Angus Barrett specialises in Australian made saddlery and leather products. It also runs a profile cutting business, servicing Orange and the Central West of NSW.
A lawyer in a former life, the General Manager role Sarah Barrett recently took on in her husband’s business poses a mix of new challenges and opportunities for her.
The business has six to eight core team members and, as Sarah points out, the size makes it hard to find and justify the resources needed to do the courses necessary to complement, extend and add depth to her abilities and skills.
“Courses such as the AGSM Executive Programs’ General Manager Program are great because time out of the business is minimised, but they’re expensive, which makes them difficult to justify from a budget perspective. The Mary Reibey Scholarship offered the perfect opportunity to do an intensive week without the financial cost. It’s why it was so fantastic to win.”
Sarah says her expectations of the course and what she actually experienced were different in the “most positive of ways”.
“I quickly realised it wasn’t possible to provide us with business management solutions in a week nor would it be sensible,” says Sarah.
The expectation was an example of what Sarah learned was System 1 thinking – where people rely on gut reactions to questions, problems, opportunities as well as falling back on the experiences they’ve had to date rather than ‘slowing their thinking down and looking at what they want in a different way’.
“We had to challenge ingrained habits and the way we made decisions by questioning our immediate responses, challenging the way we normally think and unpacking the biases we bring to how we do things,” Sarah explains.
Motivated to step back and analyse the culture, drives, performance and strategic decision making of Angus Barrett, she was, as the experts are fond of framing the shift, moving toward ‘working on the business rather than in it’.
“One of the big take-aways for me came from thinking about what customers’ value and what we value and whether they align or even need to align.
“We value being Australian made and high quality. It’s important to ensure that’s the message that reaches our customers. We also have to ensure the customer we target upholds and strives for those same values. It’s complex.”
Another great take-away for Sarah was the potential online has for the business. From sourcing materials to retail sales and marketing, a website that covers the nation and the globe and that doesn’t sleep is a great asset.
“We go to a number of regional horse events and through various targeted sponsorships, including a number of camp drafting events, the business has been able to use its mobile shop and sponsorship role to market and retail its products. That platform is also able to promote and develop the online capacity of the business,” says Sarah.
Recent overseas trips to source raw materials and study French saddle making have delivered unexpected results, including international exporting opportunities. In the unique way online offers, these markets can research and contact the company 24/7 and have their questions and interests dealt with in a timely and detailed manner.
“We didn’t think anyone would be interested in Australian saddlery, which is quite specific, but there are international markets where our products will be well received,” explains Sarah.
According to Sarah, the people she met in the course gave her as much as the lecturers: “The learning style was so participatory. I suppose I’d expected the didactic environment I’d been used to in law and this was about connections and networking opportunities. It was certainly something that exceeded my expectations.”
Angus Barrett has also accepted AGSM’s recent offer to be the live case study in its Executive MBA course for students doing their Strategic Development unit.
“We’re really excited to present the business to students who will then analyse and report back on strategy and future steps for us, as well as recommending where we could take things. It’s a wonderful development and opportunity for us and totally unexpected,” finishes Sarah.