Sheep Psychology

Charlie and Tana Webb after Back Up Charlie won the Machine of the Year Award at the 2016 Henty Field Days.

Charlie and Tana Webb after Back Up Charlie won the Machine of the Year Award at the 2016 Henty Field Days.

Whether it is fair or not, sheep are often referred to in derogatory terms when it comes to their intelligence; usually when they break away from the mob and make the lives of their handlers a misery. Charlie Webb, decided to delve into the psychology of sheep so that his life as a farmer, and his woolly charges, is made much easier. The result is Back Up Charlie.

When Back Up Charlie – a flexible lead up race for sheep handlers - was awarded Machine of the Year at the Henty Field Days in 2016, Charlie Webb felt very satisfied. He already knew that it was a winner because he’d invented it for his own use on the farm, but the public recognition made his task of marketing this new innovation to other farmers all the more easier. A subsequent award at Orange in 2017 confirmed that Back Up Charlie was on the road to success but naturally there was a lot of hard work that led up to this point.

To hear more about this award winning innovation, I caught up with Charlie Webb at his Lakeside property just outside Lockhart in New South Wales, on the day of his eldest daughter Philippa’s wedding. What was usually a working shearing shed had been transformed into a reception venue for the guests shortly due to arrive. A quick tour confirmed that I was talking to a man who likes to make things with his own hands and do them well.  A bar had been constructed by Charlie especially for the wedding and a tour of the shearing quarters revealed five-star luxury in terms of this traditionally rough and ready industry. Contrary to previous experiences of shearing sheds, I had no qualms about accepting a cup of coffee – complete with milk! – from the spotless kitchenette as we settled down for a chat.

In a classic story of problem solving, Charlie wanted to be able to handle his sheep more effectively when it came to the difficult task of moving sheep forward from the holding yard into automated sheep handlers, crutching plants and other sheep handling applications. No other systems he had tried seemed to work, no matter how much was invested.

‘I designed Back Up Charlie for myself,’ he admits up front, ‘it was about making our job easier. It’s faster, cuts down on labour and is kinder on the sheep. I knew it worked the day I was able to knock off early and go home to help Tana (his wife) in the garden.’

It was 2015 when Charlie disappeared into his shed over a period of four months to develop a prototype. ‘She asked what in the hell I’d been doing,’ he recalls with a grin.

Materials were challenging to source, and it was a matter of trial and error. A welding course at college and over forty years experience of sheep farming were put to good use. There was also a lot of thinking. ‘It was very much about animal psychology and how sheep react in stressful situations,’ he explains.

Charlie got to try it out the prototype for the first time with their eldest daughter Philippa. ‘We used to be exhausted pushing sheep in the yards from 7.00am until 6.00pm but even with Philippa, who is the least experienced on the farm, we made it home by 4.30pm. That’s when I knew it worked.’

Having discussed the inadequacy of previous systems with a livestock contractor friend, Charlie was quick to get on the phone to share the news. ‘He came down with a group to watch me demonstrate it and they didn’t say anything for a whole ten minutes,’ Charlie recalls. ‘We all knew I had a winner and didn’t want to let a great idea go to waste.’

With the help of his daughter Josephine, who has a Bachelor of Business in Agriculture and is actively working on the farm, Charlie started the process of setting a business to market and sell the new system which was subsequently branded Back Up Charlie. He already had a good accountant and sourced some marketing expertise which proved a little more challenging when it came to agreeing on the right wording and images.

As one himself, Charlie had no illusions that he was dealing in a tough market. ‘Selling product to farmers is a tough task!’

His other priority was to manufacture the units locally in Lockhart. ‘You have to share your success with the locals,’ he says. ‘You can’t beat people down on price in a small towns.’ Mark Schirmer, a local engineer, readily agreed and they were off and manufacturing. ‘We set our pricing based on the materials and the 70+ man-hours it takes to make a unit,’ Charlie explains.

Three years in the making has seen Back Up Charlie become established. ‘It’s been a process to get it out to the market. It helped that I’m a farmer. There is no point spending big dollars on something that doesn’t do the job which has been the case with so many other systems I’ve looked at over the years.’

The Henty and Orange Field Day Awards provided much needed publicity. ‘It was free advertising and helped to get the Back Up Charlie branding into people’s heads,’ Charlie says. ‘Over two years we’ve sold 30 units in New South Wales and across the borders into Victoria and South Australia.’ Facebook and Instagram Pages are maintained by Josephine helping to extend the brand.

When I ask Charlie about what he recommends to others who have invented a new product, he quickly responds ‘make sure you have a unique product and protect your idea.’ This includes applying patents if required. When it comes to finding experienced support, Charlie adds that you should always ask other experienced business people for recommendations and keep going until you find the right people to work with and that understand you and your business.

With the arrival of the crucial bridegroom and his family, heralded by plumes of dust advancing along the long driveway into Lakeside, I realise that my time is up with this talented backyard inventor and sheep psychologist. Sadly, it is time to go but I am extremely grateful to have heard another great rural business story.

Charlie’s top business tips:

  • Make sure your idea and product is unique

  • Get recommendations from other experienced business people

  • Ensure there is a market for your idea or product

  • Protect your idea and product

  • Follow your dreams

https://backupcharlie.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Change-Makers. READ MORE

An opportunity to reflect and learn

BY KERRY ANDERSON

WHEN Clare Fountain, Director of Sorted 4 Life, was nominated for the 2016 Bendigo Business Excellence Awards she was justifiably pleased that one of her clients took the time to nominate her. 

“I’d worked really hard the last 12 months so it was a good time to reflect on what I’d achieved,” says Clare who established her professional consulting business in 2000 and has continued to develop it since moving from Melbourne to Bendigo in 2003.

Clare had been nominated for various awards in the past but hadn’t actually entered.  This time she did.  “The time was right,” she says.

Clare saw the awards as an opportunity to learn.  She knew that it would push her out of her comfort zone if she got short listed.  “The very least that could happen is that I would get some really great tips on my businesses’ strengths and weaknesses.  It was a win, win scenario.”

Clare admits that she would have felt uncomfortable if entering the award was just about her. “My clients, and the outcomes I achieve for my clients, is my focus. I entered to learn, that was my main motivation.”  An important aspect to consider when entering an award is how it can benefit others adds Clare. “If the sales of my business grow then I get to employ more people."

One of her favourite quotes that came to mind during our conversation is:

‘And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same’  - Nelson Mandella

Given that Sorted 4 Life is focussed on helping businesses and groups become more efficient, it comes as no surprise that Clare got her entry in a week ahead of time.  She developed the responses to the questions then had a trusted adviser do the proof reading and editing to ensure that it read well.

“My philosophy is to play to your strengths.  I have someone do this for everything I publish.”

If Clare wanted to be stretched then she definitely was when she was announced as a finalist requiring a 30 second vignette to be filmed.  Drawing on her strong presentation skills and an obsession for preparing in detail for everything she does, Clare was up for the challenge and used it as yet another learning experience that she can ultimately share with her clients.

After being announced the winner of the Bendigo Professional Service of the Year B2B (under 10 employees) on 27 May Clare began to appreciate some of the added benefits of entering an award. 

The first was being able to acknowledge her team that accompanied her to the awards night.  “I was so grateful to be able to stand up and to be able to value their contribution.”

The second was to gain credibility in the eyes of those people that she hasn’t yet worked with.  “This award gave people an awareness of the standard of my work.  It reinforced that I do walk the talk!”

A third benefit was a surprise to Clare. “People have been ringing me up to ask for referrals.  I’ve been putting them in touch with other professionals and loving the ripple effect.”

Ultimately strengthening local businesses is what Clare is most passionate about.

“By creating successful businesses we can build stronger communities,” she says.  “Awards can help us to recognise the value of small businesses and motivate people to buy local and shop local.  Online is brilliant for regional businesses but be aware of where you are spending your money and where it is going,” advises Clare.

Thank you Clare for sharing your insights and congratulations on your well-deserved award.

READ more about Sorted 4 Business

READ Kerry's 3 reasons to enter an Award

READ Elise's reflections on winning the Regional Achievement & Community Award


FREE WEBINAR: How to make a winning nomination

7.00 – 8.00pm Tuesday 28 June, 2016 Melbourne time.

Using the current Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards as a case study,  join Kerry Anderson for some practical tips on how to make a winning nomination.  All that you need is access to a computer or smart device with internet and sound.  A link will be provided by email to those who request it via the contact box on this webpage
Email: info@kerryanderson.com.au

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.

www.kerryanderson.com.au

How to thank your supporters

AGED 19 Elise Brown bought her first business, Fair Dinkum Dog Coats; and two years later she purchased her second business, Midland Pet Supplies.  In 2010 she won the Trade and Career Achievement category in the Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards.  And, to top it all off, the following year she gave herself the day off to meet the Queen at a Government House reception!

Pretty impressive for a young woman from rural Victoria but Elise would be the first to admit that none of this would have been possible without the support of her family.  She would also acknowledge that her businesses flourished with the free publicity received as a result of the award.

Initially embarrassed to be nominated, Elise accepted all the good reasons given why she should put herself forward.  With assistance she put together an entry outlining all her achievements to date. Although Elise didn’t consider them all that significant she accepted that she could be a good role model for other young women wanting to live and work in their home towns, and that any publicity is good for business.

Lots of photographs were included with the entry which included her community role encouraging other young people in business at informal networking events.  Coached during the car ride to Ballarat for the Awards Dinner, this was what she chose to speak about during the interview of finalists on the night of the Awards.

Elise invited her four grandparents to the Awards Dinner determined to share the acknowledgement of being a finalist with them.  For her first business her paternal grandparents had provided much needed finance (a loan that was duly paid back) and her maternal grandparents had provided the premises rent free.  Her husband who put up with her long hours, her mother who provided finance for the second business, and one of her valued employees, were also present.

It was a night to celebrate especially when Elise, as one of the five finalists, was interviewed on stage.  Not a polished public speaker by any means, she spoke from the heart about encouraging other young people in business.

She was genuinely shocked when she had to return to the podium for a second time to receive the award sponsored by Regional Development Victoria.   A television advertisement on Prime Television was the prize and many radio interviews and newspaper articles followed including a superb photograph in The Weekly Times.  Customers were so delighted on Elise’s behalf and her retail shop became a hive of activity when the news broke.  

Yes, her youth may have been a factor in her being named the winner but she wasn’t the only young finalist.  Yes, she ran a good business, but that didn’t make her unique either.  Perhaps it was because she demonstrated a commitment to her community by encouraging other young people in business?  Only the judges will know for sure.

To be invited to meet the Queen during her Australian visit the following year was the icing on the cake.  Elise definitely wasn’t on any royal mailing list so could only assume that it was because she had won the award.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a good reason to enter an award, Elise now acknowledges.

Maybe this is also a good time to mention that I am Elise’s mother and yes, I am very proud of my daughter!

Elise’s top 3 reasons to enter an award are to:

#1           Thank the people who have supported you.

#2           Encourage other young rural people in business

#3           Get some free publicity for your business

Oh and number four would be to meet the Queen!

Not a normal day in the shop.  Elise farewells staff as she prepares to meet the Queen at Government House in 2011.

Not a normal day in the shop.  Elise farewells staff as she prepares to meet the Queen at Government House in 2011.

READ Kerry's top 3 reasons to enter an award.

READ more about Fair Dinkum Dog Coats

FREE WEBINAR: How to make a winning nomination

7.00 – 8.00pm Tuesday 28 June, 2016 Melbourne time.

Using the current Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards as a case study, please join me for some practical tips on how to make a winning nomination.  All that you need is access to a computer or smart device with internet and sound.  A link will be provided by email to those who request it via the contact box on this webpage
Email: info@kerryanderson.com.au

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.

www.kerryanderson.com.au

3 Reasons to enter an Award

BY KERRY ANDERSON

WHEN I was asked to organise the first ever Business Awards event for my local shire, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  In typical Aussie self-depreciating tradition, I personally viewed people who entered awards as attention seeking.  How wrong I could be!

As I cajoled various business people to enter, even turning up in their lunch breaks and letting them dictate answers to me, I started to discover what great achievements they had to share.  It was truly inspirational and except for the awards I would never have known.

Then, as we brought in independent judges from surrounding business communities, we were suddenly generating new business through the judging process alone.  On top of that, imagine how awesome having your photo in the local paper and vision shown on television if named a finalist.

And, looking around at all the happy smiling faces on the night of the awards dinner, I suddenly realised that this was the one moment in their busy year that they took time out to celebrate those achievements with their family and employees.  Just being nominated or named a finalist was more than enough.

Although still not enamoured with the paper work, many grudgingly admitted that it had been a useful exercise to reflect on how far they had come and how it had actually generated some new thinking about their future.

Eating humble pie I went on to organise many more award events in Central Victoria and eventually moved into the voluntary role of judge which I enjoy enormously.  What a privilege to learn about all the innovation taking place in rural Victoria.  Except for awards, these would be untold stories.

And, yes I’ve also nominated the odd person, business and organisation (or two) for an award.  It took a bit of persuasion by me, and some valuable time and effort for them to put their entry together, but here is how I sold it to them.

Quite simply, entering an award is an opportunity to:

1# Acknowledge your and the team’s hard work

2# Reflect on your achievements and think about the future

3# Receive some valuable (and free) publicity for your not-for-profit, business or career

And, if you are lucky enough to win or even be a finalist, you have a valuable marketing tool that can be used to give you a competitive edge.


FREE WEBINAR: How to make a winning nomination

7.00 – 8.00pm Tuesday 28 June, 2016 Melbourne time.

Using the current Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards as a case study, please join me for some practical tips on how to make a winning nomination.  A link will be provided by email to those who request it. All that you need is access to a computer or smart device with internet and sound.

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.

www.kerryanderson.com.au