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

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

New life for old industrial site

BY KERRY ANDERSON

HAILED as the latest vibrant and exciting tourist destination of central Victoria, The Mill Castlemaine is providing inspiration to other rural towns who want to breathe a new lease of life into their old industrial sites.  But, be warned, it’s not a task for the faint hearted.

Often large industrial buildings struggle to find a new purpose and can present more challenges than are evident to the naked eye.  Castlemaine’s former Woollen Mill dating back to 1875, and ravaged by fire on at least two occasions, fits perfectly into this category.

When the old mill site came up for tender in 2013, it was fortuitous that it caught the eye of farmer and stay at home dad, Phil McConachy.  Phil and his partner Ronnie Moule, a local General Practitioner, were looking for a suitable piece of land to establish a potential self-storage business as an alternative income to their sheep farm that has been significantly destocked in the continuing dry conditions.  While considerably larger than required, they saw the potential of the site.

“At first we thought it was too big but let’s have a go,” says Phil.  “We saw the potential for a market of some kind, worked out some rental estimates, and took it from there.”

With the aid of a building valuer and town planners they put together a bid.

As fate would have it, the tender was initially awarded elsewhere but after the buyer defaulted it came back to the McConachys.  Suddenly they were owners of 26,000 square metres of real estate with 9,000 square metres of industrial buildings ranging in age from 1875 to 1996.

During the tender process Phil had spotted the owners of a local café and coffee roasting business checking out the site for a potential expansion of their business, so it was natural to have a conversation with them.  It was not long before they had their first tenant, a core one at that, signed up but there was still a long way to go.

Working with council has been an integral part of the process.  With such a high profile site Phil says they have been determined to “keep squeaky clean” despite the many stories of the slowness of councils and some people reportedly going ahead and getting approval afterwards.

“After a lot of negotiation with the local council we got an overall planning permit for the site but it has been a bit of a regulatory nightmare,” admits Phil.

One of the many hidden surprises was when the entire fire hydrant system had to be upgraded from 80mm to 100mm pipes even though they already had double the flow and triple the water pressure required by the regulations.

“There is no negotiation with regulations; it’s just black and white,” shrugs Phil. “On reflection, if we’d engaged an architect in the first place it could have highlighted some of these issues but then we would not have bought the site.”

With 80 percent of the site now leased to a mix of food and hospitality vendors, manufacturers, and retail outlets, Phil says that the site has grown organically of its own accord into a vibrant hub.

While his star tenants, Edmund and Elna Schaerf, took charge of converting the space beneath the iconic chimney into the now very popular Das Kaffeehaus, Phil looked after the rest of the site.

“We waited for the tenants to arrive and then constructed the spaces to meet their needs.  Some have been start-ups, others have expanded from a home business to a commercial site, or just needed a bigger space to grow their business.”

A secondary consent application is submitted to council for each new tenant. 

“New tenants who fit into the industrial zone can come in without council approval but we consult anyway,” says the ever cautious Phil.

Initially frustrated by the limited staffing and delayed responses from the planning department, the relationship has improved with time especially when the head of department noticed emails being sent by Phil at 4.30am in the morning.

“We now have a system in place and are getting better at it,” he is pleased to report.

Drawing on his previous skills as a fitter and turner and owner of an earthmoving construction business, Phil has supervised all the works on site.  Numerous trades, the majority of which are local, have been contracted for the major works and two carpenters and a labourer continue to be engaged on a permanent basis.

Having survived the stress of getting the site operational and it rapidly gaining momentum as a tourist destination, Phil and Ronnie decided in late 2015 that it was time to give serious consideration to the branding. 

“We wanted to honour the site as well as Castlemaine which gave us The Mill Castlemaine.”

His focus has now turned to attracting the Melbourne market to visit Castlemaine.

“Cross promotion is very important with all the tenants and the whole town.  We’re not competitors, we’re all in this together.”

Today, looking decidedly relaxed and rightfully satisfied with the results of their endeavours, Phil is comfortable reflecting on the challenges of the past three years.  While an old bus parked at the back of the site still acts as his office, he now has the luxury of meetings over coffee in Das Kaffeehaus where the waiters know him by name.

Without a doubt, The Mill Castlemaine has reinvigorated the opportunities for small businesses and employment in the town at a time when inconsistent seasons are making farming difficult.  As a parent of four boys aged 10 to 20, one of Phil’s motivations is that The Mill Castlemaine also offers them the option to live and work in their home town in the future. 

“If we’d known the complexities we probably wouldn’t have bought the site,” Phil says. “But I’m glad we did,” he adds with a smile.

http://millcastlemaine.com.au/

Phil’s top tips

  • Get town planners with experience in large projects, and preferably an existing relationship with your local council, involved right at the beginning.
  • Go to your council and get their support before you spend any money. 
  • Find a bank manager that understands business and develop a strong relationship with them.

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

Adapting to a new environment

Daniel McLoughlan outside TMC Enviro's headquarters which has recently relocated into the old O'Connor site in Birchip.

Daniel McLoughlan outside TMC Enviro's headquarters which has recently relocated into the old O'Connor site in Birchip.

BY KERRY ANDERSON

SMALL FAMILY BUSINESSES often end with the retirement of the key partners; or they can continue on as younger family members join in.  Sometimes they can even evolve and grow if prepared to adapt to a new environment, and happily this seems to be the case of TMC Enviro in Birchip.

Chatting with TMC Enviro’s General Manager, Daniel McLoughlan, the pathway of his family’s small business becomes perfectly clear but was probably never anticipated by his parents Tom and Lois when they began their shearing and fencing contractor business in the 1980’s.

Casting his mind back to growing up in the small rural town of Birchip as one of six siblings, Daniel, admits that he always thought he’d end up in business in some capacity but it has been an interesting pathway to get there. 

Without question it began at home when Daniel and his younger brother, Tom Junior, were encouraged by their parents to be entrepreneurial as young as 8 and 10 years of age.  In addition to working for their father in the shearing shed on schools holidays, they also developed a substantial lawn-mowing business in town.

“We had quite the lawn mowing run,” Daniel recalls. “As it grew Tom went out and bought a ride-on mower and a rotary hoe. Mum and Dad paid our fuel on the provision that we mowed their lawns but I can assure you it was the last to get mowed, and usually ended up with foot high grass!” he laughs. 

Each phase of Daniel’s subsequent working life in finance, mining and construction, has helped to build the skills he uses today at TMC Enviro.

After completing year 12 at Birchip P – 12 School, Daniel took a maternity leave position at the local branch of the Commonwealth Bank starting a career in finance.  Six months later saw him transferred to Collins Street and ultimately to the head office in Bourke Street, Melbourne.

“I got into personal lending during the property rush, it was a good time to be there,” recalls Daniel.

However, after three years he got tired of the office environment and made the move to Western Australia where he joined two of his brothers in the mining industry.  Then it was back to Melbourne where he worked nine years in construction.  Each of these jobs was a step closer to his home town of Birchip, not that Daniel knew it at the time.

Back at home his parents had been transitioning into more of the fencing and rabbit ripping work as Tom senior sought an alternative to shearing which was taking a physical toll on his body.

“His idea was to work one man on one machine as a sort of semi-retirement,” explains Daniel, “but he’s not a guy who could ever retire.  It just sort of ballooned from there.”

In 2011 Daniel was asked to come home to help set up the administration side of the business which was still being run from the family home.  Younger brother Tom had started working hands-on in the business 12 months prior.

“I told my girlfriend, now wife, that I would be back in Melbourne in three months but I’m still here five years later” grins Daniel.

From working with one local Landcare group the business went to two, three, and is now working with up to 16 groups.  Catchment Management Authorities are another big source of environmental work and, of late, the business has been branching out into major project work taking them more widely across Victoria.

It’s interesting to reflect on how much has changed over the past decade in the way the business operates.  As is usually the case in a country town, it was a simple formula to begin with.

“Dad had a good reputation, the right machinery, and knew a lot of people.” 

However, while a good reputation is still a strong selling point, Daniel points out that it is not always enough when it comes to seeking government contract work, particularly in more recent years.

“Just because you are competitively priced and did a good job on the last contract, you don’t necessarily get the next one,” he explains.

Another important reason why TMC Enviro has concentrated on diversifying its business is the fact that government funding is often diverted from budgets as will be the case with the recent announcement of drought funding.

“We had a hunch that this would happen with an awful dry spell last year and two average seasons before that,” says Daniel. 

With this in mind they sought to supplement their local work with bigger projects by employing specialist staff and investing in new work premises, machinery, and an integrated management system.

Already it is paying off with a successful tender at the Werribee Open Range Zoo, where they have installed over three kilometres of 4.1 metre high chain mesh fencing around the grounds of the Zoo’s Lower Savannah Precinct. This area houses a number of the Zoo’s larger species in an open plain environment, along with holding and back of house facilities. Visitors experience this area of Werribee Open Range Zoo via the Safari Bus Trail, which runs on a regular basis each day.

“Eland look like deer on steroids,” Daniel clarifies before I have a chance to google.  “The fence needs to be extremely high so they don’t jump out onto the Geelong freeway.”

I am impressed that a rural family business can compete against metropolitan companies.

Writing a tender submission is a real team effort says Daniel and reflects their specialist skills.  While Tom senior and junior are familiar with the hours and techniques required to complete the work, Daniel is able to contribute his large scale project management experience. 

Daniel’s wife, Melanie Wood, brings several years’ HR experience from Melbourne, including the development of policies and procedures, workplace health and safety and HR reporting and statistics, vital to any tender process. 

Then there is the all-important environmental side of tendering, and indeed their business.  On the same principal as a construction company requiring the services of an engineer, TMC Enviro has employed Jess Cook as their Environmental Projects Manager.  Jess, who has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science), joined the business in 2014.

According to Daniel, the Werribee Zoo project is one great example of how this can be a key factor for success. “Jess’s role was to take environmental considerations into account, including looking at minimising the vegetation clearance, and her environmental background came in very handy.”

While constructing a fence seems simple there were other issues to be managed.  For instance the work couldn’t be visible when zoo tours were in progress and the crew had to be out of areas by a certain time for animal welfare reasons.   TMC Enviro was able to deliver on all fronts.

“Without pumping our tyres up too much, it’s pretty cool that we are able to pitch ourselves as a one stop shop,” says Daniel.

Quality assurance is another important selling point according to Daniel especially as they have a transient workforce for their project work.  Tom senior and Tom junior lead a competency training program to ensure that all staff are fully trained and compliant in their systems.

“Our reputation is so important and Dad literally drives the roads to check up on everything.”

While Daniel is now the voice of the business as General Manager, and his brother, Tom junior, is Operations Manager, it sounds like retirement is still a long way away for Tom senior.  A recent addition to the family business has been Tom’s partner, Celeste Walsh, who has a Bachelor of Business.  Celeste will head up the soon to be advertised domestic and commercial pest control arm of the business which has recently relocated into the old O'Connor site in Birchip's town centre.

Without a doubt, Tom and Lois McLoughlan can be credited with establishing the foundations of a successful rural business that, with the assistance of the next generation, continues to adapt to new environments.

CLICK HERE for more information about TMC Enviro

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

Better Engaging Students

BY KERRY ANDERSON

RURAL towns play an important role in supporting primary industries and it is essential to broaden our thinking on rural career opportunities in these exciting technological times.  Educators, industry and community need to work together to ensure that our young people reach their full potential as educators cannot be expected to do this alone.  This was my key message at the recent Food & Fibre Matters Conference hosted by the Primary Industries Education Foundation in Canberra at which I was delighted to present. 

Engaging students in exploring broader career opportunities was the focus of the Operation next Gen Down to Business Project.  So what were the five lessons that relate to educators from this pilot project?  None of them should be a surprise.

#1 Students respond best to a mix of learning.

As part of the Be Your Own Boss program trialed in 2015 at Wycheproof P-12 College, this couldn’t have been more evident.  The year 7/8 economics students were wildly excited to do Skype interviews with a software entrepreneur in Sydney, tour a start-up bakery, interview a range of business people in the classroom, and work as a group to scope out their own business idea.

Low literacy students showed the biggest outcomes, suddenly keen to ask questions, and enthusiastically leading the way on site tours.  Even the reflection activities provided stimulation.

When workshopping ideas with students at another rural secondary college on how classroom learning could be improved not everyone followed the usual dot point word format. One group came up with this graphic which says it perfectly.

#2 Learning makes more sense if students understand why

St Arnaud Secondary College’s Broader Horizons Program is a classic example of why we need to link the curriculum with real life careers.

Groups of students were taken on a six week program to explore careers in agribusiness, health and local government; all readily available career paths in rural Victoria.  Most students agreed that the program helped them decide on appropriate electives as they headed into year 10.

Student comments revealed another significant outcome from this program.

One student suddenly realised why she needs to learn the periodic table in chemistry after spending a day with a clinical nurse at the local hospital.

“I thought work on a farm would be easy but it’s not,” reflected another student who participated in the agri-business stream. “It's not just rock up and get a job, there's more to it. I need to focus.”

At a recent forum in Bendigo, Gareth Webb from O’Connor’s Birchip Branch revealed to educators that degrees are now commonly required for O'Connor's employees, a far cry from the old apprenticeship days.   Even in his relatively short career, Gareth explained how he has witnessed an explosion of new technology related systems supporting Australia’s agriculture industry to innovate and remain competitive in a global market.

#3 Real primary producers and business people get their attention

It’s all very well to read the theory and discuss ideas in class but nothing gets a student’s attention better than talking face to face (or even by Skype) with a REAL person working in that industry.

Not just any old business person or producer, I might add.  Invite the high achievers, the innovators, the movers and shakers to meet with students.  How else can they get excited, not to mention relevant information?

During the Be Your Own Boss program I enlisted the President of the local Progress Association to help identify who we should invite into the classroom.  Someone in your community will also be willing to help with this task if you ask them.

Successful people understand why it is important to help inspire the next generation so don’t be afraid to ask.

An ex country lad, Jordan Knight, now residing in Sydney and contracted to design software for clients like Microsoft, was only too happy to give up 20 minutes of his day to chat via Skype. 

#4 Never underestimate the potential of disengaged students

You only have to look at the bios of famous entrepreneurs around the world to realise that the class clowns and disruptors are the potential entrepreneurs and possibly even your future boss.  I hear this repeatedly as I speak with young business people and primary producers who found the education system most uninspiring so they looked outside the classroom for learning.

During the Be Your Own Boss program I recall the impressed look on a business person’s face when asked a particularly intelligent question … wait for it … by one of those low literacy students I was warned about.  I rest my case!

microsoft's bill gates in his disruptive youth

microsoft's bill gates in his disruptive youth

#5 Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business!

Yes, this is the working title of my book and thrust of my key message to rural communities.  Educators, industry and community need to work together to ensure that our young people reach their full potential.  Educators cannot be expected to do this alone.

Bakery on Broadway in Wycheproof is a classic example of how a group of farmers, teachers, truck drivers and community leaders came together.  Love it!

For more information about the Operation Next Gen and Down to Business Projects undertaken in partnership with Community Leadership Loddon Murray and the North Central Local Learning & Employment Network, please follow this LINK

For FREE classroom activities and resources follow this LINK

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

The Broadway Challenge

BY KERRY ANDERSON

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  Partners in Bakery on Broadway: Amanda Gretgrix (Darren absent), Nikki & Adrien Coatsworth, Christine McKerzie (Chris Duffy absent), Ann & Marcus Durie.

Partners in Bakery on Broadway: Amanda Gretgrix (Darren absent), Nikki & Adrien Coatsworth, Christine McKerzie (Chris Duffy absent), Ann & Marcus Durie.

WHAT do farmers, teachers, truck drivers and community leaders have in common?  They’re partners in the newly opened Bakery on Broadway in Wycheproof of course! 

Wycheproof on the Calder Highway is a close knit agricultural community with a population of 789 and a strong volunteer component that works hard to support itself.   

Social events to bring the community together are immensely popular and it was on the day of the 2013 Wycheproof Cup that Amanda Gretgrix mentioned in conversation that it would be great for the community if it had a bakery.  At the time Amanda was President of Wyche Vision which is kind of a Progress Association. 

School teacher Chris Duffy, to whom Amanda's comment was directed, readily agreed, as did others.  In fact the conversation progressed so quickly that four local couples committed to the finance and purchased a building within a month just before Christmas!

Chatting with the partners more than two years after this momentous decision, it soon becomes obvious that purchasing the building was the easy part.  One of the advantages of rural real estate is that it is far cheaper to purchase than in the city, however, despite their best intentions, the bakery didn’t open its doors until Easter, 2016.

Now that Bakery on Broadway is now open and thriving I wonder what they have learnt along the way.

“So many people kept asking us ‘Why the delay?’” admits Ann.  “It was very frustrating for us all.”

Working on a set budget, the partners undertook as much of the work themselves as possible on weekends in and around their daily work commitments.  While structurally sound, the 1897 heritage building needed considerable refurbishment to become a modern bakery.

“We cleaned 100 years of dust out of the roof cavity,” recalls Marcus. 

An architect worked with them and local contractors were hired to complete the electrical, plumbing and concreting tasks that were outside their skills set.  

At the end of the day it was modern day regulations that apply to a building changing business purpose that held the project up the most.

“While we had always planned for all abilities access we hadn’t anticipated some of the extra requirements so it took a bit longer to sort that out,” explains Ann.

Amanda points out how wonderful the new access is for their customers.  “On our very first day we had a young boy come into the bakery without assistance.  You don’t realise how difficult it is for many people with mobility issues in rural towns right along the Calder Highway.”

When it came to sourcing equipment a relationship between the Keilor Rotary Club and Wycheproof Township provided an unexpected helping hand.

“David Bourke from the Keilor Rotary Club was wonderful,” says Ann.  “When he heard what we were doing, he found a company in Melbourne that was able to mentor us through the process of setting up a bakery and to purchase the right equipment at the right price.”

Recruiting skilled staff was another challenge requiring lots of networking to find the right people.  The outcome has been extremely positive with a qualified baker relocating from Melbourne to Wycheproof.  His family and a nephew are about to follow.  In addition a trainee pastry chef and barista have been employed through the visa scheme, also moving to rural Victoria in the process.

For the locals it has also been good news.  Not only do they have an exciting new venue for coffee and food, the bakery has created 13 jobs in total with potential for more as the business starts to provide a return on investment and the partners step back. 

When 25 year old Cobie presented for an interview she had no idea that she was going to be offered the position of manager.

25 year old Cobie has been appointed manager of the new Bakery on Broadway.

25 year old Cobie has been appointed manager of the new Bakery on Broadway.

“No staff should have to answer to eight different bosses so we decided it was best to appoint a manager for the Monday to Friday shift,” says Amanda.  “If Cobie tells me to wash the dishes then that is what I do.”

This enterprise has been a real team effort by the partners, each placing their own stamp of ownership on the building, always practical and sometimes creative.  Ann thought that the history was important so wrote a blackboard history for visitors to read.  Nikkie and Adrien created the stunning outdoor furniture utilising old pallets and truck axles.

“We all have our strengths.  Some are working behind the scenes but we’re all putting in,” explains Ann. 

Amanda agrees.  “The men took on the majority of the work in the building phase but now the bakery is open it is my time to help out.”

Amanda and Ann learning new skills as partners in the bakery.

Amanda and Ann learning new skills as partners in the bakery.

As the business gets established the partners are all hands on in the business working the weekend and early morning shifts as well as taking on specific tasks.  Adrian opens up at 5.00am each morning for the bakers and Marcus cleans each night after closing.  Freight is taken care of by Darren the truck owner-driver.  Nikkie makes slices and Chris (aka Duffy) does the daily float.  Ann liaises with the accountant while Amanda looks after social media promotion.  Christine, Principal of Wycheproof P-12 College by day, picks up any number of tasks out of school hours.

As in any small business, extended family members have been recruited to assist wherever possible including design of the business logo by Maddy, the daughter of Marcus and Ann.  During the school holidays everyone took turns at trialing and developing recipes for sausage rolls and pasties.

Thanks to Amanda’s Loddon Murray Community Leadership network, the Premier and Minister for Agriculture arrived for coffee and donuts during a mid-April tour of the district to announce drought funding.  “That was phenomenal," she laughs recalling the tweets put out over social media by Minister Jaala Pulford.

Locals are also heavily invested in the new bakery.  The Pastor of Granite Church near Donald has created the legendary ‘Broadway Challenge’ on social media during his regular visits.  “He is eating his way through the pastry cabinet, one item at a time, and giving everyone a laugh in the process,” Amanda explains.

Hmm. Sounds like I have to build in a few more trips up the Calder if I’m going to keep up with the pastor.

So, what have I learnt from my visit to Bakery on Broadway?

Yes, the partners are understandably looking a bit weary. Yes, there has been the odd heated discussion with unexpected delays and eight different personalities.  And yes, most important of all, they have proven that a group of people with a diverse range of skills and a vision to strengthen their community can make a start-up business not only achievable but a success. 

PS.  Did I say that they live, breathe and love the grain?  Oh, that's right, they tell us themselves in large sign writing on the wall! 

Congratulations Wycheproof!

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

Realising a life long dream ...

BY KERRY ANDERSON

STAMPS Café is a dead giveaway name when you think about it.  A long time in the making, Sue McDonald, proprietor of the Campbell’s Creek Post Office near Castlemaine, is to be congratulated for her perseverance over a two year period to open her dream café.

Popping in to meet with Sue on a successful opening day that has been inundated with customers I am surprised to discover that she also has a full time job as Practice Manager of a local medical clinic.  In fact she has only taken some time off to help get the café up and started.

Storing that little bit of information away for later I start by asking her about how she started out in business.

When Sue moved back to the region in 2005 she brought with her the experience of being a partner in a city based electrical contractor business.  A steely resolve to start a new phase in her life aided by this experience gave her the confidence to purchase the Campbell’s Creek Post Office in 2013.

“Some changes have been made since I took it over,” admits Sue.  “After the general store closed we started stocking the newspapers as well as ice creams, drinks and lollies.  We now open at 6.30am so residents can pick up their newspapers and parcels.  Staff are here sorting the mail anyway so we may as well be open and it suits residents that work out of town and find it hard to get here during normal opening hours.”

A bonus for Sue has been her son Mark joining her in regional Victoria to take over the role of 'Postie' and manage the Post Office.  His partner Bree is also involved in the business.

Right from the beginning Sue saw the opportunity to convert the Post Office residence into a café fulfilling another gap in this growing community’s street scape.  Due to a long running battle with the council planning department and building inspectors, sadly the café has opened much later than anticipated.

Sue was spurred on by the support of her existing customers and the local Progress Association during what turned out to be an unexpectedly long and tedious journey.  She made the most of the delay to source furnishings a bit at a time amidst many late night planning sessions.  The café is certainly looking great as a result.  The original 16 seats for customers have now expanded up to 40 with decking added outside. 

“Hell no!” Sue exclaims when I ask her would she do it again, indicating the depth of her frustration with council processes.  Hours of personal time to follow up stalled paper work compounded by the unavailability of council staff to issue permits has ultimately resulted in lost business revenue.

Fortunately at this point Sue’s daughter Leah has joined us.  “But you’ve finally realised your dream,” she says reminding her mother of how she always loved visiting her grandmother’s café. 

Putting the council frustrations behind her Sue agrees.  “Yes, I am glad, it has always been my dream.”

So, back to her initial revelation.  Why does she work Monday to Friday for someone else?

“I love my job,” is the simple answer.  During Sue’s time as Practice Manager the clinic has doubled in size giving her plenty of challenges. 

“Essentially I’m just the bill payer for the post office and work in it on weekends.”  Likewise she has employed an experienced staff for the café and has high hopes that the two businesses combined will start to provide a return on investment in the future.

“And now you’re a grandmother,” I say indicating a young baby with her daughter Leah.  Hence my second surprise to learn Sue already has grandchildren, including one 18 years old!

I am now doubly impressed by this businesswoman’s energy and determination and wish her all the best with her latest venture which already looks like a winner.

Be warned.  Sue McDonald is full of surprises and a great inspiration to us all.

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

Young Business Profile: Dale Hansford

BY KERRY ANDERSON

“BEING a boss and not having to answer to anyone but yourself is the best thing about being in business.”

This is how 24 year old Dale Hansford responded when I put the question to him at Maine Fitness in Castlemaine, of which he is co-owner.

“It’s also about pride and the satisfaction you’ve created something,” he adds.

A passion for sport influenced Dale to undertake a Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science at the University of Ballarat.  Upon graduation in 2013 he immediately set up business as a personal trainer in Melbourne.  By early 2015 he was lured back to his home town to start up a new business, Maine Fitness, with co-owner and childhood friend, Edward Coulthard.  

Simultaneously, Dale relocated his initial business from Melbourne setting up a complimentary part-time business in Castlemaine, Maine Soft Tissue Treatment. 

“I treat muscular skeletal problems,” Dale clarifies in response to my puzzled look. “Better than a physio and similar to a chiropractor.”

It suddenly becomes clear why he invests so much money each year in continued professional development that he believes is essential to remain at the top of your chosen industry.

I am both impressed and intrigued.  Documented research has suggested that young people who have a business person in their family or close circle of friends are more likely to go into business.

Dale makes no mention of whether his mother owning a retail business has been an influence or not.  With a Degree to his name, Dale says it was generally accepted that most graduates in this particular industry become sole traders and he was more than happy to follow this path.

Despite this knowledge, Dale elected not to participate in any business units during his time at Secondary College or University and has instead learnt the required business skills along the way.

“It’s worked well for me simply copying what other really successful businesses in this industry have done.  Learning more about the legal side of business would have been useful though,” he admits.

One thing he does value from his school days is maths.  “I use fractions in my work all the time. It’s great to be able to work out figures easily and quickly.”

The transition from sole trader to co-owner of a start-up new company with employees required a lot more planning and capital.

Their first challenge was to prepare a proposal to convince their future landlord that they were worthy of taking over the proposed gymnasium in the building that was already being fitted out for this purpose.

“We took educated guesses on what would happen as a start-up,” explains Dale.  “It was still playing the odds but we were as conservative as we could be.”

Planning took the form of informal discussions over a meal in each other’s homes.  Even one year after the business has opened and employing three staff, the two partners still tend to chat informally when the need arises.  “I hate formal meetings,” Dale grimaces.

By working hard and diligently saving, Dale and Edward had already managed to accumulate a modest capital base to meet the start-up requirements.

“As much as I wish we had the money to purchase everything outright, we kept our costs to a minimum by leasing the building and the equipment.”

 With sufficient capital in hand and a supportive landlord who thought their business proposal was well presented, it was all hands to deck to put their plans into action.

Marketing expenses were kept to a minimum with the power of social media harnessed to their benefit.  A Facebook page drummed up interest in the opening and secured them over 20 memberships in advance providing some much needed cash flow.  Now that they are open word of mouth recommendations continue to generate further referrals. 

Having just celebrated its first anniversary Maine Fitness has now grown to 220 members and Dale is very happy with what they’ve achieved.  While they are still both working long hours he looks forward to a time when they can step away from the business more.

“We’re definitely on track.”

READ more about Maine Fitness "Young Start-Ups: It never hurts to ask!"

SHARE YOUR STORY:  Have you or someone you know got a rural start-up or business acquisition story to share?  CLICK HERE to email me through the contacts page.

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

Young Start-Ups: It never hurts to ask!

BY KERRY ANDERSON

CELEBRATING the first year anniversary of a new business has been a major milestone for 23 year old Edward Coulthard and 24 year old Dale Hansford, co-owners of Maine Fitness located in a newly refurbished industrial shed in Castlemaine, Central Victoria.

Looking around, the spacious facility has a professional feel and, even to my uneducated eye, the equipment looks of quality standard.  It’s no surprise when Dale describes the business as “a high class, professional gymnasium for all ages 16 years plus.”

While one of their 220 current members is doing impressive chin pull ups on a bar across the room, my brain is doing mental gymnastics and I’m bursting to ask the question.  How on earth were these two young men able to afford the start-up investment in a quality venue and equipment not to mention marketing to grow a membership?

Specialising in an industry they are passionate about, it appears that this enterprising pair has invested significant time but minimal capital into approaching and building the business in a smart way to make it affordable and successful.

Back in late 2014, the concept of Maine Fitness moved into overdrive when the local newspaper featured an article on local businessman and property owner, Glenn Guest.  Glenn was publicly announcing his intention to refurbish one of his properties, an industrial shed, for the purpose of a new modern gymnasium. 

Edward was devastated as this was also his vision and he had been working hard and saving for this very purpose.  He and Dale had only just started to scope out another potential site for a gymnasium.  With both young men previously growing up and playing sport together in Castlemaine, and both having worked in Melbourne in the personal training industry, it was a logical decision to pool their expertise and capital to enable them to live and work in their home town as business partners.

However; after reading the article, it seemed like their plans needed to be revised.

“I knew that it would be difficult to compete with a gym of this size,” says Edward.

That was until a game changing conversation took place.  Edward’s football coach approached Glenn on their behalf and it turned out that he was open to proposals.

As Glenn explains, “After being leased short term, our building was in danger of sitting empty and I was simply looking for a long term financial return. Castlemaine lacked a quality gymnasium and it was the ideal opportunity for this space so I made the commitment to refurbish it for this purpose. It was never my intention to be there full time because of my other business interests.”

With the opportunity to fast track their business idea, Edward and Dale quickly put a proposal together.

“Looking at what other successful businesses in the industry were doing was our starting point,” explains Dale.  “Then we took educated guesses as to how the business would progress, being as conservative as we could be but still playing the odds.”

"It could have been leased to any number of people but it seemed right to give these two young guys the opportunity." Glenn Guest

“Edward and Dale had some good ideas and the experience to run a gymnasium to the standard I wanted,” Glenn recalls.  “We’d invested a lot of money in fitting out the building and wanted it to be inviting for all ages.  It could have been leased it to any number of people but it seemed right to give these two young guys the opportunity.”

Maine Fitness was suddenly in take-off mode!

Having secured the perfect venue, the next challenge was to fit it out with quality gymnasium equipment.

“Once again, leasing was the best option for us,” says Dale.

With a tight three month schedule until the proposed opening date the two new business partners and their landlord threw themselves into ensuring the facility was ready for opening day.  Family and friends happily helped out assembling the equipment in the final few weeks.

“It was crazy,” Edwards grins.

With opening day approaching and funds flowing out of their limited bank account, they came up with another great idea.

“One really smart thing we did,” Dale says, “is that we sold memberships before the gym opened.  Sharing photos of the facilities with details of our qualifications, and offering a discounted membership got us over 20 members and created some cash flow in advance.”

Facebook has proven to be the most cost effective promotion of the business.  Now that they are operational, word of mouth recommendations are equally powerful and their membership has grown to 220 in just twelve months.

In early 2016 the Victorian Drug Free Power Lifting Association conducted a novice event at Maine Fitness citing it as one of the most successful they had held with 20 participants and over 100 spectators.

“Following this success the Central Victorian Power Lifting Championships are going to be held here on 4 June,” Edward says. “It’s going to be huge.”  Already they have secured sponsorship from another local business, Centre State Drilling, to support a local lifting team to participate.

Open seven days a week, Edward and Dale work full-time in the business sharing the duties with three employees.  With high energy levels that I can only vaguely recall from my youth, both are working long hours.  They also invest heavily in continually updating their skills attending courses all over Australia.

While feeling very satisfied with the results so far, Dale admits that he is looking forward to growing the business to the next level when they can step back a bit more. 

Reflecting on how this model business has evolved so quickly and successfully under the leadership of two young men, I can’t help but be amazed.  It certainly didn’t hurt to ask when a huge obstacle was presented to them.  A simple conversation has produced a wonderful and mutually beneficial outcome. 

If I could do a backflip or even a chin up in celebration, I would!

READ MORE about Dale Hansford's reflections as a young person in business

SHARE YOUR STORY:  Have you or your community assisted a business to start up in your town?  I'd love to share your story in my forthcoming book,  Entrepreneurship: It's Everybody's Business. 
CLICK HERE to email me through the contact page.

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