Growth on Allison's agenda

29 Jan, 2003 10:00 PM

SWEEPING changes across the board are in full swing at Wesfarmers Landmark.

Less than one year after taking on the job, managing director Mark Allison said that Wesfarmers Landmark was well in the process of rationalisation and consequent growth.

Mr Allison was in Bunbury last week to introduce himself to the staff at the town's branch and to tour the state, stopping at Narrogin, Esperance and Wongan Hills.

Mr Allison has enjoyed a well-earned and meteoric rise through the ranks of agricultural business around Australia, culminating in his present position as managing director of the company.

From his humble beginnings as a dispatch clerk with Incitec 20 years ago, Mr Allison has worked more recently as managing director for CSBP, where he saw that company's profit margin increase significantly in the short time he was at the wheel.

On July 1, 2002, Mr Allison took the top job at Wesfarmers Landmark and inherited a healthy business.

"My aim is to make a good business even better," he said.

"Last year we recorded a record profit and for the first quarter of this year we are ahead of the corresponding quarter last year, even though we are just coming out of one of the worst droughts on record."

A quietly spoken, approachable and confident man, Mr Allison has a reputation as a master negotiator who is able to cut away unprofitable portions of a company with maximum effect and minimum pain.

"We've taken some regional structure out of the business across Australia, now we have eight networks as opposed to multiple regions and we have a central approach to financial control," he said.

Mr Allison also has a reputation as a fat trimmer and has made a comprehensive review of all areas of the business in order to rationalise.

"In the last six months, there has been in the order of 80-100 individuals that have left the business due to restructuring," he said.

"We are trying to look after these people because we recognise their contribution to Wesfarmers Landmark in their time with the company."

Mr Allison's main aim is to expand the business and keep customers and shareholders happy.

"The change has been to free up the branch network to suit the client's needs, with the major objective being to provide a good platform on which to grow.

"The plan is to move out of the Iama merger phase, which has effectively been done as from January 1, and focus now on the next phase, that of growing further," he said.

It is Mr Allison's aim to structure the business to be successful in the worst economic climate, which might be brought on by external influences.

"Anything over that is a bonus," he said.

"There are many external forces which place pressure on agricultural business, we just have to look after the things we can control."

A big fan of technological advances, Mr Allison said Australia is a leading force in technology and that Australian business should make the most of every opportunity.

"If we can use the latest technology to get marginal land back into production, then I think it is a good thing for business and the environment," he said.

With the net profit from Wesfarmers Landmarks rural divisionals last year totalling 15pc, one of the questions being asked is whether there would be a time when Wesfarmers Landmark would float its agricultural division as a single entity on the stock exchange.

"To sell something like that you'd need a buyer," he said.

"We've just had a record profit last year despite the dry, I'd say there was a limited chance of that happening."

Mr Allison's hands-on approach to directing a company sees him meeting with farmers and branches across the country for an average one week in every month.

"These new branches across the country show Wesfarmers Landmark's commitment to ongoing growth and development of agriculture in Australia," he said.



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