COS is Australia’s largest privately owned office products supplier, servicing over 5,000 business customers across Australia and offering thousands of products used in today’s modern workplace including technology, kitchen and cleaning, furniture, print and promotional items, and office supplies. COS supports organisations of all sizes by making the selection and delivery of office supplies easy, streamlined and cost effective, allowing organisations to remain focused on business critical activities.
What are your aspirations for the future of your family business?
We aspire for COS to be a long term legacy business in the Australian office products industry. Dominique Lyone (my dad) founded the business in 1976 and remains as the CEO today. My sister Amie and I joined the business over 10 years ago and hold executive positions today. We will succeed our dad as Co-CEO when the time is right and we intend to pass the family business to our brother (Caz is 14 today) and then to our children. This is assuming they will be interested and capable!
What have been the greatest opportunities being a family business in your industry?
Being a family business gives us a competitive advantage for many reasons. It keeps us agile, we make decisions quickly & sometimes informally! We make commercial decisions, every dollar counts and we don’t waste money on activities that don’t offer a return. We think long term – we are going to be around for decades to come so we make investments for the long term future.
What are the greatest challenges of being a family business?
Aside from the hard work and stress it is a challenge to compete against global entities with deep pockets. In recent years our industry has been extremely competitive. Our competition has been foreign owned companies where Australia is simply a branch of a large entity and making a profit was not a priority. It is extremely difficult to compete against businesses that don’t need to make a profit, as a family business we must return a profit every year, we don’t have a global owner with deep pockets! Our patience and commitment has paid off as in the past two years three of our global competitors sold their Australian business and we were in a fortunate position to purchase one of them.
What advice would you give to other family businesses or those who are thinking about starting one?
The passion of a family business for its staff and customers is hard to compete against. It takes everything you have, blood, sweat and tears but it is worth it. My advice would be to recognise your strengths and play to them, focus on the customer value and bring in outside advice to speed you along when you need it.
What are the main benefits or value your membership with FBA has offered you?
My sister Amie and I are both part of forum groups and this has been invaluable to both of us. It is a monthly sanity check with other people also going through the pressure of being part of a family business, a great sounding board outside of your immediate family and an excellent learning opportunity to have exposure to other family businesses at an executive level. We also regularly attend our state conference and the national conference to learn about how to continue to build our business and get inspired by other great Australian family businesses.