Frequency – From a radio rental business to Apple reseller

Fleur Doidge
21 September, 2007
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Much success has been built on obvious foundations, but other stories tell of a more circuitous route along unexpected pathways.

Some entrepreneurs live it large. If they’re not risking the mortgage on the next big thing they’re broadcasting their dreams and desires to all and sundry at the nearest inner-city bar.

Then there are the other kind: solid, quiet professionals who keep their eyes on the prize and inch steadily upwards. Jeremy Sedley, founder and commander-in-chief of Apple reseller Frequency in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay, is — we think — in the latter camp.

Now 36, UK-born Sedley doesn’t even hail from an IT or retail background. He got into the game via the film industry, after leaving school at 16 and nabbing a job at a stockbrokers in the City of London. “I stayed there for two years, then worked in commercial real estate in central London for four years and headed off travelling in 1993 to Asia and Australia,” Sedley said.

In Australia, he worked as a cycle courier at Crisis Couriers in Sydney — but headed back to London in 1994 and got a job as a runner on a TV commercial at Pinewood Studios. Two years of back-to-back work as a runner on teams making video clips for the likes of Madonna, Oasis and Duran Duran ensued. He returned to Australia in 1996. Here, he progressed quickly to second assistant directorships on TV movies and commercials, including The Matrix in 1999.

In 1998, he had noted that, while gaffers had their own lights and camerapeople their own sets of lenses and so forth, no crew members had their own radios. “In addition, the radios available for hire were mostly very poor quality — and expensive,” Sedley said. Sedley weighed the investment required against the potential return. “I realised that I could offer far superior radios at a cheaper price.”

He also found he could give better service to the production companies by bringing gear to set with him, ensuring it was in good working order for the duration and then taking it away after the shoot. Jeremy Sedley Two-Way Radio Hire had arrived.

This approach proved successful and demand grew quickly — to the point where he had to retire from hands-on production to manage and grow the rental business in its own right, changing the name to Frequency Communications. The staff of two has grown to 20 today. “We then dropped ‘Communications’ from the name in 2006 as we felt this part of the name no longer accurately communicated the nature of the business,” he said.

The first Frequency warehouse was in Canal Road, Leichhardt — home to specialist film-industry businesses for nearly a decade. Sedley sub-let space from a local grip and began focusing on building the rental business.

Then another Apple reseller suggested that Frequency could target the many film industry people who use Macs. “This brought together two passions of mine, film production and Apple Mac, heralding the redirection of Frequency as an Apple reseller in October 2002,” Sedley said. “In 2002 we outgrew our premises in Leichhardt and moved to our current location in Rushcutters Bay.”

Sedley says he left the film industry, although he was doing quite well, because he wanted to make more money. “I have no regrets,” he says. “A freelance crew-member can only ever generate as much income as there are hours in the day. I come from an entrepreneurial family and could see opportunities that I felt would build a more secure future for myself and my family.”

So far, so good. Sales growth each year has hit around 40 percent — a result Sedley puts down to Frequency’s customer service focus. Next year, he’s targeting 80 percent sales growth. “Our total customer base is growing about 40 percent per year,” Sedley said. “We even have a customer in Arnhem Land who shops exclusively with us — he refuses to shop anywhere closer to home!”

Over the years, Sedley also noticed that customers often relied on sales staff for technical information and support. Yet salespeople are not generally especially technical. Frequency responded by setting up a free support hotline for customers and launching the Frequency.iQ training centre.

“For years, our customers asked why we didn’t offer training facilities. Finally, extra space became available late last year,” Sedley said. iQ is performing to target after six months, and has several hundred members.

A climb to the top. His wife, Anita, is a lynchpin of the company past and present. Although neither has had formal training in either IT or retail, both learnt as they went along — with Anita bringing her extensive experience and skill in marketing and communications to the mix. “I drive the business and Anita makes sense of it!” Sedley says. “And we have some great advisers working with us.”

Frequency’s success has been punctuated by the occasional blip, of course. Initially, the pair had problems with inventory management, not understanding the detrimental effect poor inventory management can have. “It was a steep learning curve but you learn from your errors, and the hiccough resulted in us implementing tight inventory controls,” Sedley said. “I think that whenever you embark on a career in a new profession or industry, the learning curve is going to be steep — more so when you’re running your own business for the first time, in an industry in which you have zero experience!”

Married for eight years, the pair have children aged six and three with another due later this year. Sedley’s hobbies include driving luxurious fast cars (he drives a VW Golf R32), photography, “and computers, of course!”. You might see him at work on the Mac Forums. But his kids take up most of his spare time.

“Taking the kids out to run about at the park or the beach is key to a peaceful life as they have so much energy. Plus, as we both work hard, we ensure that we always have a holiday to look forward to,” Sedley said.

Last year, the family visited Koh Samui in Thailand. “It was a fantastic and much-needed break.” And late 2006 saw Sedley spend three weeks trekking in Nepal, with old friends from the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. They trekked to the top of 4800m Gokyo-Ri. “It was amazing!”

This year, watch for yet more hiring — and a new store opening. “Ideally, we would like to replicate the successful formula we have created to date.”

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