Client Profile: Stoney Pinch

Crippling drought, severe flood & a “big” cash flow crisis… nothing could keep this rock solid South Australian business from finding success.

Stoney Pinch, our valued client and one of the state’s premier quarry and earth movers, is a stunning South Australian business success in the true sense of the word. Since they mined their first bit of hard rock out near Renmark in 2007, the company’s commitment to their customers and drive to out-do the competition has seen them rise to the top of their game. Now, with more than 500 customers across the state, Stoney Pinch enjoys an unparalleled reputation in supplying longer lasting hard rock for river control and the finest, purest sand for ceramics, road making and block work for agricultural growers.

How a mantra can make a mountain out of a molehill.

To understand where the true grit comes from that underpins everything this company does, we track back to the early days and the company’s founder, James Chappel. James already had an established reputation among his staff after 10 years as foreman for another company, they used to say he put “blood, guts and determination” into every second of every day. Now when you speak to anyone at Stoney Pinch, those words are a mantra of sorts which has helped them not only see off, but truly succeed in the face of tough times and big challenges.

So, what were those challenges, and what lessons are there for other SA businesses who want to star in their own success story? John Chappel, Business Improvement Officer at Stoney Pinch and father of James, explains:

“In hindsight we paid, and then borrowed, too much when we purchased the business in 2007. We still managed OK for the first two years, but then double-trouble struck in the space of a year. The 10 year drought across South Australia reached its crescendo and there was a major flood event, hitting us real hard at both ends of our business. It was a bad time and we had a big cash flow crisis.”

“But I guess that’s where the blood, guts and determination came in big time”, continues John with a proud smile. “It just wasn’t in our DNA to give up. We knew we had a fundamentally great business in a very lucrative industry, with the right people in place, and we just knew in our hearts it would work if we rode out the storm.”

And here they are now, undoubtedly one of the best in the business, the start-up debt long since paid off, with hundreds of very happy clients engaging Stoney Pinch for civil earthworks and construction, river control, road construction, demolition and tree removal… among them SA government agencies, prominent FMCGs, wineries, growers and many, many local businesses.

Stoney Pinch top tips for facing adversity in business.

When we delved deeper into the challenges the company has faced on its road to success and asked for some tips, John offered these three pearls of wisdom.

  1. Don’t be tempted to ‘play the game’ with unethical competition.

While most competitors in the industry are ethical and happy to operate on a level playing field, as in most business arenas John concedes there are a number of companies who cut corners, show disregard for compliance and move around the market offering super-low costs. John’s advice is simple: “Don’t get caught up in cost and lured into playing the game, it’s a race to the bottom. Instead double-down on your service, invest in leading-edge tools of your trade, ensure first class compliance and quote your higher price with pride. Eventually your customers will see through the other crap and appreciate your value, long term.”

  1. Never rest on your laurels, keep a constant eye out for the next income stream.

Across mining and resource services in particular, there is a critical need to keep sourcing the next supply of product – the rocky outcrop on the old Adelaide to Sydney coach road which gave the company it’s catchy name has long since been mined out – but John is adamant the advice stands for any business which wants to stand apart. “Even in lucrative, relatively easy times, never come down off your toes or take your eye off the future”, John warns us passionately. “It doesn’t take long at all to fall off your perch if you take your finger off the pulse.”

  1. When it comes to having the right people in place, it’s about mindset as well as skill set.

Even in an industry where you might think the resources, the machinery and the guaranteed demand will do all the hard work, the Stoney Pinch success rests very much on the attributes and the attitude of its staff and its suppliers. “Of course getting superior skill sets in the right places across your team is paramount”, explains John. “But so too is finding the right mindset. From our receptionists and machine operators, to our accountant and legal representation… everyone on board believes blood, guts and determination is the key.”

And now, truly international success could be beckoning.

For many Australian businesses, finding a top spot in its national market would be enough to sit back, relax and enjoy the success. But the Stoney Pinch team have continued to walk their own talk by recently securing the ‘right to mine’ a significant high-value silica sand deposit, which was discovered in September 2015 at their Cuttle Street tenement. As a result they’ve already received lots of overseas enquiries about the high-grade silica product, particularly from China and Germany.

All of us at DW Fox Tucker are looking forward to delivering our continued assistance with this hugely exciting development, which has already attracted serious overseas interest, including big players in construction from China and Germany.

The Stoney Pinch company tagline continues to ring true… business really is “rock solid”.


Phone: +61 8 8586 5990



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