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Leadership, hustle and an eye on sales the secret to running a defence SME

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Livia Brady, managing director of Rojone – a Sydney-based SME specialising in providing the defence industry with communication technologies – offers readers an insight into running a successful SME.

“I'm very hands on,” Brady – who now runs the business she co-founded with her late mother – told Defence Connect Podcast host Phillip Tarrant.

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“I do everything from paying wages, I handle all the bookkeeping and the payments.

“One of my mother's pieces of advice was that she said: ‘Don't give away the finances to anybody else. You keep doing them’.”

Founded in 1981, Rojone delivers a range of RF and microwave design, manufacturing and distribution services. The firm – which has a strong focus on the Australian defence sector – employs some 80 staff and services about 2,000 domestic and international customers.

Its products include RF and circular connectors, as well as coaxial cables and military microwave components, with defence clients including BAE Systems, the Department of Defence, CSIRO, Boeing, ASC and Thales.

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Brady described herself as a problem solver, rather than an engineer.

“That's what I'm good at,” she said. “Money, problem solving; is there a technical solution?

“I watch what's going on in the factory. Can we do that better? Is there a better way of doing that? Is it repetitive where we can actually implement some equipment? Can we design something ourselves to suit a particular job that we're doing?”

She said the company had just purchased a 600-square metre factory next door to its current building, creating space for expansion.

“We're relocating a store into that area and implementing barcoding, so I'm running around with software people and barcodes [at the moment], and I have a whole bunch of schoolies who are on school holiday break, children of my staff. I've got them working,” Brady said.

“I said, ’If you want to earn a couple of dollars and you want to learn how business works, I'm happy to have you here’. It's a very nice environment.”

Of all her recurring responsibilities, Brady said she most enjoyed the sales and bidding process.

“I do like to chase the work,” she said. “I like to know what's coming so I can actually plan for opportunities.

“Our strength is that everything we've done over the years is [what] we've basically accumulated: we've got our own building, we've got our own tooling [and] we've got our own resources.

“So, I look ahead and go, ‘So, in 12 months’ time, there's a project here, there's a project there. Is there a point of difference that I can throw into the mix and resource ourselves up to be able to be a front runner in that particular project?

Leadership, hustle and an eye on sales the secret to running a defence SME
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