Full Speed Ahead - Fast Starters 2007 (Fastest of the Fast)

The fastest of the BRW Fast Starters – the 10 young companies that had the highest percentage increases in revenue from 2004 -05 to 2005-06 – are a mixed bunch, coming from sectors as diverse as wholesale trade, finance and insurance, communications, retail, manufacturing and business services.

The stories behind their explosive growth also vary widely: some of the founders of these companies have hit upon exciting new ideas that have taken off, some have developed business plans around perceived market gaps, others have just been lucky that the macro-economic stars have aligned for them.

Three of the 10 fastest growers do not feature in the main Fast Starters list because their revenue in 2005-06 was not high enough to make the cut-off. However, for all 10, their revenue increased by more than 600 per cent in 2005-06 and they complied with every other Fast Starter criterion.

Like Carakitsos, 23-year-old Andrew Northcott is another entrepreneur whose fledgling business appears on the fastest growers list. Seeking to make extra money while studying property economics at university, Northcott set up the labour hire business Labour Solutions Australia in 2004. “I began just helping a few mates out, Northcott says. “I was doing most of the labouring myself, driving the truck and so forth. We got a couple of big clients on board – Smorgon Steel and Grace Removals. From there, it allowed me to put money back in the business and grow it.”

According to Northcott, Labour Solutions Australia now has a large presence in the semi-skilled labour-hire market in southern Queensland. ‘The idea is people do a three-moth trial with us and then they go over to the clients books,” he says. “It works out great for us, them and the employees.”

The company’s rapid growth has been aided greatly by the labour shortage in Queensland, as companies outsource the difficult task of finding the right staff. Although Northcott believes the business will survive if the situation eases, this is unlikely to happen soon.

“I got a report the other day from the Queensland government,” he says. “It says they need another 35,000 workers in Brisbane over the next two years, with all the infrastructure projects planned, so the end’s not really in sight at this stage. We should triple last year’s revenue (in 2006-07). I reckon in 2007-08 we will generate about $5 million, just with the current climate and the jobs we’ve got coming through at the end of the year.”

Northcott’s university studies have now taken a back seat to LSA. Last month, the company took on its first prominent investor in Consolidated Pastoral Company chairman Ken Warriner and it appointed experienced general manager John Nardi. Northcott is keen to learn from both.

“I think I’ve done an all-right job so far, but I haven’t had much experience,” he says. “A lot of the younger guys, people from my generation, probably don’t listen to older generation all that much. (But) they’ve been through everything. They’ve got a lot to pass on.”

Although the barriers to entry were low for Northcott – all it took was $800 and an idea.