Alumni Update | Issue Seven 2014

Anthony Kittel, CEO and Managing Director REDARC Electronics

Telstra South Australian Business of the Year

REDARC Electronics owned by UniSA alumnus and Managing Director, Anthony Kittel, (Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering 1988), has won the 2014 Telstra South Australian Business of the Year, announced on 27 June . The Telstra Awards operate in every state and
territory and are open to all Australian small and medium businesses in five Award categories: start-up, micro-businesses, small, medium and regional business.
Will Irving, Telstra Business Group Managing Director, with Anthony Kittel, CEO REDARC Electronics, and the Hon Tom Koutsantonis, South Australian Treasurer and Minister for Small Business
The Lonsdale-based family company manufactures a range of power conversion products including battery management systems, power supplies, DC/DC voltage converters and inverters. On accepting his award Anthony attributed the company’s success to a business model based on innovation.

"Our success has come from an unrelenting focus on new product development, employing and developing highly skilled people and providing excellent technical and after sales customer support. We continually invest at least 15 per cent of our revenue back into R&D and also make a significant investment in staff training," Anthony said.

We spoke to Anthony about his path to REDARC and his business and leadership philosophy.

Career defining moments

Brought up in Hawker in South Australia, Anthony worked as a cadet with BHP in Whyalla before completing his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at University of South Australia in 1987.

He stayed on at BHP as a development engineer and in 1991 gained an MBA from the University of Adelaide. The following year he moved to ROH Wheels in Adelaide where he was promoted to General Manager at just 28.

“My biggest achievement though, was deciding to buy my own company at the age of 32,” says Anthony.

When he and his wife Michele purchased REDARC Electronics in 1997 it employed eight staff working out of in a tin shed at Lonsdale in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

“We put everything on the line to make it a success,” says Anthony.

Over the next decade he and his team took the company to an annual revenue of $5 million with a staff of 20 and completed a new $4 million state of the art factory which they expanded in 2012.”

The company has won many manufacturing and technology awards and was a member of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 for the fourth time in 2013.

At the time of winning the Telstra awards REDARC had broken the $20m revenue barrier, employs 100 staff and is expanding into the US market.

Investing in excellent teams

The REDARC Electronics business model is based on innovation, niche marketing and a highly developed team. It is clear that Anthony is extremely proud of his team’s skill base, passion and commitment.

“We started with a team of eight who were with the company when we bought it in 1997. They have all stayed with us.

“You can have the other elements — the right amount of money invested in the facilities, the automation and the ideas – but without the team knowledge and motivation you won’t make it a success,” he says.

The company invests in its employees through training, recognition and a mentoring program.

“In all aspects of the business I make sure that we have external mentors available for our staff. Otherwise you become very insular,” says Anthony.

In 2006 he and Michele took a brave step to involve outsiders in the business when they established an advisory board for REDARC. The board is chaired by former Mitsubishi Motors Managing Director Tom Phillips AM and brings a mixture of experience to offer a review of the business, provide advice and have significant input in strategic direction.

With the closure of Mitsubishi and the impending closure of the General Motors Holden there has been much speculation about the future of manufacturing in South Australia. Traditional manufacturing is disappearing but advanced manufacturing – high value-added, niche products - is taking over, says Anthony, who is positive about manufacturing’s future in South Australia.

“You have to make things empowered by technology or by distribution. It’s about how to make sure the product is part of an overall solution to the customer . . . . you need to have a great relationship with the people using the product. We spend a lot of time on the business model to get the product and distribution right,” Anthony says.

The next step for REDARC is to continue its geographic expansion internationally, from current markets in France into the US.

Continuous learning and professional development

Anthony completed the Owner/Presidents Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2013. He holds a Diploma from the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a Fellow of the South Australian Governor's Leadership Foundation program.

“I have continued studying throughout my life. You have to keep learning or you actually become a liability. You need to keep innovating and developing yourself,” he says.

Anthony spent three years on the Board of Marcellin Technical College, which offers vocational training for Year 11 and 12 students, and was an Expert Member of the National VET Equity Advisory Council until April 2014. He is also a Member of the Flinders University Engineering Advisory Committee.

His advice to new graduates is to keep learning and developing professionally and personally.

“Whatever path you choose to take, aim to be the best that you can in that job,” Anthony says.

Formal and informal mentoring is crucial at this stage, he says. In his work with students and recent graduates he notices two key areas where mentoring really pays off: helping young people to develop communication skills, especially to be able to relate to others with different skill sets in cross-functional teams, and giving young people guidance on their career journey.

“Mentoring helps them to create the steps they need to reach their goal and develop ways to move through each step. It helps them be more confident and relaxed about their future,” Anthony says.

More than $800,000 in prizes will be shared by winners of the 2014 state, territory and national Telstra Business Awards, which have celebrated Australian small and medium businesses since 1992.

More about REDARC

Micro-Business Award winner
2014 Telstra SA Micro Business Award - Virtual Ad Agency, John Curnow
Winner of the Telstra's South Australian Micro-Business Award is Virtual Ad Agency founded by John Curnow, (Diploma in Business–Marketing, 2001), a company with an unusual business model that has seen them grow exponentially in the past five years, with customers in every Australian state and territory.
With more than 20 years in the advertising business behind him John decided to go it alone, launching the Virtual Ad Agency in 2009.

The 'virtual' business model effectively involves outsourcing as much of the work as possible, which John says makes for a very flexible business structure that seems to suit the creative world.

He says that completing a Telstra Business Awards application is a rigorous process akin to putting a business plan together, and therein lies one of the great benefits of being part of these Awards.

"As a small business we don’t get a chance to benchmark ourselves against other businesses. Winning this award gave me and the team a feeling of real achievement," says John.

REDARC Electronics joins other state winners competing in the national final and winners will be announced in Melbourne on 7 August. More about Telstra Awards

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