Tony Antonious, CEO, Polivac International 

Tony Antonious: Transforming Challenges into Stories of Triumph

Being a good business leader does not just mean managing the balance sheet or checking invoices, but it is far beyond that. One should come up with an innovative idea every day that would foster the organisation’s growth.

Having a strong personality and providing every employee the opportunity to learn and grow are the most important qualities an entrepreneur must have.

On our quest for the most influential business leaders, we came across an amazing personality, Tony Antonious, Owner, and Managing Director at Polivac. He has all the leadership qualities necessary to create a better future for the company.

In the following interview, Tony shares the challenges he faced while entering the industry and how he managed to convert them into opportunities. 

Give us a brief overview of your journey as the owner and Managing Director of Polivac International and tell us what inspired you to venture into the commercial cleaning equipment manufacturing space.

I started my career almost 35 years ago as a cleaner and supervisor in a cleaning company. Throughout the journey, I always believed that opportunities are not offered but seized. Hence, I established my cleaning supply shop, where I sold all types of cleaning equipment and chemicals.

The end users approached me with different problems, and my focus was to provide solutions to these problems. This new venture helped me gain knowledge and expertise to innovate and succeed in the industry.

Later in 1990, an exciting opportunity knocked on the door, I got a chance to purchase Polivac from a receivership. But this opportunity came with great challenges. The challenge was to survive and succeed.

When I purchased the company, they already had large branches in almost every major city in Australia. The branches were not managed well. My challenge was to cut overheads and start surviving. I closed all the branches and started operating from a central warehouse, which was also the head office. I initiated a strategic move to concentrate on manufacturing highly productive and operator-friendly machines. These strategies contributed to Polivac’s success over time.

Tell us more about Polivac, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the commercial cleaning equipment space.

Polivac embarked on the journey with a vision to equip the cleaning industry with machines, which increases productivity using intelligent design. Polivac machines are diligently designed to augment performance, efficiency, and safety, reflecting the potential of Australian-made technology and reliability.

Polivac’s stronghold in the sector is because of our focus on customisation, the safety of the operators, and powerful collaboration with partners. We always put the needs of our customers first. Hence, we customise machines according to their diverse requirements.

Safety is our priority; hence, we provide regular risk assessment and training for each machine. We have created a strong network of over 120 distributors to cater to the local and international community. We foster strong relationships with our supply partners and distributors, who are the key supporting pillars for us.

From a leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the pandemic on the global manufacturing sector, and how did you overcome the challenges rooting from the pandemic?

The pandemic has shed light on the significance of local manufacturers and suppliers because of the disruptions in international trade. Building a strong local presence and maintaining good relations with local suppliers are crucial.

Manufacturers should look for opportunities to diversify their product offerings that can help increase demand during these times. We identified the opportunity to cater to the demand and upscale our business by selling foggers, masks, and sanitizers during the pandemic.

Another challenge was to build machines in a short time because of the increase in demand during the pandemic. Our team at Polivac has worked hard to meet the supply needs and deliver quality products on time. 

What is your opinion on the necessity for commercial cleaning equipment manufacturing companies to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving customer preferences?

Firstly, the prime focus should be on creating an operator-friendly machine. Along with innovative technology, companies should focus on manufacturing equipment incorporated with ergonomic design and safety suggestions.

Secondly, different customers have different requirements. Hence, customising the machines according to their working needs is essential. 

What efforts did you and your team at Polivac take during the pandemic to sustain operations and ensure the safety of your employees at the same time?

During the pandemic, we adhered to the COVID-19 safety plan and complied with guidelines provided by the government. Regular cleaning and use of hand sanitizers and masks were mandatory. Our employees took an online COVID-19 infection control training. 

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the manufacturing business ecosystem in Australia?

The Australian manufacturing business ecosystem needs to focus more on automation.

Post-pandemic, contactless approach will be prioritised to increase safety measures. Automation in the industry can help to achieve this objective. 

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the manufacturing space?

Focus on sectors with lesser competition and niche markets, which can yield higher margins. Make wise decisions, lease out spaces and equipment during the initial stages. Build and nurture your relationships with your suppliers and customers. Invest time and money in research and development, and remember it is a continuous process. 

In your opinion, what could be the future of the commercial cleaning equipment manufacturing sector post the pandemic? And how are you strategizing your organization’s operations for that future?

The future looks promising for our sector. Cleaning standards and frequency have increased and will remain the same post-pandemic. Our strategy is to increase the manufacturing lines to accommodate the growing demand but, at the same time, successfully maintain the quality standards of the machines.