Chess Engineering makes stuff that people need. That’s how its 64 year old CEO, Stephen Facer describes the business he’s owned and operated for 14 years.
“Before you even arrived at work this morning chances are you’ve already come into contact with something that Chess has made. Your orange juice out of a tetra pack, if you ate cornflakes for breakfast or equivalent, maybe you caught the train to work or if you’re driving and have gone over the mobile median strips, under road signs, we’ve probably made it.”
Just like his business, Stephen is a practical man so it was a surprise even to himself that he’d get involved in an industry he admits he knows very little about. His background is in agriculture, where he worked for multi-nationals in Africa, Asia, USA and Europe but he was tired of the constant travel and came home to try something new.
“I bought the business because it had a big block of land. If it all failed my wife said, well we sell the land and get most of our money back, we’ll move to a cheaper suburb and the family will still love you.”
Thankfully it’s worked out, and this year Chess is anticipating a record profit.
Stephen takes me on a tour of the factory, and it’s clear his lack of knowledge in engineering hasn’t diminished the respect the workers have for their boss. As he shows me round he’s greeted warmly, many of the workers stop what they’re doing and wave hello or shake his hand.
The company employs 85 people, and many have been there a long time. It’s oldest staff member is almost in his eighties, and is as sharp as ever. With so much work coming in Stephen tells me they need to hire another five employees and they intend to grow even further.
“We’ve become quite dominant in rail, the food industry is coming back to us, and now we’re finding infrastructure is driving us ahead.”
Stephen attributes some of that success to the strength of state’s economy, a sentiment felt by many other New South Wales business operators who took part in the latest Business Conditions Survey.
“Confidence is at near record highs,” said the Business Chamber’s Chief Executive, Stephen Cartwright. Businesses are expanding at a healthy pace and are optimistic about the future.”
“The perceived strength in the state’s economy is the key driver behind business growth and investment but cost pressures remain a drain,” said Mr Cartwright.
Increased energy costs haven't gone unnoticed at Chess, the company has had to spend a lot of money putting solar panels on the roof. So far it’s helped keep the bills down.
When I ask Stephen why he thinks he’s survived in an industry he knows little about his answer is of course practical.
“It comes down to three simple rules superior client service, innovation and no idiots. You don’t need to work with people you don’t get on with, clients included. I think we’re growing because we’re a sleeves rolled up kind of company.”