Military Mechanic to Entrepreneur: One Man’s Journey
Every business has a special story behind it, and family businesses often have the most interesting tales to tell. Branigans Tyres provides an excellent example, with the journey of its founder, Chris Lett, illustrating how a person with the right mindset can grow and develop into a successful entrepreneur.
Chris was just 16 when he joined the army as an apprentice automotive engineer. Discovering a love for all things mechanical, he soldiered through his apprenticeship, rose through the ranks, and ended up teaching other young apprentices the skills of his trade. “I know a reasonable amount about vehicles,” says Chris, who certainly made the most of his 20-year army career to acquire knowledge and then pass it on.
The next chapter of Chris’s career had nothing to do with his love of cars, but it did involve something else that Chris loves: sport. With a first-class rugby career to back him up, Chris brought his love for developing people’s potential to the sportsfield as a development manager for a New Zealand rugby team.
“It was a very exciting time,” says Chris. “Jonah Lomu and three or four other famous All Blacks were on the team at the time. It reached the finals and had a massive following.”
But rugby wasn’t the only sport to enjoy Chris’s attention. For five years, he managed a top Auckland golf course, managing its attendant club and overseeing the redevelopment of the course which is still recognised as one of the best in the country.
Influential figures feature in many success stories, and it was during his time managing the golf club that Chris encountered the person who inspired him to move towards an adventure in entrepreneurship. “He had a lot of business knowledge, and it was time to gain new skills to fill a knowledge-gap. Getting an MBA seemed like the best option – it was a great challenge and a massive commitment, but very enjoyable.”
After completing his MBA, new horizons beckoned – both in terms of his career and the country he calls home. He admits that thanks to his qualifications and experience he could easily have entered the corporate world, but the idea didn’t suit his goals or his spirit of adventure, so Chris moved to Australia and began casting around for opportunities. He found them.
“There was a little business in a shed in a back alley in Southport. It was a tyre workshop with an unprepossessing exterior and what seemed like very little stock.” Chris bought the business. That was nearly 20 years ago, and Chris’s business interests have expanded with an additional branch in Burleigh Heads and the acquisition of a steady supply of new and nearly new tyres to keep both branches well-stocked and ready for the cars that come rolling in.
The environment in which a tyre business must operate is very competitive with large franchises constantly seeking to take over the market, but Chris and his family are holding their own. “Branigans remains competitive in its pricing, and being a local business rather than one of a big chain gives it character, appeal, and close control over the service offered,” says Chris.
As for the future, he’s confident that Branigans has a long life ahead of it – and it will still be a family business. His son, Shane, is playing an active role in running the business, and there’s even a grand-daughter showing interest in the concern. “It has the potential to last for several generations,” says Chris. “It will be up to the family to decide whether Branigans will give them the careers and personal growth they want.”
For further information, visit or call Chris and his team at Second Hand Tyres Gold Coast |Branigans Budget Tyres by contacting the Service Centres in Burleigh Heads (07) 5535 2660 or Southport (07) 5591 8633.
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