THE TRAILBLAZER: DON MCKENZIE

Written on the 12 January 2011

THE TRAILBLAZER: DON MCKENZIE

WHEN Stream Group CEO Don McKenzie decided to acquire an embattled New Zealand insurance claims company late last year, the goal was to make it profitable. He never expected an earthquake. With a strong underlying Australian business that acts as a ‘Youtube’ for damaged properties, he expects 500 per cent total revenue growth this FY.

With a platform that allows builders to place tenders for property repairs online, ‘Storm Boy’ McKenzie has expanded his business locally, across the Tasman and plans to enter the UK by late next year.

“With the earthquake in Christchurch we’re having a big year, we’ve got quite a lot of expertise there and we couldn’t have picked a better time to acquire a New Zealand company,” he says.

“The opportunity to acquire Freemans Group NZ came in November last year and we spent time implementing our systems and processes. We took over all their debt and didn’t have to pay, it was on goodwill.

“We acquired their customer base and they had 50 people. We cut back operating costs, we made it profitable, and with the earthquake we’re going to see some mammoth growth.”

He highlights the fact that no one was killed in the 7.1 magnitude quake, but there is a lot of recovery work to be done, which will probably keep Stream Group busy for the next three years.

“We have two types of revenue – professional fees revenue which in New Zealand will be $6 million to $7 million, and then we have claim maintenance revenue which will be over $100 million from the earthquake alone,” says the 27-year-old.

“It’s a small chunk of the market, but we’ve made the decision not to over-commit, and by doing that we can outperform the market and be in a good position from there.

“It will be about double the revenue of Australia, but it’s a one-off event and Australia’s underlying revenue has been strong. We had 3500 claims in 2009, 13,500 in 2010 and we’re expecting 26,000 claims for 2011.”

Stream Group has enlisted a private equity firm as a 12.5 per cent shareholder to provide capital, expertise and advice as the company enters the next phase of growth, which includes expansion into the US and the UK.

For McKenzie, entrepreneurship is about finding holes in the market and listening to the ‘little comments’ of customers.

“It’s about doing what the client wants, meeting what the market needs and if you can’t do that then you don’t get ahead. It comes out of experience and listening to clients,” he says.

“It might just be the little comments off the cuff like ‘I wish this, I wish that’ and then coming back to the next meeting with a solution. It’s about spotting the opportunities with clients that others ignore.

“We target to make a commercial return and that’s really based on what the market numbers are – at one time you might have additional resources you can’t fill that are needed in case of a catastrophe.”

McKenzie started out at age 18 working for his parents’ home improvements company Absolutely Aluminium, where he was given the name ‘Storm Boy’ by builders, as he was always on his bike to lend a hand when the rains came.

Stream Group is the largest of 10 businesses McKenzie has accumulated since 2010, including a futures, options and foreign exchange company McKenzie Trading Services.

For the last nine months McKenzie has also been running a fledgling cattle stud west of Strathpine called Clear Mountain Stud.

“It’s only in the infant stages at the moment but we’re really looking at niche opportunities for it. At the moment we’re in negotiations with an existing herd, because you can’t just go in and buy 50 cows, you have to put time into setting up the farm itself,” he says.

“I’ve got a property out in Warwick and the plan is to ship off the herd to the farm to fatten them up – it’s something relaxing.”

For a full profile list on Brisbane’s 2010 Young Entrepreneurs, including interviews with all of the finalists, get a copy of the special annual edition of Brisbane Business News – out now in more than 500 greater Brisbane newsagents.


Latest News

WHY A JUNIOR MINER DECIDED TO JOIN THE RANKS OF THE HOT POT STOCKS

USUALLY, when a relatively unknown explorer experiences a sharp spike in its share price, it means they've fou...

1700 BRISBANE APARTMENTS NOW MANAGED BY FORTUNE 500 COMPANY JLL

MULTINATIONAL and Fortune 500 company JLL (NYSE: JLL) has expanded its Australian dominance in the property managemen...

HARVEY NORMAN HITS OUT AT 'FALSE NEWS' OF ASIC INVESTIGATION

RETAIL giant Harvey Norman (ASX: HVN) has vehemently rejected reports its accounts are under investigation by ASIC, s...

RARE GOOD NEWS FOR SLATER AND GORDON AS ASIC CLOSES INVESTIGATION

ASIC has cleared Slater and Gordon of deliberately falsifying its accounts after a three-month investigation.

It s...

Related News

RAY OF HOPE FOR SLATER AND GORDON AS LENDERS STEP IN

EMBATTLED law firm Slater and Gordon (ASX: SGH) has announced to the ASX that it has launched confidential discussion...

SPROUTX PROVIDES THE SEED FOR AGTECH STARTUPS

AGTECH innovation fund SproutX has opened applications for its first accelerator round, backed by $10 million from...

GAS PRICES MAY FORCE BRICKWORKS TO TAKE MANUFACTURING OVERSEAS

BRICKWORKS Limited (ASX:BKW) chairman Robert Millner says soaring energy prices may force the company to turn to offs...

CHINA CONTINUES TO COLLECT AUSSIE PROPERTY ASSETS

CHINESE coin continues to dominate Australia's offshore real estate investment market, accounting for almost h...

EVENTS COMING UP

 

Contact us

Email News Update Sign Up Contact Details
Subscriptions

PO Box 2087
Brisbane QLD 4001

LoginTell a FriendSign Up to Newsletter