhee, Harford and Plummer are across every facet of each business. Key performance indicators are closely examined and partners are required to provide plausible explanations about business performance, whether exceeding, meeting or falling short of expectations. Each meeting lasts about an hour and the partners are left in no doubt as to how to solve issues going forward or how to improve performance. As well as pursuing Lindsay Barber, Didier flew to Los Angles to meet with Curt Mudd, former global HR Manager for Nike Worldwide and business analyst with Pacific Brands. Didier was successful in securing his services and Mudd relocated to Australia to join the group. He is now the senior business analyst, Director of HR and also sits on The Board of Johns Lyng Group. Didier says: “Curt Mudd is the best in the business and adds extreme value to the group.” When job opportunities arise, Didier is seeking people with drive, energy and character. Successful candidates can journey up a career path and will be encouraged and supported to take advantage of company opportunities. “People with drive and energy are the key to our growth,” he says. “We recruit for growth. We look for people who want to secure their future with us. We encourage our employees to work towards a partnership because we’re continually growing and constantly looking for new businesses.” Didier prefers to hire people who can demonstrate energy, passion and a can-do attitude rather than someone with multiple university degrees. Didier is big on character.  He hates pretentiousness – “I can’t stand it”. “I don’t read CVs,” he says. “All CVs are good – I’ve never read a bad one. I would rather talk to a prospective employee face-to-face. “I want to know if a person comes from a big family, or whether they have played team sport. I want to know about a person’s moral fibre. I need to know what the person stands for and I need to identify extreme good character.”  Point of Difference Didier refers to JLG as a group of companies that complement each other. As JLG holds the Australian and New Zealand retail licence for global sportswear giant Nike, via its business Retail Prodigy Group, JLG’s shop fitting services business does the work. With retail partner RPG, JLG plans to grow the Nike retail chain from 38 outlets today to 85 stores by 2018. “We build and fit out all the stores, so that helps our shop fitting business,” Didier says. “We also staff and run all the stores.” It’s within the broader business model that Didier focuses attention. It’s what separates JLG from its competitors. Didier explains: “We don’t paint a white wall any better or worse than our opposition. At the end of the day, it’s a white wall. Where we focus a lot of our emphasis is on the before and after of any job. Our point of difference is how we deal with our customers. Reflecting on the Insurance building companies, Didier says: “Any person who lodges an insurance claim is experiencing distress. The claim may be in relation to a house fire or major flood. In our governance with insurance companies, we take care of their client prior to starting work, during a rebuild and repairs and after the job is finished. “Insurance companies rely on customers renewing polices. People generally renew if they don’t have any activity, or if they have a good claims experience. So we have to deliver on that promise for insurance companies.” Didier believes JLG’s partnership model is sound and effective because it’s similar to team sport. “Everyone participates, everyone feels they contribute and everyone is appreciated for the role they play,” he says. “The partnership model provides fulfilment, satisfaction and autonomy. The Board believes in them and trusts their judgment.” It’s not just JLG partners who are held to account. The company never loses sight of its core values – respect, integrity, courtesy and honesty – and they are reinforced at workshops attended by all employees. “We don’t just write our values on the website to look pretty, we live and work by them,” Didier says.  Leaders Woven within JLG are strong cultural, leadership and opportunistic ethics. Didier attributes much of JLG’s success to the team he has built around him in the past decade. He surrounds himself with smart motivated people. The board includes COO Lindsay Barber, HR director Curt Mudd, CFO John McPhee, who has more than 30 years’ experience in commercial contracting; EA to Didier and Director, Erica Lord, who has been with the company for over eight years, General Manager Direct Works Michael Harford, General Manager Insurance Brands Simon Plummer, Commercial State Manager Dieter Ruff and Paul Dwyer Didier has been self-employed since he was 20 and in his own words is self-taught. In identifying an opportunity, Didier looks for energetic, exciting and fun businesses. “A guy put a business to me last year and he kept talking and selling me on his company budget,” Didier recalls. “I didn’t want to hear about the budget; I wanted to know about the company structure. If a business isn’t fun and exciting, I don’t want to look at the financials. “Making money isn’t the fun bit. Making money is a by-product of enjoying and running a successful business. Didier says successful company leaders see the big picture. They set long term goals and see the end game. Leaders plan and plot – they just don’t run up and down on the one spot. Leaders need to be respected and be able to motivate staff. They have an ability to demonstrate hope, vision and security. “Natural leaders stand out and step forward,” Didier says.  “Our company is like a giant chess board, where every move is focused on that end goal,” Didier says. “I’m proud of all the people who work for our company.”  Innovation Didier’s ability to innovate and to motivate others to do the same is a major contributor behind JLG’s success, according to the company’s head of creative services Alan Stuart. Stuart, who has shared the journey with Didier from the beginning, describes Didier as a “big picture” operator, who begins a project with the end in mind. Successful leaders are visionaries driven by self-confidence in their own ability and an unwavering desire to achieve. Leaders sift out opportunities, lay the foundations, plan the future, hire suitably qualified and motivated people and execute the strategy. They are forever focused on the end game and have the courage to overcome inevitable setbacks along the journey. “The company is always looking to innovate because the creation of new ideas and services rapidly implemented drives business growth,” Stuart says. “We’re driven to think outside the square. “No one rests on their laurels. All the businesses are committed to generating competitive edge. Constant diversification positions the company for the future. “Scott is an instinctive innovator. He didn’t learn it from a textbook. Innovation involves creative thinking and putting the processes in place to generate more business. Introducing the partnership model provides incentive to grow each business – to move it forward, to improve it across the board, to innovate. “The reward is the autonomy of running your own business, developing a great culture and sharing in the rewards.”  Outlook Nothing stands still at JLG. Proactive JLG leaders are plotting the next move. “To grow the group, we’re looking at new opportunities all the time,” Didier says. “We’re in a joint venture with RACV Home Assist, and we have deals in place with Energy Australia and the NRMA in Sydney. We recently built 36 apartments in Kew and we’re doing three property developments in Byron Bay this year. And we expect the commercial building and insurance businesses to keep growing.” One of JLG’s latest ventures involves partnerships with American Golf and ClubCorp, two of the largest golf course owners in the United States. JLG’s software company has spent two years building online tournament software for golfers. The online platform known as Sadie Golf makes real life tournament planning simple. Johns Lyng Group is a major growth story centred around a disciplined structure, supported by professionally selected personnel. Throw in a very positive energetic culture and what you have is one very successful business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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