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Fresh Fellas: The foundations for success

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Sydney Markets at Flemington in western Sydney is a loud, bustling environment and it’s no place for shrinking violets or delicate phones.

Shaun McInerney bought Fresh Fellas in 1996 and his brother Heath joined the business soon after. The company wholesales fresh produce such as cauliflower, broccoli and pineapples to independent grocers, providores and restaurateurs.

Fresh Fellas has grown to turn over $10 million per year and Shaun is targetting another 30 per cent growth over the next 18 months to two years. The business has 12 employees for warehouse management, truck driving, sales and administration, and the close-knit camaraderie of the workforce is a genuine asset in what Shaun describes as a “highly competitive” environment.

Shaun believes the key points of difference between Fresh Fellas and its competitors are price, quality of the produce and the establishment of robust relationships with the farmers. The company’s performance in these areas has to-date attracted and retained about 200 customers. 

Shaun McInerney driving a forklift around the Sydney Market in work gear

Customer loyalty

However, Shaun and his team are not complacent about retaining supplier loyalty – and this means travelling far and wide to meet many of them face-to-face. Twice a year, two of their salespeople travel to North and South Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory, while Shaun himself is frequently on the road.“Many farmers like to see your face, see that you care and that you’re part of the family,” he says.“Over the 19 years I’ve been in this business, I’ve worked with fathers and now I’m working with the sons.”The company has helped some of these suppliers purchase new equipment or implement new processes to provide better produce. Shaun expects the same relationship qualities from a telecommunications provider so he switched to Telstra in 2005 after hearing that it provided better coverage than its rivals – particularly in regional areas – while its pricing was also extremely competitive.“Telstra suited every aspect of my personal and professional life,” he explains. 

 

Foundations for growth

Each time Fresh Fellas’ contract is up, Telstra sends out a consultant to analyse the business, review its consumption, promote new products and services and assess its requirements. This approach suits Shaun who wants to focus on growing his business rather than addressing its telecommunications needs. The company now uses eight smartphones on a Telstra shared plan (now Go Mobile Plans or Mobile Broadband Plans) and Shaun uses a LifeProof case to protect his current smartphone.

It has easily outstripped the lifespan of any of the previous smartphones he has used at Sydney Markets. “My record for going through phones was five in one year,” he says.

“Thanks to the LifeProof case, I’m now using a phone which is about three years old. I’ve renamed the case ‘ShaunProof’.”

The company also uses a Telstra mobile broadband service that gives Shaun and his team reliable access to email and up-to-date information so they can conduct business professionally in the hectic environment of the markets. Not only has Telstra supported Fresh Fellas’ growth, it has helped Shaun avoid difficult situations.

“I remember once driving to Proserpine Airport in Far North Queensland for a flight that ended up being cancelled,” he recalls. “I rang the last supplier I visited, who was 60km away, and he said, ‘come and stay at our place’.

“It was pitch black and I was driving with sugar cane on either side of me,” he adds.

“If I wasn’t able to pull over and get out my tablet, locate the contact and use the GPS on the tablet to find out exactly where they were, I would have been in trouble. Thanks to Telstra’s coverage, I was able to make it right to the front gate.” 

Insight from Telstra's Executive Director TB small business

“Fresh Fellas needed a telecommunications provider with network coverage in more places to help its owners and salespeople connect with farmers and other suppliers.

“We’ve invested billions of dollars in our network over the years to help people like Shaun build businesses that rely on partners in regional areas.

“Our team also helped Shaun overcome the issue of frequent phone breakages in the bustling environment of the Sydney Markets – as he says, the LifeProof cases have extended the life of his latest phone to nearly three years. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Fresh Fellas,” says Andy Giles-Knopp.

Looking to join the network that gets you connected in more places?

Look at mobile plans with Telstra here.

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