PROFILE: Jason Mitchell, All Marine Spares

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Marine Business caught up with the new owner of All Marine Spares, Jason Mitchell, to find out more about his plans for this long-standing industry supplier.

It says much about the character of local marine distributor, All Marine Spares, that when the new owner and director, Jason Mitchell took over the company last year, the first thing he wanted to know was whether or not he had the buy-in of the staff.

Such a concern recognises the vital role that the accumulated in-house knowledge plays in providing a comprehensive parts and accessories service to the company's trade customers. When customers ring up, they know they'll be able to speak to experienced mechanics who can not only make recommendations as to the right parts to use but also talk them through the repair process and perhaps suggest alternative methods.

This focus on providing a specialised support service is one of the hallmarks of All Marine Spares and one of the reasons why it has long been the first point of contact for many marine businesses seeking spare parts and equipment.

Under the astute guidance of former owner Leigh Francis, the company has built a comprehensive of portfolio of products to service the mechanical demands of the local industry. A tour of the company's warehouse at Mona Vale on Sydney's northern beaches highlights the sheer range of products that the company supplies. Equally revealing is that in the office upstairs, the sales reps are constantly on the phone handling customer queries and helping mechanics with whatever issues they are facing.

A successful succession

With any long-standing company, especially one with such a respected reputation in the industry as All Marine Spares, the issue of succession planning is always going to be critical. How to pass the baton from a well-known figure such as Leigh Francis to the next generation without undermining the brand?

With the arrival of Jason Mitchell, All Marine Spares looks to have made the transition very successfully indeed.

For a start, Mitchell comes to the business with extensive global experience in the marine industry with Canada Metal Pacific (CMP) where his uncle, John Mitchell, is president. Having originally started out in the 1900s servicing the plumbing and forestry sectors, CMP is now the world's largest manufacturer of die-cast marine anodes and is best-known for its range of Martyr anodes, Titan chain and shackles, and Rochna anchors. It has facilities in four locations worldwide, including a production plant in China, and was recently rated one of Canada's fastest growing companies.

It was in his role as manager for CMP's international sales that Jason Mitchell first met Leigh Francis and got to know the All Marine Spares business.

“He'd been purchasing from CMP prior to that for 25 years so it was a very strong friendship and relationship,” he explains.

It was while he was visiting another client in Brisbane that Mitchell met his future wife and as a result, over time, the appeal of moving to Australia permanently became harder to ignore.

“I was never going to live over here unless I was still in the industry. I've been in it since I was 18 years old and I know most of our suppliers who we already deal with so I never really wanted to leave it.”

When the opportunity to arose last year to take over the running of All Marine Spares, Mitchell could see how it made sense, both commercially and personally. The deal was done and the company entered a new phase.

Learning the ropes

Since then, Mitchell says it has been an easy transition into his new role even though there is a lot to learn about the business. For a start, there's a big difference between how a manufacturer and a distributor operates in the same industry. For years, Mitchell sold CMP products to All Marine Spares and many other trade suppliers; now he's in their shoes, having to deal with both frontline customers as well as manage the range of manufacturers from all around the world who make up the All Marine Spares portfolio.

In this respect, Mitchell has been assisted by the on-going guidance and involvement of Leigh Francis in the business. The pair attended the METS show in November and Mitchell is the first to admit that it opened his eyes to tour the event as a distributor rather than a supplier.

“METS was great for us this year,” he says. “We met with people I knew before but never thought of them as suppliers because I used to sell to them. But it's amazing the partnerships you can grow from your past.

“The key is to walk around these shows with a mechanic because they understand the parts and they know the needs in the marketplace. For us, that's the most beneficial thing.”

Although it is still early days, Mitchell is keen to make his mark on the business and has plans in the pipeline to leverage the company's position as a leading marine parts supplier.

To date, his focus has mainly been on internal business processes, finding out how the company works and the areas in which improvements can be made. He makes a point of having a desk next to his sales reps rather than a separate office, not in order to keeps tabs on them but to learn about the local industry and the people in it.

Overall Mitchell is bullish about the local industry off the back of a relatively strong economy and a growing population, which is just another reason why he wants to be a part of it.

“We just saw a strong future and that's really what it is all about,” he adds. “I wouldn't be interested in a business or a market that was flat-lined.”

This article was first published in the February-March issue of Marine Business magazine.

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