Borroloola is a relatively small town, located in the Gulf country of the Northern Territory, and separated from nearby townships and settlements by vast tracts of largely unpopulated land. Travelling in the nearby region can be hazardous, with roads sometimes cut off in monsoon season due to flooding. Operating a business in such a remote area can be challenging – but Cairns Industries has been doing it for close to a decade now, and has been doing it better than many of their metropolitan competitors.
A family-run business, Cairns Industries was acquired by married couple Shaun and Kym Cairns back in 2006. Since that time, the company has consistently provided quality building and civil construction services to communities and businesses in the region.
“My husband’s uncle had a construction company here in Borroloola, which is about 1000 kilometres from Darwin, right up in the Gulf,” recalls Kym, now a Director of the business. “He asked Shaun to be one of the foremen, and a couple of months later he decided to retire, leaving the business to Shaun.”
“Shaun’s a fully-qualified carpenter, and he’d always wanted his own business,” she adds. “This was his dream.”
Since Shaun and Kym took over, Cairns Industries has evolved considerably in both employees and assets. A team of three employees has grown into a staff of more than 30, and a truck, an excavator and a Silver Bullet for office space have become sixteen concrete agitator trucks, five excavators, three concrete mobile batch plants and more.
In that time, the business has also grown in reputation. Today, they are well known for their skilled workforce, their ability to meet construction deadlines, and their overall quality performance.
A model company
One of the many factors that sets Cairns Industries apart is their comprehensive mobile concrete batching service, which can supply an average of 60 cubic metres of concrete per hour. Using those mobile plants, the company can service a wide geographic area, including remote locations throughout the Northern Territory. Their encompassing clients range from aboriginal communities, some as far away from their offices in Borroloola as 200 kilometres, to mining and exploration companies, noteworthy among which is McArthur River Mining.
“With our residential projects we generally tend to do larger-scale projects, rather than just one or two houses,” says Kym. “In Numbulwar, for example, we did around 40-odd houses for remote community housing projects there. We happily supply concrete to residential projects, but also commercial projects and mining projects – most of our concrete we’ve supplied to McArthur River Mining projects.”
According to Kym, Cairns Industries is able to attract such a variety of clients due to their commitment to providing excellent customer service.
“I think it’s mostly about showing that you’re there for them,” she says. “My husband Shaun and our contract manager Allen both have their phone 24/7. They make themselves easily accessible – if anyone needs anything, they’re able to contact us. Even if it’s last minute – when mine sites want something they tend to want it now. So we go out of our way to make sure all of our customers are looked after.”
“If McArthur River Mine wants something, we will pretty much stop everything and give them what they want,” she explains. “We’re of the theory that just because we live in a remote area doesn’t mean we have to provide inferior service. We don’t believe in the cowboys of the bush. We try to be as professional and deliver as good a quality service as you’d get if you were living in the city.”
Of course, a company’s internal relationships can be just as important as the relationships they foster with clients. That’s why Cairns Industries has gone out of their way to form close ties with their highly skilled staff.
“The only way that I can think to describe it is family,” Kym says. “We pretty much all live and work together here – it’s like one big happy family. We accommodate all or most of our employees, we’ve got their rooms, we have a kitchen with a cook and cleaner.”
“If you’ve got a happy staff then it makes work a lot easier,” she explains.
Cairns Industries also forms equally strong and vital relationships with their suppliers, Kym adds.
“When we need something urgently they’re happy to go out of their way and make life easier for us,” she says. “Some of our suppliers in Darwin we’ve been dealing with since day one. Once we find a good one we stick with them.”
According to Kym, every member of the team at Cairns Industries takes great pride in ensuring excellent customer relationships – and they do that by delivering high quality work, consistently and efficiently. That extraordinary effort has not gone unnoticed within the industry. For example, at the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards for the Northern Territory, that hard work earned them both the Medium Business Award and the Regional Award.
“It was really good to be recognised as a business that started out in a remote area,” Kym says. “It’s not easy out here – we face challenges like wet seasons, getting our roads cut off, getting our freight over here. Businesses in the city don’t face the same challenges we do, and we were competing with them.”
“I see us as being a positive role model for other businesses in remote areas,” she continues. “We’re showing them you can do it no matter where you are – there’s no reason you can’t provide a really good service.”
Moving forward, Kym says Cairns Industries main goal will be to continue delivering that exemplary service – in the Northern Territory and beyond. For example, in the near future she and Shaun envision having their mobile concrete batch plants all over Australia.
“We’re still going to continue running our operation out of our offices here in Borroloola, but the bigger picture is to focus on the batch plants, and get them out more,” she explains. “We have just opened an office in Darwin as well, with plans to locate one of the Batch Plants here as well.”
“We really want to focus on being able to provide concrete to other rural and remote areas, remote mine sites and communities,” she concludes. “The batch plants are able to do that, so that’s where our future lies.”