Written on the 18 May 2015 by Nick Nichols

THERE are some days in business that Stuart Stratton would prefer to forget, but not that many that could keep this young entrepreneur down.

This time last year, Stratton was managing four growing businesses. This year his portfolio has grown to five, with a sixth in the early stages of operation.

Stratton, who has taken out the Retail & Services category of the Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards, is a tinkerer and an innovator. He's not one to sit still.

"It's all about potential," he says.  "The growth driver for us is integration and innovation through our IT platforms and automation. We are always looking at doing things for less cost and with more efficiency."

At the core of Stratton's mini-economy is Con-x-ion, which in the past year has doubled its revenue through acquisitions and become the largest door-to-door bus transfer company in Australia.

Attached to this is a raft of businesses, including a call centre (Bsmart Group), solar power retailer (Green Initiatives), mortgage broker (Green Funding) and financial services (Freedom Financial First Group), many of which leverage off each other and share resources.

Stratton has also just launched a new venture offering an investment grade product delivering passive returns to commercial property owners and residential landlords through the solar industry.

Stratton's group revenue surged 24 per cent to $32 million last financial year, aided by a 64 per cent increase at Con-x-ion which swallowed up to major competitors on the Sunshine Coast.

The acquisitions have boosted Con-x-ion's bus fleet by 40 to 100.

Con-x-ion has changed dramatically since Stratton bought the business in 2008.

An in-house team has developed software that interfaces with major travel agencies and hotels who book directly on an online platform.

The latest innovation is in-vehicle tablets which assists in client dispatch and in monitoring efficiencies within the fleet.

"The tablets were rolled out on the Sunshine Coast in September, now the system is being rolled into the Brisbane and Gold Coast fleet," says Stratton.

Systems are at the core of Stratton's success, and his ability to manage up to 280 staff across multiple business disciplines.

"It's systems and good people," he says.

"The most important thing is understanding the financials, understanding where you are tracking. Monthly isn't good enough, it needs to be weekly. It's all about KPIs and indicators and we've identified as many leading indicators as possible so we can see where we're headed and not where we've been."

As for his passion for business, particularly on those days when the stars don't align, Stratton has a simple view.

"Some days you wish you didn't do it but other days you love what you do. It's a rollercoaster."

Author: Nick Nichols





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