DRIVING FMP BENDIX FORWARD
From selling diamonds and driving Porsches to safely stopping Australia’s cars
FMP Bendix General Manager, George Kyriakopoulos, says he landed his dream job when he was promoted to the role at the brake manufacturer 18 months ago.
Born and bred in Melbourne, he has always been a car enthusiast.
“I grew up wanting to design cars but ended up with a Commerce degree from the University of Melbourne instead. Despite falling in love with Economics I pursued Accounting as a career, however that didn’t stop me dreaming about cars – there were many notepads with little cars drawn in the corners,” he says.
“I became particularly intrigued with cars after trips overseas opened up my eyes to a variety of vehicles that I had never seen or heard of before.”
George’s taste for exotic cars had also been developed during his first job.
“Whilst studying I worked in a Jewellery store in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall selling everything from watches to diamond rings. I had a great time especially during the very busy Christmas periods,” he says.
“The store owner had a Porsche 928 with a custom designed case for carrying diamond rings. There were occasions where I would be allowed to drive it from the car park to the mall, which was a big thrill for me at the time.”
Until the Bendix role, his career didn’t really follow an automotive path, but his finance and commerce background gave him a strong grounding to pursue any market sector.
“For me, accounting was the ticket that allowed me entry to all aspects of a business,” the former FMP Bendix Finance Director explains.
“I had a few finance roles and moved from Head Office to Business Units and it was always the business units that I enjoyed the most. I had moved to a General Management role fairly early in my career and when that business was sold I went back to Finance. Moving back to Finance was harder than moving to General Management.
“As a Finance professional you have a role to play and it can be restrictive. I love being involved in all aspects of the business, I love being involved with customers, with sales, with manufacturing, marketing, engineering – the General Manager’s ticket is VIP access all areas and it’s wonderful.”
George believes the key to a successful career is actually becoming engaged in the position that you hold at any given point in time.
“For me it’s about taking an interest in the business you are part of. Don’t just look at the work you are doing,” George states.
“Let me clarify – do the job you have been assigned to do and do it well, and also make yourself available for other things. Show your passion!”
George tries not to procrastinate over what needs to be done next. He prefers to just get on with getting the job done.
“I don’t look back and ask whether I made the right or wrong decisions. All I know is that even if you don’t make the right decision, you move on. I like the adage – if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. To put it another way, make your wrong decisions work for you,” he rationalises.
George has a wife and teenage children and says “family is everything” to him.
His hobbies include bike riding and he loves the freedom that it provides.
“I have a mountain bike that I ride, it’s far slower than a road bike but I like the fact that I can go anywhere I want. I can make my own path if I want to. I don’t listen to music when I ride, I just take in the sights and sounds of my surroundings,” he says.
Bendix began in 1955 to service the emerging Australian automotive industry.
In 1965 the company won its first contract to supply General Motors Holden and continued supplying Holden until it exited Australian manufacturing in 2017. Over the years FMP supplied all Australian car companies with Australian made Original Equipment braking products.
“Our products are centred around braking. We were the Original Equipment supplier of choice for all the Australian car manufacturers and remain the individual aftermarket braking brand of choice for all Australians,” George says.
He explains that Bendix services all sectors of the Australian car parc.
“Ultimately our customers are the drivers of sedans, 4WDs, SUVs and trucks. Firstly we want to make sure that they are safe, but we also want them to have a great braking experience. Directly we service Holden, Ford, Toyota and of course the other Australian icons in the automotive aftermarket like Burson, Repco and Supercheap,” he says.
George believes that the most important feature of Bendix brakes is safety.
“Australian drivers want to be safe; and they want smooth quiet braking with low dust. We have a team of people in Australia dedicated to that task. We test on our dynos; we scan materials through the electron microscope and then we drive! We drive until we get it right,” George explains.
“For me it’s about getting the best braking experience for the unique Australian conditions. We all use our vehicles differently. In Australia a Hilux is a vehicle for the mines and yet it’s also a family 4WD that rotates from a school runabout to an adventure vehicle. The manufacturer of these versatile vehicles doesn’t know what the owner has in mind and that’s where we come in.
“Our local know-how, our local product engineering, our local product management, and our Australian manufacturing are our biggest advantage – we don’t make decisions from afar!”
Like many companies in the Australian automotive sector, Bendix has had to face the challenge of the demise of the local passenger car manufacturing industry.
“In recent times the end of Australian car manufacturing was a difficult thing to deal with,” George explains.
“Original Equipment was so entrenched in our organisation. What we learnt in making brake components for new cars put us in good stead for the aftermarket and we have maintained the high standards that come with being an OE manufacturer. This year we were granted the Ford Q1 award as an independent aftermarket supplier, which was no easy feat.”
George states that the aftermarket is now the major area on the Australian automotive scene.
“The Aftermarket industry has emerged as a powerhouse in the Australian economy. The AAAA brings together a vast range of industries in the sector and it gives us one strong united voice,” he says.
George’s focus while at Bendix is on improving the customer’s confidence in braking products.
“The user experience aspect is where I want FMP Bendix to excel at every level. From our customer to our customers’ customer. It’s intricate but you can’t make one level happy and think that your job is done. Everyone must be happy!”
For more from FMP Bendix, visit www.bendix.com.au