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Edition 138 – A Town Like Alice

No, not the Nevil Shute novel that I read in Year 10 at school, which sent me on a journey of reading many of his classic works. This week it is all about the 2018 Family Business Australia National Conference held in Alice Springs last week.

There were a number of over-arching themes from the two days of the conference that featured great speakers, from Jack Cowin of Hungry Jack’s fame to Craig Kimberley, the man behind the phenomena of Just Jeans, Carolyn Cresswell of the Carman’s Muesli business and the Keir family, who are the owners of the iconic Akubra hat business.

Here’s some of my key takeaways:

  1. Honesty – just tell it as it is, without covering it up with any BS. If you messed up, ‘fess up and then make up. When you try and cover up something with a white lie, dishonesty quickly descends into a lack of integrity. Once you lose your integrity, you’re gone.
  2. Perseverance – some of the presenters were examples of family business owners that had merely chipped away over a long period of time. No one is an overnight success.
  3. Loyalty – with both suppliers and employees. One of Australia’s top companies has been dealing with it’s suppliers through three generations of ownership in the supplier’s family business. That’s mutual respect in anyone’s language.
  4. Self Belief – as Henry Ford once remarked, whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right. Every family business owner that I came across, either as presenters or fellow delegates, were examples of individuals that never, ever gave up in spite of any adversity.
  5. Goals – one presenter relayed an incredibly passionate story about her father’s quest over a quarter of a century, in a difficult and dangerous industry, to make it all work. On the morning this business struck its biggest pay day, the founder having seen his dream come to reality, died. Powerful.
  6. Setbacks – everyone has had them and many of the businesses on stage spoke about them not only as pivotal moments in their business, but crucial to their future success.
  7. Lifelong learning – not only amongst the family business owners and advisors that were present, but amongst the individuals that presented. To keep growing, you need to keep learning, whether it is formal learning, informal learning, career related or a personal pursuit. Learning stimulates the brain and creates a continued sense of purpose.
  8. The power of family – an incredible number of businesses that I came across, and presented, relayed stories of how pivotal the success in their business was down to the power and presence of family inside their business. Not just brothers and sisters, but cousins and in-laws as well.
  9. Emotion – not one, but two presenters shed tears on stage in front of over 400 people as they relayed stories of the loss they’d experienced in their families. Despite the outward success of these businesses, the raw emotion of loss still existed. However, each of these families also saw that the greatest way to honour the legacy of their lost family was to keep going – not give up.
  10. Reinvention – on the plane from Alice Springs back to Brisbane, I sat next to a fascinating gentlemen who regaled the story of his family business to me and what he and his family needed to do to reinvent itself in the face of stiff, aggressive publicly listed competition. So mesmerising was his conversation that when he lead onto the story of the birth of his grandchild, he had tears in his eyes and I had a huge lump in my throat.

It was a great two days of learning, friendship and, yes, too much eating. Getting out and engaging the brain like this, in a very different part of Australia, helps to sew the seeds of new ideas and create new passions.

This Week’s Tip

“Getting out of your family business and going to an event such as this conference helps you remove the blinkers and meet people who are having similar challenges as you are in business. It’s amazing what learning takes place by taking the time to have a conversation with someone.”