In this episode of the Defence Connect Podcast, Lee Stanley, head of marketing and business development for Daronmont Technologies, is in the studio to take us through his experience working for an Australian defence SME, the key projects Daronmont is chasing and the ongoing shift and focus of the industry’s approach to AIC.
Tune in as he discusses the company’s expertise in communications and situational awareness, how Daramont got its big break making HF radars, its enduring relationship with DST Group and its success in exporting equipment to Canada and New Zealand.
Enjoy the podcast,
The Defence Connect team.
Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:
Episode 73: PODCAST: Building long-term capability for defence and industry through LAND 400, Brian Gathright, vice president of business development, BAE Systems Australia
Episode 72: PODCAST: Shaping the conversation in defence industry, Kate Louis, head of defence and industry policy, Australian Industry Group
Episode 71: PODCAST: Technology transfer in naval shipbuilding, Sean Costello, director, Fincantieri Australia
Episode 70: PODCAST: Taking the reins of a defence prime, Gabby Costigan, BAE Systems Australia, CEO
Episode 69: PODCAST: A smooth transition to defence industry – Colin Thorne, partner, engineering and asset management, KPMG
Episode 68: PODCAST: Leading from the front in defence industry, Warren King, chairman, Navantia Australia
Episode 67: PODCAST: From the scullery to the Senate, Rex Patrick, senator for South Australia
Episode 66: PODCAST: Finding the right signal in Defence, Livia Brady, managing director, Rojone
Episode 65: PODCAST: Manufacturing the future for defence SMEs, Medhat Wassaf, Milspec Manufacturing & AIDN NSW
Episode 64: PODCAST: Unmanned surface vessels and the future of Navy, Robert Dane, OCIUS Technology
Announcer: Welcome to the Defence Connect podcast. With your host, Phil Tarrant.
Phil Tarrant: Oh good day, Phil Tarrant here, host of the Defence Connect podcast, recording from Pacific 17. Covered a lot of ground here over the last couple of days chatting with a lot of the primes and there's been some major announcements made over the course of these three days in terms of naval capabilities moving forward. But as you know if you regularly listen to the podcast, we like chatting with SMEs and sort of seeing their story within defence and defence industry.
I have Lee Stanley who is the head of Marketing and Business Development from Daronmont Technologies to join me and have a bit of a chat about how he's finding the world in terms of building his business within the SME, as an SME within the defence space.
Lee, how you are you going, mate?
Lee Stanley: Good morning, Phil. It's great to be here with Defence Connect and great to be at Pacific.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. How you found the last couple of days?
Lee Stanley: These shows are always fantastic. We tend to get involved with state governments. So, being a small company the best way for us to get a good exposure here is to join either the Victorian stand, the South Australian stand. We're on the South Australian stand this year. They've been fantastic. Great position. Lots of really quality people walking through and talking.
We've got a couple of key projects we're chasing and so giving it great opportunity to expose our product to those sort of people.
Phil Tarrant: What are guys chasing at the moment? Let's talk about programmes.
Lee Stanley: Well, the big one for us is 1180 right now.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah.
Lee Stanley: So, we've been doing some great stuff in communications, situational awareness for many years. We've got equipment on our submarines. We've exported to Canada and New Zealand. And now we want to get that equipment into Australia's OPV's. We ticked all the boxes in terms of AIC. We're a fully Australian owned company. It's a great system, it's well priced, particularly against the American competitors. And we're fortunate to be on everyone's team.
Phil Tarrant: So, you're covering all your bases then.
Lee Stanley: Hopefully. Hopefully we've got a good chance.
Phil Tarrant: Just on that basis, so you're in good position to win some work out of the OPV Project. How do you guys celebrate when you get a good gig? When you win a good contract, what do you guys do?
Lee Stanley: That's a good question. We definitely celebrate internally because being we're a small company, single owner, he's pretty hands off. Got an excellent CEO. Great management team. What we all recognise is that it takes everyone in the business to sell. Engineers have got to do great stuff. The administrators have got to administer well. The marketing people have got to do a good job building relationships and getting the word out there.
So we make sure the celebration includes everyone in the business. And we all take time to reflect that everyone's had to contribute to the success that we've achieved, when we achieve it.
And we also make a point of thanking the partners that we work with. So, whichever team wins, there's bound to be a couple of beers shared with the integrators that we end up working with. Because, they've been the ones that have pushed us through the process.
Phil Tarrant: Have you heard anything? Do you got any inside running on who might be successful on the OPVs?
Lee Stanley: Phil, you're far more likely to know that than I am.
Phil Tarrant: I'm quite fortunate I get to ask these questions. Everyone's pretty coy about it. No one's saying much.
Lee Stanley: Defence has really tightened up. And they're very good now at probity and keeping their decisions internal. It's not even worth trying to get that information out of it. You've just got to give it your best shot and then see where the chips fall.
They're all great ships though. And I think in our interactions with all of the ship builders and the integrators, we'd be happy to work with any of them.
Phil Tarrant: So, for our listeners that don't really know what you guys do, what is Daronmont Technologies? What's your price, services, capabilities?
Lee Stanley: Look, we're a small systems integrator. So, we've been around for about 20 years. We're in the surveillance, communications sort of domain. Got our big break making HF radars. So we worked with DST group, or DSTO back then, licenced IP and built radars in the Torres Strait. We're probably the only company in the world that's actually built an HF surface wave radar and operated it 24/7 in a real environment. Now we moved on from that technology into work on the submarines where we addressed some obsolescence issues around direction finding systems. We've continued that strong relationship with DST Group so we've had people working in other areas of radar development in Adelaide. That's showing great promise for us in the immediate future.
And then some of us have Air Force background so we were able to use our Air Force knowledge to help Air Force address some problems around air defence surveillance before Vigilare so we got an opportunity to work with the Air Force, introduce some new technology into the country around correlation and tracking, and we've just grown that over the last sort of 10 or 12 years.
Air Force has a deployable air defence system that's been to Afghanistan. We were fortunate enough to win a tender to refurbish that system. We now act as the OEM. So we make some of our products in the C4I, containerized solution space, direction finding, radar technology, we write software that does Link 11 and Link 16 training and support.
So we have those products but we then do a lot of integration of those things and other things for customers. The Air Force work that we've done over the years has enabled us to leave with a really strong position into mobile air traffic control and mobile air ranges management, so we're working with primes like Raytheon and Indra applying that C4I technology to build command and control systems for them, command post systems for them and hopefully we'll have the opportunity to move into the land domain over the next couple of years with some of the radar technology we're doing with DST Group.
Phil Tarrant: As an SME is it a good time to be in defence comparative to the years past?
Lee Stanley: Absolutely. There's been a real shift in the focus, I think, on AIC and the approach to AIC. The words have been there for many years, but the current government's approach to it, Minister Pyne's passion for Australian industry is really having an affect. We see the primes, we see the overseas companies and industry associations really wanting to engage with us, and we feel that the engagement is genuine.
And we even see it in the senior uniformed officers. We'll go to trade shows now. We've been to a few overseas and we've actually got the senior officers that are supporting the trade mission coming to us and asking us how they can help because the government wants them to help Australian industry do business overseas.
So from an SME perspective, this is a great time to be around defence.
Phil Tarrant: And for organisations, SMEs in particular, looking to either crack defence industry or grow and evolve within defence, what's the secret to getting it right? What's the secret to winning work?
Lee Stanley: Every success story has a different secret. I think our secret has been the ability to find opportunists where we could actually work as the prime into defence. We're in a very fortunate today where perhaps 70% of our business comes from actually acting as the prime into CASG and having that direct customer relationship has enabled us to really deliver great solutions, understand the customer intimately, get great recognition from the customer and actual have in some cases the customer referring us to the primes as a great company that they should work with. So that has actually helped us to build relationships with the primes and to start developing some significant sub-contract work which will help us grow our business into the future.
We'll still do some of the prime stuff, but we'll have a lot more sub-contract relationships with the primes.
Phil Tarrant: What's your background? Where were you before Daranmont?
Lee Stanley: I was actually in the Air Force, got an engineering degree many years ago, back in the 80s, had a great career in ground telecommunications in the Air Force, was fortunate enough to get UN posting to Cambodia in the early 90s, left the military and in fact left the military environment for many years. Had great time at Optis in AB for a couple of years and then came back into the defence industry.
Phil Tarrant: Are you happy here in the defence industry?
Lee Stanley: I love it.
Phil Tarrant: Do you think it's natural home for ex-serviceman?
Lee Stanley: Definitely is. I think, in my personal experience-
Phil Tarrant: And women, by the way. Servicemen and women.
Lee Stanley: People. Service people.
Phil Tarrant: Service people.
Lee Stanley: No, in my personal experience, I love my time in the service. I had a good 10 or 12 years completely away from the military where I learned skills in other industries that would be relevant, I think to defence, but maintained a lot of relationships with the people I served with and grew up with, so when I came back to it, it didn't feel like I'd been just doing it continuously, but I still had a lot of domain knowledge and experience and relationships, but then I had a lot of other things that I'd done which I was able to bring to bear in the work that I was doing around the military.
Phil Tarrant: And for people looking in, a lot of our listeners currently servicing us in the service looking for life after service, what are you going to get right in terms of to be a complete package to be attractive to a defence organisation when you come out of the army, navy or Air Force?
Lee Stanley: I think one of the big disciplines or skills to hone is just an understanding of commercial business. What is it? It's one thing to work in defence, maybe you managed large projects with big budgets, those skills are obviously very important, but it's also then being able to put yourself in the shoes of the sub-contractor or prime that's supporting you and understand what business means from their perspective. How do they manage cash flow? How do they manage staff recruiting and retention issues? There's a whole bunch of things that make a business successful, many of those skills come from leadership and management that you develop in the military, but then you have to hone those commercial day to day survival skills that will enable you to succeed and help grow a business.
Phil Tarrant: And your time with Daranmont, obviously you're head of marketing and business development, you're out there to find new work, no doubt.
Lee Stanley: Find new work, consolidate existing work, help focus the engineers on where we really should be applying the skills we've got. You know, help with the messaging, help the engineers to understand exactly what it is that the customer values in what we do, and how to actually pitch that effectively. Because once again we can build the best systems and boxes and widgets that we can, but if we don't help the customer to understand why they're very good and how they can actually help the customer be more successful, then we're not going to succeed.
So helping the engineers to understand that stuff, and get us all pointing in that sort of direction is very important.
Phil Tarrant: So how do you become an attractive business? Obviously Daranmont you've got a fair amount of visibility in the marketplace as an SME, but how do you be an attraction business so when you end up in front of someone in Canberra, with SG or whoever decision maker there is, how do you make sure they go, we know about these guys, we like what we do, we've heard good things about them, we know them. How does that work? How do you become an attraction business?
Lee Stanley: I think fundamentally it comes from doing good work. Everything we've achieved is because we've been able to deliver excellent solutions to the customer. We've bent over backwards to satisfy them, if we've dropped the ball we've worked doubly hard to pick that ball up and fix the issue that we might have created. And listen very closely, we understand the commonwealth need for value for money. We understand how they need to manage people like us. We don't fight them over IP, we don't fight them over commercial terms, we just accept the commonwealth for what it is, and really work to deliver as well as we can, and we figure that that reputational skill, or reputational dividend is what helps to get our name out there.
Also I think we've been fortunate to be able to work with some good technologies that are of importance operationally to the IDF and that's given us an opportunity to deliver good work to people who rely on the equipment operationally, who respect what we do and our understanding of their environment, and that all helps to create this perception that Daranmont is a company that does actually get it, that does care about supporting and that does honour its promises to deliver whatever we've undertaken to deliver.
Phil Tarrant: And the government has been very vocal in terms of number one, acknowledging and then taking action about how they can better service the [inaudible 00:12:49] industry, obviously it's now a fundamentally pro capability.
Lee Stanley: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: And they want the absolute best out of Australian talent, whether it's primes or the Australian domicile passive primes or the SMEs in particular, and it does have a lot with the CDIC. How have you found your experience with the CDIC? Has it been a good initiative?
Lee Stanley: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the fact that they've been able to group a number of disparate programmes together under one umbrella with some very good people managing it and supporting it to provide a single interface for companies like ours has just worked. It's worked exceptionally well. So you combine the CDIC with everything it does with the innovation hub, which is there to provide support, funding and guidance to companies to do innovative stuff in defence, and together those things are working exceptionally well.
So we've been working with DST Group in some pretty interesting areas, there's some great technology there that the IDFC is valuing. We've had the opportunity to put a proposal into the system and we're working that. We have a great relationship with CDIC, they provide excellent advice, mentoring, coaching through the process.
The innovation hub has been very good in keeping in touch and advising us how our proposals are moving through the process. We're confident that we'll be successful and we'd love to see that sort of framework continue.
Phil Tarrant: And for other SMEs that aren't yet using CDIC, just get in touch with them?
Lee Stanley: Oh, absolutely.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, they'll respond?
Lee Stanley: Andrew Garth is running an excellent organisation. There are very clear lines of entry into the CDIC, the advisors he has are first rate. It's very easy to find the right person to talk to.
Phil Tarrant: I caught up with Andrew, I did a podcast with him a little while ago, and if you haven't listened to it, listeners, go and tune into it. He made some very good observations about how to actually crack into the defence market if you're not yet in there or how to sort of build that awareness. But Daranmont's obviously doing some good stuff, so keep it up. Enjoying it, it's good? Where else would you want to be? It's a good time to be in defence.
Lee Stanley: A very good time. Very good time. It's a lot of huge programmes, lot of buzz, you can just see it around places like here or the air show earlier in the year, even land forces last year. There is a real buzz. There's excitement. There's work. The government's keen to get the stuff out to industry.
Phil Tarrant: So all this talk about, and I hear a lot from SMEs going yes, there's a lot of noise around projects but I want to see some signatures on some paperwork to actually win this work. There is work to be won, and you guys are winning it?
Lee Stanley: Absolutely. Defence takes time. Stuff takes time, but the signatures come and the work comes. Part of the trick, I think, whether you're a prime or an SME, it's managing your business pipeline so that you can deal with the known time that it takes to get stuff through the system. Persistence is important. You have to be persistent.
Phil Tarrant: Lee look, enjoyed the chat, mate. Keep it up. It was good to hear these stories, mate. We like to fly the flag for SMEs in defence. We're very fortunate we've got some great SMEs in Australia and obviously the transition there's a lot of work going on in the academics community right now and transition that into really smart businesses as well. You know, good tech and we remember why we're all doing this and that's to make sure that our guys and girls have the best kit they have to do what they need to do.
Lee Stanley: Exactly right.
Anyway, we'll be back again next time. Until then, bye bye.