Date posted: 12/11/2020 5 min read

How ANC handled a 40% lift in demand during COVID

CFO Matt Clarke-Bruce CA and his team at ANC delivery services were put to the test when COVID-19 arrived in Australia.

In Brief

  • The COVID-19 pandemic boosted business for delivery service ANC by 40% overnight.
  • CFO Matt Clarke-Bruce credits his focus on a strong team as the key to navigating stressful times of COVID-19.
  • ANC is calling for 250 additional owner-drivers to meet the surge in demand.

By Johanna Leggatt

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extreme effect on many businesses — boosting some while shuttering others — and ANC’s delivery services across Australia have been no different.

In March, with the trading climate uncertain and lockdowns looming, CFO Matt Clarke-Bruce CA and his team mapped out a series of models that covered both an “extreme growth” outcome from the pandemic, as well as a “complete business shutdown”.

“Of course, nothing prepares you for a pandemic,” says Clarke-Bruce.

“There was a very real question [during the early days of lockdown] of whether we would be deemed a service that simply had to stop.”

ANC offers full-service, last-mile delivery, including assembly and installation, for clients including Bunnings Warehouse, JB Hi-Fi, IKEA, The Good Guys, Telstra, Williams Sonoma and Miele.

“We effectively assembled three teams at the start of the pandemic,” explains Clarke-Bruce.

CFO Matt Clarke-Bruce CAPicture: CFO Matt Clarke-Bruce CA.

“We effectively assembled three teams at the start of the pandemic.”
Matt Clarke-Bruce CA, ANC

“One team was dedicated to ensuring a COVID-safe environment; an operations team strategised about how to support clients who may experience a significant uptick in volume; and then me and the finance team were modelling for a significant business downturn and how we would handle that.”

The COVID boom times

Fortunately for ANC, it was the boom model that proved accurate, with the company not only allowed to keep servicing clients, but having a 40% lift in business almost overnight thanks to consumers’ enthusiastic uptake of online shopping and home deliveries during COVID lockdowns.

ANC is preparing for an increase in deliveries of almost 50% around Australia over the next three months, and has issued a call-out for some 250 additional owner-drivers to meet the surge in demand. Some of ANC’s clients have had online sales grow by 700%.

“We were travelling as a A$93 million business, and now we’re a A$130 million business,” says Clarke-Bruce.

How ANC handled a 40% lift in demand during COVID

A quality team makes all the difference

The stressful experience of adapting to pandemic conditions has strengthened Clarke-Bruce’s belief in the importance of modelling, of having a plan, and of building a firm foundation to enact it.

“I think if the foundation had not been there prior to the pandemic, then we would have struggled,” he says.

“I think if the strong foundation wasn’t there prior to the pandemic, then we would have struggled.”
Matt Clarke-Bruce CA, ANC

“The foundation is only as strong as a quality team and that makes all of the difference.”

Finding the right team is one of the most important roles of a CFO, according to Clarke-Bruce.

“You could say it’s cash flow, you could say it’s profitability… but for me, all of that will flow if you manage your team right.”

Switching to the SME sphere

Clarke-Bruce knows what it is like to work in a mismatched team. Early on in his career he worked for Ernst & Young in business services and auditing, and while he learned an enormous amount he admits he never really found his place.

“It was only when I threw in that job to start my own charter fishing business, and I started talking to small-to-medium business owners on the boat, that a new world opened up,” he says.

This experience solidified his commitment to working directly with the right people — those who prioritise relationships and share his values.

“I was sitting on the boat and chatting directly to the people with skin in the game; those who are strategising and making decisions and moving forward.”

A CFO who is part of the team

He returned to the business world with a fresh focus on the SME space, and a strong anti-hierarchical streak. For one: you won’t hear Clarke-Bruce call himself the CFO that often.

“The company is not about the CFO, and I hate it when people call me boss,” he says.

“I’m just another team member, and it's my job to make sure the team is optimised, that we've got the right people in the right roles.”

He also credits his CA qualification with giving him the skills, experience and accountability to “add value to almost any business”.

“I think it gives you the ability to add immense value, and if you can add value, you will always have options.”

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