Six highlights of Advantia’s first decade

The day I dragged an old desk into the spare bedroom to start the Advantia business, I had a modest optimism for how things might progress…

Ten years on, as a team of six in Bundoora’s Uni Hill business precinct, Advantia now serves some of Australia’s largest transport operators and equipment manufacturers, delivers large government-funded research projects, and has brand recognition that extends well beyond the people we know.

Here are my top picks from the many highlights of Advantia’s first decade.

Most interesting project

Have you ever wondered how a fully loaded dog trailer might behave if it decoupled from the truck at high speed but remained loosely connected by a pair of safety chains? That’s exactly what we were engaged to find out for a large tanker operator concerned about the potential impacts of retrofitting safety chains to their entire truck and dog fleet. We replicated that scenario on a test track; the results were staggering and were ultimately published in a peer-reviewed transport research journal. Read a summary of the project and see a video montage here.

Most challenging experience

When I’m engaged as an expert witness in legal proceedings, I normally take a few days to prepare my report and the matter is often settled shortly after. One of those engagements, which spanned more than a year, required me to review about a dozen lever arch files of evidence, produce one lever arch file of reports, and sit in the Federal Court for two weeks, including three days of intense cross-examination. This took an incredible toll on me, both physically and emotionally, but the drive I felt from within to support the truth and to see justice take its course was more than enough to get me through.

Biggest disappointment

Without a doubt, Advantia’s biggest disappointment is that Australia’s road managers have been unable to deliver the degree of road access that Ministers wanted for PBS vehicles when they unanimously approved the PBS Scheme in 2007. Many PBS vehicles face significant obstacles just to get access to a single route, let alone any kind of useful network. By making things difficult for these safer and more efficient PBS vehicle configurations, our road managers are not only unnecessarily driving up the number of trucks on their roads, but they’re forcing us all to share the roads with trucks that they know have been proven to be almost twice as likely to be involved in a major crash.

Favourite customer experience

It would be unfair to name just one, but we don’t need to; we have numerous long-standing, repeat customers who are all cut from the same cloth. We mean no disrespect to any of our valued customers, but the ones who we feel particularly good about working with time after time are those who are so comfortable with our business relationship that they treat it like a personal relationship. They routinely engage our services with a minimum of fuss. They just know that we’ll deliver what they need and that we won’t take advantage of them. They pay early, they recommend us to others and they keep coming back for more. We’ll always go the extra mile for these customers.

Most powerful lesson

This lesson didn’t come in one big hit; it accumulated over time, and I believe its day-to-day application differentiates us in the market. The lesson? Don’t fleece people; you’ll do better in the long run by shearing them repeatedly. And when your client contact takes a position at another company, the size of your flock increases!

Greatest source of satisfaction

Am I allowed to give two answers to this one? At one level, we love nothing more than spotting a new PBS combination out on the road. It feels great to know that we’ve helped optimise a client’s transport operation and ultimately boosted the Australian economy. I think this feeling comes from getting the result that a client deserves, even when the odds are stacked against them. But there’s another source of satisfaction for me on a personal level. I really enjoy watching my team grow and develop confidence in their roles, helping each other to solve our clients’ problems, and adopting the high-performance, customer-focused, results-oriented culture of Advantia. It’s allowed me to let go a little and focus my energy on those little things that otherwise get pushed aside, meaning that we’re better serving our clients’ best interests.