My first employer was the Commonwealth Bank where my real education actually began. I was fortunate to have worked in a number of areas of the bank. I worked in branches where everything was completed by hand, larger branches where accounting machines were used, and then onto computers. During a staff training session, I put forward a suggestion that the bank should consider getting into home and contents insurance. At this time I was working at Moonee Ponds branch as the lending officer, and was somewhat bemused by the fact that our home loan clients would need to obtain a certificate of currency for their home and contents insurance every year, and lodge the certificate with the branch where their home loan was held. I suggested that if the bank was to offer home and contents insurance, they would have accurate knowledge of the currency of the insurance and the premium could be added to the monthly loan repayment.
The product was introduced six months later. Whilst I was not directly rewarded, when a new sub-branch was established at Meadow Fair Shopping Centre, in Broadmeadows, I was offered the position, at the age of 24, without it being advertised amongst the staff in the normal manner. This position was indeed a challenge and the branch business grew over three years, to the extent that it had to be upgraded, with double the current staff. This meant that the new position would be offered to other staff members, based on the bank’s seniority criteria. My options were very limited. I would have to take a side move for around four to five years, until a suitable opportunity came up for further advancement.
At this time my first wife and myself, had purchased a dairy farm at Beveridge from a relative, and it was being run by a share farmer. Unfortunately the costs were increasing and the production was falling. I decided to leave the bank after eleven years, and take on the dairy farm myself. In addition to the dairy, I also ran an agricultural contracting business. This proved successful and worked well until the Milk Board decided to dispense with whole milk contracts in 1977. This change made the operation of the dairy on ‘dry’ land, with only butter fat returns, unviable.
I returned to the workforce, whilst initially still milking morning and night, until the herd was ‘dried’ off. The initial position as Credit Manager was obtained with General Electric Electrical Wholesale Division in Richmond, and after sorting their credit department issues and introducing system changes, I had worked myself out of a job.
Just as I was finishing up, I was approached to take over a similar role with their National Catering Equipment Division. The same processes were introduced to this division, and I had worked myself out of a job, yet again.
I soon obtained a position a lot closer to home in Brunswick, with a scaffold hire company. Again, after analysis of their systems and processes, introduced a self-reporting computer system that could be managed by the Accountant without the need for a Credit Manager. Out of a job again.
A job was advertised with Kenworth Trucks in Preston. I applied, and at the interview had my plans somewhat shattered, when I was advised that they were moving to Footscray. I worked for them for five years, starting as the Credit Manager and then Branch Manager, producing profits and increasing market share. During my time at Footscray, I developed a computerised inventory management system that later went worldwide with the parent company PACCAR, and was later licenced to General Motors in America. Senior management changes saw a number of senior managers, including myself, leave the company in 1983.
The next move was into a hardware business. This became a new franchise branding, for a small local type hardware called Village Hardware, within the Mitre 10 group. During this period I was approached to take up a board position with Mitre 10, which I held until the business was closed in 1986 due to an excessive, and unjustifiable, four fold rent increase.
Following closure of the business I was approached by a friend to ‘help out’ for a couple of months, in his large industrial plumbing business. I worked as a Project Engineer ‘to help out’, however a couple of months turned into two years. It was time to move on, as my friend was anticipating selling the business and retiring.
Subsequent employee positions were held with Komatsu Earthmoving Equipment and then Nissan Diesel. Analysis of the systems and processes in both companies saved many millions of dollars in inventory investment and direct operating expenses, whilst improving customer service and market share.
Whilst having no formal degrees or diplomas, I was never idle for any length of time, and at no stage during my working life, have I ever applied for the dole. I believe in the philosophy that if you have a job, you do it, and then move onto the next challenge. I found in later life, that my reputation was sufficient in obtaining senior executive positions with international companies. The key to success, I believe, is to be a good listener, analyse what processes can improve the business model and be flexible in your approach to change management, which is inevitable in any business restructure.