CCBR Business Review

4 Local People - Local Knowledge Local Service - Global Solutions For all your business insurance requirements Phone: 4355 9999 Fax: 4355 9977 Unit 4/3 Pioneer Ave. PO Box 3009, Tuggerah NSW 2259 AFS License No: 244618 INSURANCE BROKERS CO V E R S T O R Y Brook Family The Racing Experts THE BROOK GROUP story is a prime example of what can happen when a busi- ness takes a calculated leap of faith into the future as an early adopter of new technology when others hesitate. In the late 1990s, the Central Coast multi-generational business took a huge financial risk to invest in state- of-the-art digital technology that none of their competitors could see the value in until it was too late and they were left behind in the Brook Group’s wake. It was a strategic gamble and an enormous risk that paid divi- dends, and the Brook family hasn’t looked back since. Today, Brook Group is the larg- est manufacturer and supplier of technical equipment to the racing and sporting sec- tors in Australasia and in a growing number of other locations in the world. Their racing client base alone stands at more than 300 individual clubs. But, as this story will dem- onstrate, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since their big break in the late 1990s. The Brooks have learned that when supporting a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on live animals, anything can happen. The Brook Group journey began in the garage of a home in Donnison Street, Gosford in 1954, where it would remain for the next 36 years. Founder, Reginald (Reg) Brook, the father and father-in-law of cur- rent directors, Graeme and Fiona Brook, moved to the Central Coast from Brisbane after designing his own black and white film photo finish camera for the racing industry. The first recipients of his cam- eras were Gosford Races and Greyhounds and Wyong Races, closely followed by Tamworth and Wagga Races. All remain loyal clients today. During the Wagga instal- lation, Reg met his wife Joan, who became from the US, which came with a hefty price tag. After consulting with Fiona, he bought it on the spot. Despite going into debt and not taking wages for several years while they generated awareness about the new technology and what it could do, it was the best decision they have ever made. “We were one of five photo finish companies in Australia at the time, all having roughly equal market share. The others said digi- tal would never take off. So we grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. And we’ve never looked back. A few competi- tors later tried to jump on the bandwagon when they saw it take off but they were too late. And others that tried to just didn’t have the expertise to deal with the digital technology,” said Graeme. As a result of that calculated risk coupled with superior cus- tomer service, always listening to what the customer wants and finding an innovative way to deliver it, Brook Group now holds around 70% market share in Australia. Since making the decision to be early adopters of digital technology, their turnover has grown around 20% a year, even during the GFC when people actually bet more often, according to Graeme. In 1999 the Brooks moved out of the shed and into the premises they currently occupy at Ourimbah. “The place was too big for our needs at the time but we soon filled it,” said Graeme, adding that with eight full time staff, including their son, Callan, and four part time staff today, the premises is now on the small side. All displays are designed and built onsite by their team of electronic technicians, another point of difference to their competitors who import from China. Staff retention is strong with Fiona saying they have always looked for cultural fit first and foremost. “Being such a close-knit group it’s important that we look for team players because the rest can be taught,” she said. Referred to as ‘the racing experts’ by cus- tomers and suppliers alike, the Brooks have cameras operating at 60 to 70 race meets every week throughout Australia and New an integral part of the business with her book keeping skills. Reg went on to form a tote company that sold betting tickets at the racetracks. Over the next fifteen years, that company became one of the largest in Australia, eventually being sold to the TAB. The sale prompted Reg to return his focus to the production of information displays, electronic timing and photo finish systems. Having grown up with the business operat- ing from home, Reg’s son, Graeme always knew his future was to join the family business. His decision to study Computer Science at the University of NSW before joining the business full time proved to be a significant decision for the future, as his technical expertise and knowledge would create a significant point of difference from their competitors. During his time at uni- versity, Graeme worked for the business, operating the photo finish equipment and travelling interstate to do installations. In 1990, Reg officially retired and Graeme and Fiona moved the factory to a large shed at the back of their property at Ourimbah. Over the next few years, requests to build photo finish equipment and displays for the Australian greyhound, horse and harness racing industries ramped up. Business was flourishing when in 1997 Graeme was invited to the Gold Coast to view the latest digital photo finish camera By Phaedra Pym “The others said digital would never take off. So we grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. And we’ve never looked back.” The Brooks’ diversification stood them in good stead to weather the storms of the Equine Influenza outbreak in 2007/08 and the Special Commission of Inquiry into the greyhound racing industry in 2015 when the industry was almost brought to its knees. CENTRAL COAST BUSINESS REVIEW AUGUST 2020