Keeping it relative
Following in his father’s footsteps, Greg Ball, general manager of Bustruck, joined the family business and never looked back. He tells BLAIR BURMEISTER how he and his father built their business from the ground up.
There’s nothing stronger than family, and provided there is little conflict, these bonds can lead to great things in business. This has been the case for Ball and his father, Andrew Ball, who are testament to the fact that keeping it relative can be the backbone to maintaining a successful business.
Ball junior’s roots lie in Port Elizabeth, where he was born, but Johannesburg is more of a home to him as this is where he was brought up. He speaks passionately about his schooling experience in the North West Province – “I went to Potchefstroom Boys High and loved every minute of it.”
Ball senior started the Bustruck business of panel conversions in 1991, with his son joining the venture shortly after completing his schooling. “My Dad started the business and it grew quite quickly. I had started to do my plumbing training but he needed my help – and we never looked back.”
The company started out simply; building seats for large buses. “Then panel vans were introduced in South Africa, and we were asked to do entire people-carrier conversions,” says Ball. “This took our business to a new level.”
It certainly did! The company is now doing an average of eight conversions a day. “And I’m proud to say that this year we achieved a new record, with a total of 14 bus conversions completed in
The Bustruck business has moved away from its humble beginnings, and this is a great source of pride for Ball, who says that at this point in his career, he has finally realised that a business takes time to be successful. “There were quite a few lean years in the beginning, but it’s an amazing feeling when you reach that level where a business matures and things really start to take off.”
For Ball, a rewarding aspect of his job is the relationship he has with customers. “I like to come in early and get production meetings out of the way, then it’s time for e-mails and visiting customers. I love the fact that we have never let a customer down, ever!”
Father and son have worked hard to get the company to where it is now. “A highlight for me is the fact that Bustruck is the main go-to company for most of the big vehicle manufacturers,” says Ball.
He adds that the company has had a phenomenal year. “Our sales are up around 30 percent from last year. And we’ve always rented our premises, but have now bought land in Midrand and will break ground on our purpose-built factory this year. It’s all very exciting.”
Looking ahead, Ball says he’s excited about current automation trends. “The better the tools, the better the end product,” he says. “We plan to have mechanical moving production lines soon, and will then fit ready made components to the vehicles.”
Naturally, there have been challenges along the way – rising costs being one of them. “We’ve worked very hard to bring costs down,” says Ball. “Unfortunately we have to start importing components because we cannot ignore the price advantages.” He is aware of the impact such moves have on the local job market. “But it really makes a difference to the bottom line.”
While he likes to keep things simple, and tries to be as flexible as possible, Ball believes businesses across the world have had the game changed for them. Thankfully, this business has a solid foundation. It’s come a long way, and Ball is grateful to have his father as a mentor and business partner.
“I have to give my father all the credit,” he says. “I have learned everything from him and we have always worked very well together.”