For almost half of his life, Martin Smith has searched the fertile grounds of Western Australia, drilling for gold, oil, minerals, or water. The thrill of the search has kept his passion alive in an industry renowned for its rough and tumble conditions. It’s the same success in adversity that has kept his business running for over 22 years.
With the help of GoGetta, experience, and some keen industry intuition, Martin’s drilling business, Orbit Drilling, has survived several economic recessions to come out on top.
As a teen and young adult, Martin worked as a stockman in his home of New Zealand, helping out wherever he was needed, for very little pay. After a few years, he caught wind of the fame and riches in the burgeoning Australian mining industry. It was then that he jumped on the first plane to Perth, where he remained for over two decades, searching for the proverbial gold.
His first mining job in 1995 took him deep below the earth, where it was hot, dirty, and he worked long hours. It was only after a year of hard work that Martin decided he wanted to branch out and become his own boss.
After work each day, Martin would spend his nights designing a new type of drill, one that could work harder and faster than anything else he was currently using. Working with a designer, he patented his design and took his product to investors.
In the initial stages, he took out a loan to build the drill. Once it was built, Martin spent his nights writing proposal letters to all the major Australian mining companies. He promised them something new, something exciting, and something that would make them a lot of money. At just 25, what he lacked in age he made up for in enthusiasm.
“I was after job satisfaction, not the money,” says Martin. “I conducted myself with honesty, transparency, integrity, and having a bit of fun! You have to go out and introduce yourself and tell them what you can do.”
Eventually, Orbit Drilling went to market.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Martin and at 53, he says it’s still a tough job: waking up early, shovelling cornflakes for breakfast, and working 14 hour days in hot and dirty mining fields. Perhaps it was this exasperation that fuelled his inspiration early this year, when he spotted a shimmering gold business opportunity amongst the dirt.
Global giant Layne Drilling was pulling out of Western Australia. In their haste to move out of a recessive mining economy, they were selling off brand-new equipment at outrageously cheap prices. Martin heard there were a handful of drillers being sold off, at a fraction of their retail price.
They were being sold for $800,000, to be specific – a slice of their original $4 million price tag. It was a steal, and Martin knew it, but trying to convince the banks to lend him this money was another story. “They heard the word ‘mining’ and ran the opposite direction,” says Martin.
He cast his net wider and enlisted the help of a finance broker to help him secure the money. His broker then connected Martin with GoGetta.
“I found out about GoGetta from one of my broker who was searching for finance, so I could get the gear,” says Martin. “I was almost prepared to buy the equipment with cash if I had to – I wanted it that bad.”
With the window of opportunity quickly closing, Martin seized upon the opportunity and snapped up not one, but four of the Layne drill rigs on sale with the help of GoGetta.
“Other people went in and bought one rig,” says Martin, “but I went in and bought four. The reason why was because I could see that there was an opportunity for a new branch in my business. Having one of a certain type of drill rig isn’t the smart thing to do, because you’re going to be up maintenance costs. Now, I can take on bigger jobs.”
Martin’s intuition served him well. “The rigs are already worth double in value,” he says.
Diversifying his business was something Martin had wanted to do for a long time, and now he had the opportunity to do so. His existing rig only drilled to 200m; whilst the new rigs drill ten times deeper to 2,000m in order to find minerals or water.
If you dig a little deeper into Martin Smith’s business ideas you’ll strike gold. A natural-born explorer, Martin has expanded Orbit Drilling into both the share market and accommodation. By pairing with public companies who invest in Orbit Drilling – with the hope he finds something of value – Martin invests back into their companies. He tells the story of buying shares with one of his investors for 5c/share: they now sit at 45c/share. They trust him, he trusts them.
Of the 30-odd employees that work for Orbit Drilling, Martin is constantly reviewing how to make the tough world of mining better for them, too. He is currently investing in better housing for his staff, and workshopping the reinvigoration of the small country towns that are near his sites – areas, he says, that need some attention.
Listening to Martin talk it’s easy to believe that he’s on the high road to success, but he’s the first to assure you that small business – no matter how spectacular the highs – also has its lows. He’s fought back from three serious recessions over the years, and insists it’s a hard slog in the hot fields of Western Australia.
“I’ve gone through the triumphs and the failures,” says Martin. “You’re still putting all your money into the business, you’re still living like a pauper. You’re still going to work every morning; you’re still at the grind.”
Martin has always marched to the beat of his own drum, and has decided that he will soon take some time off to travel, with his business in capable hands. We can’t think of a better time for this mining explorer, to finally explore the rest of the world.