SME spotlight: Mimmo Lubrano

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Sandhurst Fine Foods is a household name thanks to its range of pantry staples. Created in 1988, the proud family business is still going strong. Second generation sales and marketing manager, Mimmo Lubrano, shares his thoughts on business growth.

I was motivated to create my business because…

“We wanted to share our passion for great Italian food with the Australian people. We had a mission to allow people into our dining room to experience great Italian and Mediterranean inspired foods that we were so fortunate to have in our family home when we were growing up.”

The great challenge at the start of my business journey was…

“Getting people to believe in what we were doing. Most thought we were loonies – the bank wanted to close us down as they thought we were in a niche market with no future. We had to get people to believe in us – so we had to convince staff, customers, lenders and suppliers to believe that our mission was to enrich people’s lives with great tasting foods.”

I am inspired by…

“Great leaders that have the courage of their convictions. I am inspired by people that believe in quality of all aspects of life – quality work/life balance, quality foods, respect for environment and respect for people above all.”

The biggest challenge regarding staff is …

“Scaling staff up to the next level of challenge. 90% of all SME problems are operational. Getting good staff to get good training on taking a business to a new level. I believe we have excellent, dedicated staff that go above and beyond their job description every day.”

The hardest thing about running my own business is…

“Knowing when to shut down and relax. Also when you run a family business you must consider that there are up to three other people that have to be consulted on matters and everyone has a different opinion. So it’s a compromise – no different sometimes from a marriage!”

In five years time, I see my business…

“As a bigger version of what we have now – still run by family but having more systems and procedures that have been developed by us from the ground up vs ‘imported’ from another business culture. I can’t see us selling out, as it would defeat the purpose of what we stand for under the current circumstances. (Things change all the time though – so never say never!).”

On marketing, my preferred strategy is…

“Keep it simple and don’t listen to so called ‘marketing experts” – nobody knows our business better than we do – we just need to have simple ideas, good execution and good marketing people internally that can manage and have the discipline to say no.”

Social media: blessing or curse? And why…

“Both – it can be very powerful but is probably misunderstood by most. It will eventually find its own ground but I see it as critical if you need to get a message out to the wider population that is relevant to them and compelling. Its not just another advertising platform so it must be treated with respect.”

My views on networking are…

“Critical to get yourself in front of as many people as possible and to tell your story and learn from theirs. So networking is a must if you want to identify opportunities in all aspects of life.”

Work-life balance for me is…

“Rock and roll!! I get to play music on some weekends and time with the family is critical so I can actually spend time with my wife and two daughters, 17 and 15, before they fly the coop!”

One of the great business builders I follow is…

“Probably the owner of the company in Italy that does our Italian tomato brand Mutti. Dr Francesco Mutti took a can of tomatoes and made it a brand that is famous in Italy and most of Europe. He has taken a family business and created a brand par excellence. We like to model our business on this business as it espouses all that we aspire to be – passionate, great quality, dedication with a strong acknowledgement of the power of great marketing.”

Maintaining a competitive edge is important because…

“We tend to get caught up in our own success – as my mother says, ‘Keep your feet on the ground’.”

One of my most successful marketing activities to date was…

“Using radio to get our brand inside the heads of targeted consumers all over Australia. People still ask me if I am the ‘guy on the radio’ and it means that we are consistent and persistent with our call to action on radio. We use FM stations that are targeting people in the age groups of 25-60 – predominantly female as they are the ones that are able to transform our great tasting condiments into great meals and snacks for their respective families.”

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