Ballina the global HQ of company
GOLDEN Chain Motor Inn is proof it's possible to run a successful multi-million dollar international business out of a small non-descript office in River Street, Ballina.
Despite the often widely-held assumption a large business must be headquartered in a major capital city to be viable, Golden Chain's managing director, Stephen Drew, says his company's location has actually helped.
“Coming from Sydney I was very impressed with the services here,” he said. “We have board meetings and properties around the country and don't find it difficult to get around at all.
“We're even more flexible here. We have the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta, Ballina Airport and, if you can't find a flight to suit you, you can go to Lismore.
“With phone, fax and the internet, we could be doing this business anywhere in the world, and if you can do it anywhere in the world why wouldn't you do it in the most beautiful place in the world?”
Golden Chain, Australia's largest accommodation provider that next week celebrates its 25th anniversary, was struggling many years back when one of its members approached a Sydney businessman about taking over management of the company.
In the throes of leaving Sydney for a sea change, he agreed to take up the role, setting up the national office in his new home at Brooklet.
Over the next 20 years he enticed hundreds of new members to the chain.
When Mr Drew took over three years ago and moved the headquarters to a Ballina shopfront, he was in the enviable position where he could focus on growth rather than survival.
“Growth is a big focus for us,” he said. “We are looking at cabin parks and believe with duel branding we can grow by 100 per cent.
“Being a referral-based business some of our rivals are finding it hard because they are reducing their numbers, but you have to have somewhere to refer people (travellers) if you want to be successful.”
Today the chain, which is a co-operative of motel, cabin, B&Bs and resort owners, boast 342 members offering three- to four-star accommodation.
“Originally we were motel based, but we got a lot of enquiries from people wanting other forms of accommodation,” Mr Drew said.
“As well as customers, owners of those other types of accommodation wanted to join the chain because we are so successful at referrals.”
The chain has also recently signed up members in Vanuatu and Norfolk Island, and hopes to expand further in the South Pacific.
Despite the general downturn in tourism because of the global financial crisis, Mr Drew said Golden Chain managed to sidestep the worst of it, finding that domestic tourism was largely unaffected.