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How global expansion saved RCT from falling revenues

By Beatrice Thomas

Smart technology company RCT operates in some of the most remote parts of the world with offices on six continents covering more than 60 countries including Siberia. 

Specialising in remote control and automation technology for mines, the company has come a long way since it was founded by Kalgoorlie-based underground electrical fitter Bob Muirhead in the early 1970s, who knew there had to be a safer way to work underground after a spate of deaths.

Based in Kewdale, the company needed to become more resilient to the up and downs of the mining industry and embarked on a global growth strategy.

CEO Brett White says during the last mining downturn, 90 per cent of its revenue was coming from Australian customers when it experienced a 20 per cent plunge.

Rather than allow the international opportunities to just keep evolving, RCT formalised its existing business dealings and establishing international offices.   

“We’d always taken the view that we didn’t want to put infrastructure into other parts of the world unless we had to as it’s costly setting up and staffing businesses and you are often faced with a myriad of compliance and regulatory reporting requirements that are different to Australia,” he said.  

“We put people in the areas where we felt there was sustainable business and sustainable growth and those are your typical mining areas and places we’ve dealt with previously like Africa, Russia, South America, and Canada.”  

The US office in Salt Lake City, which mirrors the Perth office, was established about four years ago, followed by Canada two years later, then Chile and Russia in 2019.  

White hopes to increase the company’s footprint in Africa and has visited the continent to consolidate his understanding of the business there as well as requirements of customers.

“It’s a challenging area because it’s a continent and we deal with about 12 countries there in any year and they all have their own challenges,” he says.  

“They are separate distinct companies with their own import and export issues, taxation and currency requirements, which makes it increasingly difficult to make some decisions on how to structure that business but we are increasing support there with a view to managing that on a longer term basis.”  

Another way the company has grown its reach in difficult areas is by establishing partners.  

“It has been valuable for us to bring on a trusted partner because they understand the culture and the business requirements, which we learn off and can then make a decision on whether to leave our partner in there or make a presence.” 

White says it’s an arduous task to set up an office overseas because even though RCT maintains its corporate culture the way business is done is unique to each country.

“We make an effort to use locals. We use our own guys to set up and then extricate them as quick as we can once we’ve got it bedded down,” he says.  

“That’s probably the most difficult part, even in English speaking countries like the US and Canada, we speak the same language but business is done differently.”  

With WA having a strong reputation for mining, White says the company can establish instant rapport and respect when entering a new market but it’s still a hard road without a track record in that particular country.   

“It gets you in the door but that’s about it. Everyone wants to see what you have done in their country and they disregard everything else,” he says.  

“Even if it’s an established multinational and you have done business with them in Australia or other countries, if you haven’t done business in that particular country or region, they are not skeptical but guarded. You still have to prove yourself. 

“We have had situations in the US where we have been the last ones to get an option to trial our gear and all other suitors in the country have gone through machinations and failed. Despite us having obvious successes in Australia, we’ve had to wait our turn to prove our mettle. 

“It’s a hard grind and relentless breaking down of doors to show people what we can do. It can cost us but that is a calculated risk in terms of the sorts of deals we do. We know and back ourselves. We have a history of not leaving jobs until they are completed even if it costs us money. We don’t make claims on things we can’t do.”  

As a result of RCT’s global strategy, the company has turned around its revenue base to 40 per cent from international customers in 2019, up from 10 per cent during the mining downturn.  

Smart technology company RCT operates in some of the most remote parts of the world with offices on six continents covering more than 60 countries including Siberia. 

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