PODCAST: Capitalising on Australia’s manufacturing capabilities – Mark Burgess, Quickstep

PODCAST: Capitalising on Australia’s manufacturing capabilities – Mark Burgess, Quickstep

Mark Burgess, Quickstep

Quickstep chief executive Mark Burgess says he’s bullish about the future of exportation and advanced manufacturing in Australia.

“We’ve got to set our sights on the rest of the world rather than Australia,” he says.

“[W]e can do anything as long as we deploy the right capital, the right skills and have a process appropriate to the market demand.”

Tune in to this episode of the Defence Connect Podcast as Burgess discusses his new role with Quickstep and the opportunities he sees within the business to not only capitalise on its strengths, but to invest in innovative research and development projects that will add value to the country’s manufacturing capabilities. 

Enjoy the podcast,

The Defence Connect team.

Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes

Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:

Episode 39: PODCAST: Growing Australia’s defence capabilities indigenously – David Ruff, Babcock Australasia
Episode 38: PODCAST: Getting stronger, smarter and connected – NSW Department of Industry’s Peter Scott details the state’s strategy to attract defence business
Episode 37: BONUS PODCAST: Anti-submarine warfare and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship – Nigel Stewart, BAE Systems
Episode 36: PODCAST: Cyber security and the modern battlefront – Mohan Koo, Dtex
Episode 34: PODCAST: Making a technical contribution to Australia’s defence force – Ian Irving, Northrop Grumman
Episode 33: PODCAST: Cracking the international supply chain – Andrew Sanderson, TAE Aerospace
Episode 32: PODCAST: Maximising Australia’s defence potential – Richard Marles, opposition defence spokesman
Episode 31: PODCAST: Championing local talent in defence – Peter Freed, Cirrus Real Time Processing Systems
Episode 30: PODCAST: Engaging primes as an SME – Stephen Renkert, Electrotech
Episode 29: PODCAST: Driving innovation in defence - Stephane Ibos, Maestrano

Full transcript

Phil Tarrant: Ah g’day everyone, Phil Tarrant here. I'm the host of the Defence Connect Podcast. Thanks for joining us today. I have a special guest in the studio Mark Burgess, who is the CEO and MD of Quickstep. Mark, how you going?

Mark Burgess: Hi. Very well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Phil Tarrant: It's good to have you on, mate. This relatively new job that you have right now, eight weeks into the role with Quickstep, how are you finding it?

Mark Burgess: Well, no regrets. Which is always a good start.

Phil Tarrant: Not long enough yet.

Mark Burgess: It was a really attractive opportunity when it came along. A really nice thing, actually, having now joined the board, joined the management team, is I see even more opportunity than initially attracted me to the role, going through the hiring process. So I think … Long listing period, some challenges, a significant amount of investment taking place, and some challenges particularly around commercialization of a lot of that investment.

But, a really strong aerospace business particularly now on the defence side, but with some clear aspirations to develop our own engineering capability, both in design and repair, and overhaul for both defence and commercial aerospace. As well as a lot of the new technology both processed, some of the proprietor technologies that we've got, whether it be cure or the Quickstep Production System. As well as some really interesting niche opportunities in high end automotive and all the niche areas like, renewables, wind power, medical devices.

So, coming into the business it looked like a really positive trajectory, just on the back of firm booked business. Now, in the business and towards a lot of the stakeholders, customer, supplier, investors, I think we've got an awful lot of opportunity ahead of us. It's really quite an exciting time for the business.

Phil Tarrant: It is. The Quickstep story has been a good story. I speak to a lot of people within government and military circles, but also the major primes. Whenever I sort of ask them about, some good home grown talent, Quickstep, it's up there with a number of other businesses, and it's a good story.

I think you've identified or just outlined a number of various for the company to keep growing, evolving. For yourself, joining the company 8 weeks in when they sort of had a whole bunch of CVs on the table, and gone through the process of interviewing a number of people.

What do you think they went, "We should give Mark this job versus some other guy." What is it that you think you'll do, or what made you stand out?

Mark Burgess: I interview really well.

Phil Tarrant: You do?

Mark Burgess: First of all, it's great to hear the feedback that you just mentioned. I think that really is important for a business, and SME like Quickstep. In a not too crowded competitive environment like Australia, there aren't many Quicksteps in Australia, unfortunately.

I'd look to see that change. It's great to get that kind of feedback, it fuels our ambition and our energy, and much makes more. When you've got that positive all around you, you can go after new and exciting opportunities.

From a personal standpoint, I think I did interview quite well. I think as well my global experience was something that the business found really attractive.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Mark Burgess: I've spent 16 years with BAE Systems in a range of different functions, budget management as well as contracts, and business development, and then general management in a lot of different markets. So, I spent about a third of those 16 years in Europe, including a spell for 18 months living in France, about a third of that time jetting in and out, about nine months living in the US, and then a third of that time working in the Middle East, and South East Asia.

So, I had a pretty good global outlook on the aerospace and defence market. I think that was an important consideration given the aspirations that we've got. I mean, we're 95 per cent of our outpour exporter. So, extending our global reach, building on the existing customer relationships we've got, and in the export market is fundamental to our current position and our future success.

I think the other aspect as well was ... I've dealt in my career, I've been really fortunate actually, to be given some quite challenging assignments, and projects, programmes, customer relationships, and contracts that have been failing, and turn those around.

Now, Quickstep is far from failing, but I think those kinds of challenging environments – they teach you a lot about yourself, they teach you a lot about your strengths and your limitations, and you carry that forward with you.

I hope when the board interviewed me, that they saw that the leadership and management skill you develop in those environments combined with a global outlook and a lot of extensive experience of dealing with many different corporate and national cultures. You bring those two things together, and where Quickstep is right now in its evolutionary path, I think they saw that as a really good fit.

My predecessor did a really good job of leading the operationalization of the business. Contracts won and turning those into delivered products at the right levels of quality, cost and time expectations. Now, it's how do you build from that base, and really start to capitalise on the strengths that we've got in a global marketplace.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah, I think a lot of Aussie SMEs would look towards Quickstep as a business trying to emulate, in terms of cracking the global supply chain. Obviously your skillset, or your experience is gonna help project Quickstep down that route even further.

So, are you chasing predominantly export business in the period ahead? You have a number of very high profile projects that you work on, F35, C-130J, and LM-100J, I think it is. These are big high profile jobs that you're working on. So, are you still going to just keep going after these export opportunities? Or are you gonna look closer to home and see what you can win at a local level?

Mark Burgess: A combination, but predominantly export. The Australian domestic market in aerospace, or as we've seen unfortunately recently in automotive, is relatively small by global standards. Also, sometimes slips into parochialism in my experience. So, your start point has to be, we operate in a global market environment and we have to be globally competitive.

If that drives the way you operate as a business, it opens up a range of market opportunities. Now, we've got ... And we were talking just before about Micro-X, it's an Australian start up listed with some really quite interesting technology around portable X-ray machines. We've got a great production contract using our proprietary process technology, Cure, to produce those parts – highly efficiently, out of autoclave in support of that Australian startup.

We are gonna pursue more opportunities like that. There's a great breed of innovation and advanced manufacturing in this country, but typically the volumes are small. In aerospace, it's a truly global market. Australian OEMs. There are some major players in this market or foreign OEM local subsidiaries, with whom we have good relations and wanna build those further.

And the advice I would offer to any SMEs in the advanced manufacturing space in Australia is, first and foremost, you must consider that you operate in a global market. Not an Australian market. You might be Australian domiciled, but beyond that you operate in a global market.

Phil Tarrant: You mentioned beforehand the breadth of your experience. What's your trade? Are you an Engineer? Are you a Project Manager? What's the backstory?

Mark Burgess: I did a Politics and Economics Degree.

Phil Tarrant: Okay, sounds -

Mark Burgess: Yeah, I noted that. Which many people-

Phil Tarrant: Not much use but...

Mark Burgess: Well, many of my friends said it was a degree, and arguing which is probably accurate. I think, and particularly thinking about global business. Every business operates in a political context. Wherever it operates in the world, wherever it's domiciled in the world.

In my opinion, and I'm a real advocate of the dismal signs, but economic decision making is what drives and motivates most people, particularly around business decisions, procurement decisions, acquisition decisions.

So, whilst it might not seem directly relevant, I think there is relevance throughout all the things I've done in my career. I've been really fortunate over the last 21, 22 years. I've been presented with a lot of challenges in a lot of different parts of the world, in a lot of different functional contexts as well. So, I started in sales, then I moved into contracts quite quickly, and then moved into project management and back into business development, and then general management.

I think, all along the way it's your degree, unless it's a highly vocational degree, gives you a bunch of skills, it's how you employ those skills throughout your career, really.

Phil Tarrant: My mum always asks what I did at university all those years and I said, "I learned how to talk to people, really. How to have conversations, and communicate." I think that's essential to any ... Particularly in a leadership position, which you're in right now.

Have you found moving into Quickstep, and you obviously will have a different style to your predecessor, and you've got to try and shape and cultivate the culture that you want to build within Quickstep. From what it is today to what you would like to see it in sort of two or three years’ time in terms of the culture, how would you describe those differences?

Mark Burgess: It's a really good and timely question actually. When I walked through the door on day one, one of the things that struck me is the business has got a really positive culture, a real can-do culture, which you would hope to see in a business that's growing, and it's growing quite rapidly. But, at every level in the organisation there is a sense of ownership, and accountability, and positivity about the future, and that's an incredible power to harness in any business.

What was lacking, in my opinion though, was that laser focus that you need in the business on the creation of shareholder value. That you go into work to do a good job, and to execute the plan against the strategy that has been signed off by the leadership team and the board. But, that plan has to be focused on everything that we're doing. How do we drive shareholder value – profit creation out of what we're doing?

So, coming into the business, we've initiated a project under the name of One Quickstep. We've previously communicated in the business in a rather confused way, in terms of…we had a kind of new technology, largely automotive-focused segment, and an aerospace production segment.

We're gonna move away from that. We have Quickstep, it's a single corporal entity, it has production, it has research and development. It expands several sites, but we have a shared vision and a shared set of values. But the start point is a fabulous start point to inherit.

Now, we've got to really capitalise on that, codify it, and ensure that we pull out all the goodness that we've got but really target it. In terms of, we're investing our hard earn, or our shareholder's hard earn money into the right research and development projects with a clear path to commercialization, and a rapid path of commercialization to demonstrate that shareholder value creation.

On the production side that we are delivering consistent quality products on time to our customers, and in that trust winning more work from those same customers, diversifying that customer portfolio that we've got and the projects that we're involved in.

As we do that you kind of get this outcome here of growth. Where you've got a growing business, you've driving cost down perpetually, which allows you to win more business and so on. All set against the culture that's singular, we're one business, its vision is very clear, we're a carbon composites manufacturer for a range of segments but with a heavy bias towards aerospace, and a set of values that drive how we behave day in day out.

I think if we follow that path over the next two or three years, we've got a great trajectory in terms of revenue outlook, when you just look at current firm booked business, and the incremental opportunities we're following.

I think two or three years from now, we'll look back and realise that the things we're doing today are what generates that value creation over the next two or three years. And we can look back with some real pride on them.

Phil Tarrant: The vision, it sounds good but the nature in manufacturing business, you have guys in suits that go out and win the business and do all this sort of stuff. You have guys on the floor that make this stuff, and often it's a big wage put between them, where there is the connectivity between them it doesn't exist as much as the can-do.

If I was to pop out to your manufacturing facilities out in Bankstown and grab one of the guys on the machines, and said, "Where do you see the value in this business? What do you do?" Do you think they'd be able to answer that quite clearly?

Mark Burgess: I think they'd give you a pretty good answer right now, actually. So, in my first eight weeks I've been able to do town halls' face to face in all three of our sites. I had a really positive interaction with the Trade Union rep a couple of weeks ago.

We've got a skip level lunch organised for next week. So, the whole communication space, and as I was saying before, harnessing the inherent value of the culture, and building upon it, is something really important to me.

I think they'd give you a pretty good answer right now. I've been really blown away actually, by the sense of connectivity, of ownership, of feeling part of something that's quite exciting to be a part of from every level of the organisation. I think the one thing that we're, well, there are several things that we're missing. I've touched upon so many of them.

Organisationally though, we've got to craft the single culture. Like with a lot of SMEs, we've got great shop full of staff. Really committed, really capable, well trained, and react well to the training. We've got a remarkably strong senior leadership team for a business our size.

More competent than any leadership team I've managed previously in much bigger businesses. The cadre in the middle though, of supervisors and middle management leaders, we've got a lot of investment to do there. 'Cause they are the guys who are gonna live and breathe that cultural change, driving shareholder value day in day out, and they are the guys who are leading on shop floor when you can't have executive on the shop floor every day.

So, long winded answer but I think you'd get a good answer from them now. I wanna drive that though, no divisions, no splits, we're all a part of one team.

Phil Tarrant: It's a holy grail and will that be a protest then to really drive your middle management organically but will you be outside looking for new talent to bring into the business? Is that a plan?

Mark Burgess: Combination of two. One of the things and it was noteworthy from the conversation with our Trade Union representative was ... And it was the first thing they raised and I took it as a real positive, was the guys on the shop floor want progression paths.

We wanna give them progression paths, we wanna harness that kind of energy and enthusiasm given the skills and the training that they need to move up the ladder. But, we've got to create the ladder. Next week we'll announce the significant reorganisation internally which will give people the opportunity to see where that headroom is where they can move up to.

But because of the nature of the business as well, still a relatively small business with a relatively small skills base. In terms of management expert experience and leadership expertise. We are gonna be bringing in people from the outside. If we think about sales, if we think about material, plumbing, Supply Chain Management. Some of those areas we're gonna be reinforcing over the next few months.

Phil Tarrant: Do you think ... What's the sentiment for the guys on the floor and also leadership team, and the guys in between about working on this high profile jobs? Are you manufacturing panels and other compound for the F35? That's the biggest aircraft manufacturing programme in history. So, there must be a lot of satisfaction knowing that they're part of that story.

Mark Burgess: Yeah, they do. To the point about how we build on the culture we've got. I think the best way of exemplifying what you're asking about is, we have an Employee Referral Programme. So, we're hiring a lot of people, our employment population is growing at Bankstown in Sydney from 12 about four or five years ago, to now 200 plus and it will continue to grow over the next two or three years.

That's difficult for a business our size to go out and source people to get the right candidates to bring them onboard, train them. So, we've got a really healthy referral programme and I was absolutely delighted at the town hall out at Bankstown about four weeks ago. To give out a bunch of gift certificates to people who had referred friends, associates, family members to come and work at Quickstep.

I think to answer your question I'd use that example of saying, "If we've got a workforce that is sufficiently proud of what they do, that they'll go in and speak it to friends, associates, and family members to encourage them to come and work for us. That's a pretty good recommendation of their workplace I think."

Phil Tarrant: I think that means they're enjoying themselves at work.

Mark Burgess: Yeah, exactly.

Phil Tarrant: Considering how long you spend at work every single week. You want it to be a nice environment.

Mark Burgess: Yeah, exactly.

Phil Tarrant: It must be quite nice, in terms of your role, and you're quite new to it but having the confidence to grow or realise these growth strategy on the back of some significant projects that you have underway F35, let's see 130. They're now a sort of keystone jobs to have that really gives you capacity to grow and evolve, and look for those new opportunities that you sort of outlined.

Does that give you a lot of confidence to know that you've got that behind you?

Mark Burgess: Yeah, absolutely. We're supplying lock in mind direct to the world's largest defence in aerospace company. We supply a significant amount of JSF content into Northrop Grumman and to BAE Systems and Marand here in Australia down in Victoria.

That's a Class A list of global companies with whom we work, and with whom we have met and exceeded their expectations. I want us to grow our business substantially with those guys and I think we've now earned the right do that. But I think more importantly we can leverage those key customer relationships as a bench mark when we go speak to other potential customers.

The companies in scope right now are the other major global aerospace companies, the other major auto companies that you would expect to see on any Class A list that we're working with. To have the credibility behind as if the people we're working with and satisfying now is extremely important.

Phil Tarrant: How do you find doing business here in Australia versus the states, and Europe, and Asia where you most recently were. Is it more of the same or is Aussie got a particular way they like how you mate doing things?

Mark Burgess: It's a great question and we could probably spend the next two hours talking about it. To summarise, we get an awful lot of government stay in federal support a lot more than I would expect to see in the UK or the US.

Phil Tarrant: Okay.

Mark Burgess: I think that's a reflection sadly of the fact that there are very few companies like Quickstep in a composite manufacturing space in Australia. But it's most welcome – I mean, we really do get a lot of support from state and federal government and it's very welcome.

I think there's a really good team spirit. One of the things I love the most about Australia is your…not even attitude to sport – the way that sport imbibes every facet of your existence, and I think that shines at work.

The culture we've got at Quickstep, I would equate to the kinda culture you develop in a winning team. The people rely on each other, they depend on each other, they like spending time at work together, and they've got a common goal and they're working towards it.

And that's on the positive side. On the slightly more negative side, one of the things I'm always really frustrated by here is the proudly Australian owned, the proudly Australian made … It's great marketing for a domestic audience. I think sometimes though it becomes a caution to which Australians live in terms of considering themselves in a parochial market context when there's just 24 million people at the bottom of the world.

And really, almost every industry segment in this country operates in a global environment. One of the things that attracted me to Quickstep actually was a really progressive and globalised board and leadership team. But it is one of the things I see when I talk to peers, some of our supply chain.

It frustrates me that people lose sight of the fact that Australia is in the G20 but that means there's 19 other large global economies. And in all industry segments, Australia is a pretty small market relative to the rest of the world. We’ve got to set our sights on the rest of the world rather than Australia.

Phil Tarrant: I think that's a very fair observation. Australia can be very parochial, they can sit there and think Aussie mate is the best but I sort of don't care. Let's look at the case of Quickstep why are your parts being used in the JSF? Why do you guys manufacture the flaps on the C130Js? Because it's the best stuff around to do the job that needs to be done, whether or not it's built in Australia is probably largely irrelevant.

Mark Burgess: Exactly. I think it's a good story for Australian advance manufacturing. I've been to a couple of events recently and with the demise of the auto sector, the car manufacturing sector there's a lot of negativity around Australian manufacturing. Go out there-

Phil Tarrant: Is that domestic negativity?

Mark Burgess: Yeah.

Phil Tarrant: Do you think it was a global negativity?

Mark Burgess: No, domestic.

Phil Tarrant: Domestic.

Mark Burgess: I think unfortunately, globally Australia is not considered an industrial power house and therefore if people care to think about it I don't think they have the depth of knowledge to know that car manufacturing is coming to an end here.

But domestically, I think there's a lot of misguided thinking out there. There's a lot of advanced manufacturing in Australia where people have set up companies, spun off from other businesses, or individual startups where they found their niche, they've become the best in the world, they export most of their product, and they are global leaders in their field.

Australia can do it just as well as anybody else in the first world. It's not a low cost country, so, you go after a different sort of manufacturing or product niche. I saw a speaker as well , and he said "Anything can be made anywhere with the right process and that's the only difference."

There is a lot of questions, one of them from the audience about, "why does anyone think that Australia can still manufacture things?" It was really interesting, the panel and I was on the panel universally said, "You got to get that thinking out your head because we can do anything as long as we deploy the right capital, the right skills, and have a process appropriate to the market demand."

The market being global markets. I'm really quite ... I'm really passionate about manufacturing and I'm actually quite bullish about advance manufacturing, and its role in the future in Australia. I think we just need to be really clear what that future looks like.

Phil Tarrant: So, you get to bank a choice and you've made a decision not to get sucked into the naysayers and lament about the death of manufacturing in Australia. You've gone ... Well, we don't subscribe to it, we gonna go our way and do what we do. We're gonna choose not to get this sucked in. For those people who are into depths of some pretty dire situations, trying to keep people employed and keep the revenue coming in when they can't compete manufacturing.

What do you say to those guys, just get out of the game? Or change your mindset be it that finds something new. Use your skills and talent elsewhere?

Mark Burgess: That's a very difficult question to answer.

Phil Tarrant: It is.

Mark Burgess: Depends on the individual circumstances, obviously. The economist in me would say "It's about a capital deployment." If you're in an industry where you are inherently non-competitive, then you need to think about getting into a different industry. It depends on the person's circumstances.

Phil Tarrant: It is a tough one. For someone like yourself who heads advance manufacturing, do you see ... And we spoke about growth in the business and identifying those people to help support the growth and comes down to people. Are you looking towards that manufacturing, automotive manufacturing as a potential source of capable manufacturing experts to bring in to Quickstep to help grow and evolve?

Mark Burgess: We already have, actually. If you look at -

Phil Tarrant: So, it's good quality people within manufacturing -

Mark Burgess: Yeah. Really ... Well, interestingly and they also said so in Australia, you guys created your own niche, which was a highly efficient low-volume manufacture. Unfortunately, that should never have extended to building whole cars in my opinion. But you did create some real quality in the supply chain. And yeah, absolutely, we've already hired ... This is off the top of my head, but probably a dozen key engineering individuals including the member of my executive team who runs R&D and business development from the auto sector. There's more opportunity there particularly on the production side. 'Cause I think a lot of the sale-based, highly flexible efficient manufacturing processes that were essential to sustain in the car industry in Australia for such a long time, are really relevant in aerospace because you're talking about the same kind of rate range in quantity of units produced.

So, I think there's a lot of skills from the auto sector that we're already benefiting from and more of that to come I'm sure.

Phil Tarrant: Okay. I keep going back and  saying you're quite new to this role, so it'll be good for us to chat in the ease of time. We could probably reflect about what we're chatting about right now and see if the world's changed that much or you think it'll change that much.

But, joining Quickstep with the F35 being such a pivotal high profile project for you guys to work with. I think over the life that work you're doing here you're gonna create 36,000 parts also realised it's a lot of ride. What's your view towards the people that take the stick out against F35 and give it a hard time. Trump recently was saying it was the most over-valued, over-complicated, out of control programme ever ... What's your take on F35? It's a...

Mark Burgess: It's a great programme, I'm not just saying that because I now run a company that's -

Phil Tarrant: Big part of it.

Mark Burgess: To whom that programme is really important.

Phil Tarrant: Yeah.

Mark Burgess: I think almost everybody in this supply chain and F35, are most importantly the war fighter would disagree with President Trump. I think the ability to acquire a fifth generation fighter for $85 million when you consider its competitors is remarkable. It's remarkable and it's gonna get cheaper, which is even more remarkable. 'cause defence escalation usually only goes one direction and that's up.

It's a truly capable aircraft, it's had a very long gestation period, and it's had lots of trouble in the development phase. That's kinda powerful of course in any major defence acquisition and this is the biggest ever. So, it's no surprise that there's been bumps along the way, but it's really good to see positive news flow around that programme now because it is a truly unique capability.

When you consider the threat environment that we are facing in the world today, it's come the right time and with a price tag frankly for the level of capability. That is globally competitive if you think of any of its peer groups. Now, we're really ... And obviously it's a huge important programme to my company, but we're really bullish about the programme, and the price is gonna come down through genuine cost takeout. That is a really attractive sticker price for an aircraft of that type.

Phil Tarrant: I guess you're a part of that cost savings as your capabilities, your learning curve increases you get more efficient in what you're doing, you become faster and leaner these are savings to get passed on to the customer, which is a good thing.

Mark Burgess: In part. So, the really good thing is if you make sure that you overdrive on your process optimization and efficiencies, and all of the contracts that we have tend to have cost down elements to them. You mentioned before President Trump's view of F35, and frankly that is commentary on a process that was already underway. The real key for a business like Quickstep is that we have to drive our process optimization and manufacturing efficiencies faster and harder than commitments we've made to the customer.

I don't wanna hand price over to the customer in its entirety. I want some for myself and my shareholders. So, it's about margin improvement as well as generate genuine cost down that we can get benefits to the programme with.

Phil Tarrant: Good. What's your views towards some of the wider defence projects underway here in Australia at the moment? Obviously, $195 billion is being slated for a spending over a decade mainly in naval programmes. Still lot of risk to these programmes is something that you're quite conscious about? Or you're just observing what's going on with interest?

Mark Burgess: In a multi-threat world … The economic future outlook for Asia is really good for this century. So, it's a really important century place within the world and Australia's got a hugely important role to play in that. I think the 2 per cent GDP threshold is an important psychological threshold than I think it's something the country like Australia with the means it has available to it, and the people resources it has … They have a really important security role to play in Asian pacific specifically. I think it's a good sound investment for the future of this country and it's a good sound investment in terms of the alliances this country has in the region and outside of the region.

There's always risk in any major defence acquisition because these things are unique. I mean, most of them have ... Even the products that are derivatives from other products have never been built before, and it's a capability that has to accommodate such a broad spectrum of operations that you can never get it right first time. I said you've got to be diligent, and you got to make sure that you drive in the best performance that have contractors.

Yes there is risk in here, but fundamentally it's a positive thing for national defences security. I think the really important thing that Australia mustn't lose sight of is ... And I had the opportunity to speak with Minister Pyne several weeks ago, and he phrased it rather well I thought, "Australia's been really good customer for a long time and a really poor supplier, and that needs to change."

So, this massive investment that the Commonwealth is making is welcomed. It's important from a defence and security standpoint but there has to be an economic dividend, a really significant one. Not lip service, not a kind of fig leaf to get the contract one. Then really start backing away from your commitments if you're an overseas supplier – I mean a really significant commitment, and one that leaves an export legacy. So, that this isn't about the creation of jobs, and a big hump of jobs for the next five years while all the work is being done. Put something that drives sustainable long term economic benefit for the states in which the work is done.

Phil Tarrant: And as a business who's truly cracked that international supplier chain, you mentioned before in 95 per cent of everything you create goes offshore. What's your message for other businesses looking to emulate you? What should they be doing to become the next Quickstep? In the Aussie export store and intervent space?

Mark Burgess: I think there's a combination of things leverage, the government's support that exists. Help the government understand and I'm thinking particularly about Federal but also state. Help the government understand the kind of framework of support that's required for businesses to be successful in the export space and don't give foreign OEMs an easy ride. It's a competitive world out there and if you wanna partner with some of the world global primes, their business imperatives is just the same as yours are. They operate in a competitive environment and we have some really strong value propositions here in Australia. We have an opportunity with the significant increase in defence expenditure that's going on to leverage that to our economic betterment, by negotiating really good solid deals out of companies that are trying to sell things to the commonwealth.

Phil Tarrant: That's good. I enjoy the chat. Keep in touch. You mention that you got some work underway. There's some changes ahead for Quickstep, but you're gonna help project it even further. So, as I said beforehand it's a great success story and I think a lot of people could learn, a lot of SMEs can learn from the Quickstep story, in terms of how to project a strain manufacturing town on the global stage.

So, let's get you back in and keep chatting but thanks for your time, we do appreciate it.

Mark Burgess: Yeah. That'll be great, thank you very much. Just to round off on a point you raised there. We will be making some significant announcements in the early part of August with regards to future size, shape, and strategy of the business.

Phil Tarrant: Okay. Let us know and we'll make sure write some stories on it.

Mark Burgess: Great. Thank you.

Phil Tarrant: That's good. Thanks for tuning in everyone. We do enjoy having you along, it truly surprise me just how popular the podcast has been. I was chatting with Mark before we come on air about just the nature of defence work, and everyone seems to spend a lot of time on aeroplanes. So, it's a good time to listen and tune in and keep abreast for what everyone else is doing.

If you like what we're doing and you want to engage us or come on the show and have a chat. Contact the team: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Check out defenceconnect.com.com.au remember to subscribe to our daily newsletter with marketing telling news about defence industry. You can do that on the website as well. We're on all the social channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, just to chat @defenceconnect, you'll find us and keep abreast of what we're up to.

So, thanks for tuning in we'll be back again next week. Until then, see you then.

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