Not long ago, there were over 100 brick manufacturers around Australia, but many have since been taken over by competitors or have simply gone out of business. Oreon Partners’ client Littlehampton Bricks and Pavers, on the other hand, has not only stayed in business as a privately owned family firm, but has expanded and gone from strength to strength. Their growth and endurance show the value of having a well-respected and trusted brand, which owner Mark Fiora and his family have worked very hard to establish over their 120+ year history.
In recent years, they’ve experienced a great deal of growth, going from a local South Australian brick manufacturer to having a presence in both interstate and international markets by adopting a strong focus on producing premium-quality products. As a small manufacturer, they’re well placed to produce high-end products as they can fill this niche more easily than trying to compete with larger manufacturers who typically produce standard products en masse at a lower price point.
In addition to supplying pavers for local paving projects such as the Victor Harbor Main Street upgrade, a number of architects have started to use their products in the Melbourne and Sydney markets, and their products are being specified for iconic projects including paving at Taronga Park in Sydney, paving for Disneyland Shanghai in China and brick work by architects in France.
Challenges During COVID
Like many companies, Littlehampton experienced a sudden drop in business at the beginning of the COVID crisis. The unanticipated slide – coupled with the uncertainty as to how and when the crisis would end – was daunting in the beginning.
“We quickly got a grip, looked to history and made decisions based on the fact that the crisis would end, and we proceeded to prepare a path to get through it,” says Mark Fiora. “We continued with our plans to target Victoria and NSW and even did well throughout the long Melbourne lockdown.”
Keys To Success
“We feel seeking out the best advice possible is crucial for our business and peace of mind,” says Mark. In addition, he says he feels it has been vital for the business to:
- Undergo a complete reinvention every 2 to 5 years
- Keep a continuous improvement program in place
- Be financially conservative
- Strive to be an innovative, world-renowned designer of crafted clay bricks and pavers
- Have a passionate team of people who understand the goals and values of the company
When asked about his advice for other business owners, Mark says, “Never, ever quit. I’ve found the harder you try, the luckier you seem to get. Get good people. Adapt and reinvent your business. Seek and listen to sound advice and go for gold.”
Oreon’s Role In The Business Journey & Success
Littlehampton has been an Oreon Partners client for about 15 years, seeking help with everything from year-end financial reports, GST calculations, bookkeeping issues and tax returns to single touch payroll setup and strategic tax planning. Since the company regularly purchases capital equipment, Oreon Partners often provides advice on any necessary finance applications and loans, as well as proper depreciation of assets and making use of instant asset write-offs when appropriate.
A few years ago, Oreon Partners assisted the company with a complete restructure of the business. At that time, Mark was putting a lot of time and money into researching, developing and manufacturing new and improved brick ranges. Littlehampton had been operating via a unit trust for a long time, which wasn’t very effective for making the most of tax advantages such as Research and Development Tax Offsets. Oreon Partners helped them establish a new trading company, which gave the business an improved trading structure and greater flexibility in the future for both tax planning and succession planning.
“Jarrad Dunn, Peter Featherston and the rest of the Oreon Partners team have always helped our group with open, sound accounting advice, solid backup and quick response times,” says Mark. “We’re now also working with Matthew Pelizzari and their financial planning team in the investment and superannuation area, and it works very well having everything based in the same company,” he says.
The company is nearly through another reinvention phase in their long-term plan to become a company that supplies unique, world-class products to global clients. They’re working directly with architects and designers with the aim that their products will be specifically included at the design stage of new projects.
“We have a new range of Slimline Architectural Pavers and are releasing a new crafted range of Blended Glazed Bricks, and architects and designers will be an integrated part of our own product development going forward,” says Mark.
Oreon Partners has been so fortunate to support Mark and Littlehampton Bricks and Pavers over a long period of time and looks forward to their continued growth and success.