There has been a revolutionary change in the way we do business over the last two decades. Where companies once built and procured their own physical infrastructure, many now outsource that infrastructure, building a network of suppliers, services and contractors instead. This allows companies to be more agile and adaptable; to lower their operating costs; and for more start-ups to enter the market with less risk and commitment.
Josh and Peter Willis have been witnesses to this change. The brothers and ex-rowers founded Pontoon Sports in 2002, making custom high-performance teamwear for rowers. They gradually branched into other sports, including kayaking, canoeing, triathlons and dragonboating, and expanded their market to the UK, establishing a strong reputation and acquiring institution-wide contracts with prestigious universities, schools and sports events.
Pontoon Sports originally produced its garments in Australian factories, before moving production to a facility in Fiji. Josh and Peter employed about 50 people in the Fijian factory, and eight in their Australian office.
Having built a successful business, Josh and Peter each wanted to try their hand at something new, selling the factory in 2016 and putting the company on hiatus. But they still received enquiries for Pontoon Sports, and as Covid-19 hit, they saw an opportunity to reignite the business and structure it in a different way.
“Our old approach was built with lots of people and infrastructure. Our new approach was to see what we could build with just the two of us,” says Josh. “Pete is really good at sourcing and resourcing, so he researched factories, making facilities, pattern makers – aspects that we were once paying a lot of money for, and are now more cost effective.”
“Today you can utilise the infrastructure and services of other companies – factories, logistics, warehouses, shipping and returns. You couldn’t do that before,” says Peter. “Now we can source custom product and with incredibly fast turn-around times.”
While Josh and Peter now operate Pontoon Sports in a different manner, they have the benefit of the reputation, legacy and client base they had already established, giving them a great advantage over newcomers to the market. “You have to deliver on your promise and quality to cut though the noise today,” says Peter.
Outsourcing allows businesses to be more agile and adaptable, with less risk and commitment related to the costs of factories and employees. The same also applies for offices, especially when you’re a team of two. “Being members at Desk Space gives us flexibility so we can be a low-impact-cost business,” Josh says.