In the iconic interview with RØDE Founder and Chairman, Peter Freedman AM, Margaret Manson, Chief Inspirator of InnoFuture, drills through the layers of an extraordinary Australian business success.
Business success is about innovation, determination and business values that underpin leadership. You don’t become a winner by being a follower. And you don’t become a market leader without delighting customers with superior product, service and value they can see. It is hard to create great products and even harder to create a marketing strategy that works. So, what is the secret to success and longevity in manufacturing? Funny enough, the essence of marketing strategy for manufacturing products is exactly the same as for digital or SaaS products.
In the digital age, we can get star struck by the meteoric success of some online platforms and ‘celebrity geeks’. Clearly, digital innovation in Australia deserves every bit of encouragement as for the first time in our brief 200-year history, the tyranny of distance is not an issue for doing business. There are many companies that are already taking advantage of it in: MarTech, BioTech, FinTech and in retail and entertainment.
However, Australia’s sustainable competitive advantage and future national prosperity must grounded in the innovation of “making stuff” and enabling “making stuff” in a new way. The future of this country and its enviable lifestyle depends and belongs to Australian businesses who set the new global standards for excellence, value-added and ethical values in manufacturing, food production or agribusiness and food innovation, and planet-friendly, sustainable living.
Countries like Germany, through the Mittelstand phenomenon have proven that advanced manufacturing that builds on social values, talent and competitive resources of this country, beyond raw minerals, can create lasting economic prosperity.
Can we do it? Clearly, yes!
In the quest to inspire and encourage global leadership by Australian businesses, InnoFuture is delving inside the heads of successful small business leaders, who have taken on the world and won.
This interview with Peter Freedman, Founder and Managing Director of RODE, a multi-award winning Australian manufacturer and global exporter, kicks off the series.
The interview consists of three parts, each with several lessons. These lessons have been converted into short ‘insight’ topics for SME and Start-up Leaders to use as a learning and training resource for their teams and for personal inspiration.
This and further ‘insights’ from Australian Mittelstand leaders will be available from InnoFuture Academy – the ONLY high profile business education platform in Australia designed with a strategic vision for Business Leaders.
Part 1: The RODE Difference
Peter Freedman talks about the five core principles that have led to the company’s ‘overnight’, 25-year rise and rise to global market leadership in the microphones market.
“I did it to show people why we are better than anyone else,” says Peter Freedman.
If you have any doubts that manufacturing in Australia is not only possible and necessary for the economy, but can be highly competitive and profitable, RODE demonstrates how the top excuse, that Australian labour is too expensive, is just an excuse. “What labour? There is none. We have robots, but we also have a lot of staff.” RODE, with the workforce of around 200, expects to grow to 300 in the perceivable future.
Part 2: Leader’s Insights – You Learn Nothing from Success and Everything from Failure
Peter Freedman shares very frank insights on his journey from the brink. Before multi-billion global success, there was a disaster. “…over one million in debt… I wanted to kill myself… but from that came RODE.”
- The importance of business Vision and Mission. “It’s got to be real. And, when it’s real it can be very powerful.” RODE uses its Mission to guide and focus ideation sessions – back to the Customer and Business relevance.
- From the brink. Over one million in debt… “I wanted to kill myself.”
- When the product is “good enough”.
- What I wish I knew sooner.
Now, still surprised by the recognition, Peter Freedman sits on the Advisory Board for Technology at University of Technology of Sydney (UTS). Here, he shares his lessons from 24 years in the trenches on a range of business and management, and, dare I say, leadership, issues. These topics, continuing in Part 3, include:
- On export: “Act. Get on the plane and do it. You may not like what you’ll hear but you will learn.”
- On selling. “Nothing happens unless you sell something. Get a good salesman. Pay them more than you pay yourself and bring in money.”
- On marketing. “Get professional help.” He is clearly very involved in marketing on strategic level. “We used to do shows and reach maybe a couple of thousand people. Now…” And, the old adage that “50 percent of marketing works, but which one?” is no longer valid.
- On profit. “You have to make profit. If you are not making profit, what’s the point?” “And consider your distribution chain. If you tell them you are going to make them rich, they will want to talk to you.”
- On business culture. “Have fun. I don’t micromanage people. I let them get on with the job. If you hire the right people they will be able to be fairly autonomous. But I get involved, on macro level, in all strategic decisions.”
- On market ‘niches’. “You don’t have to have a niche – at the beginning. Be involved.” [NOTE: I call it ‘market immersion’. If you immerse yourself in a market, you will quickly learn where best opportunities are. It’s all about being close to the customer.]
- On leadership style. “I am tough. People need to be a little afraid of the boss. You can make mistakes but don’t make them again – if you do you will hear from me…”
Part 3: Five Quick Lessons from an Australian Businesses Champion
“Go for the long term. That’s where magic happens“, says Peter Freedman. Couldn’t agree more. This advice applies to any business as well as country leadership.
- Keep the cost low – find ways to be clever.
- Make a Profit – getting sales is not enough. You have to make profit. If you are not making it, find out what you need to change. Change.
- Stay Focused – focus on what you are good at: as a business, and as a business owner. If you don’t focus, your business will fail. “Go for the long term. That’s where magic happens.”
- Get Insights – understand what you best abilities are. Focus on them and get others to do specialist tasks.
- Collaborate – learn from others, bring in mentors, get access to resources, knowledge and technologies.
What I would like to add here, as a marketing strategist, with the benefit of seven years of progress, is that the best marketing strategy for most manufacturing products is the same as for digital, SaaS products. It is the Product Led Strategy.
Margaret Manson | Chief Inspirator
M: 0407 66 11 30
This post was written in 2014 and updated in July 2021. Still current.