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Edition 251 – Someone Special

December is always a month of celebration in our household, but this December is all the more special. On Friday of this week, my wife, Trish, celebrates a milestone birthday. As you know, a lady never discloses her age, so let’s just say there’s a zero in there somewhere.

To celebrate, we’re spending a couple of days away in the Hunter Valley with our two sons, Callum and Fraser. Such are the times in our lives these days, it’s the first chance we’ve holidayed together as a family since Christmas 2017, when Fraser completed High School.

On Christmas Eve, our second celebration arises as it will be 30 years since Trish and I first met. At a barbecue in a suburban backyard in South Western Sydney, I pulled up a pew next to a lovely, holidaying English lady and struck up a conversation. Call me an old softie, but in the back of my wardrobe, to this day, folded carefully away, is the shirt I was wearing that evening.

Trish was visiting her sister and family as they welcomed into the world their second child. She’d made the trek from London with her parents, Wal and Peg, to spend Christmas together and celebrate the christening of young Jessica, who these days is now married herself.

30 years ago seems like the blink of an eye. Back then, you still had to telephone the house to make that first, nervous call to see whether she’d be interested on a date together. I turned up to the front door, only for Peggy to laughingly embarrass herself by calling me someone else’s name, then scurry away as quickly as she arrived. On a Thursday evening in early January, we enjoyed dinner at a Chinese Restaurant in the centre of Sydney, then ventured to a cocktail lounge on the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel that enjoyed magnificent views down Sydney Harbour.

A few other dates ensued in the remaining time she was on holidays. On the day the Gulf War broke out in 1991, she flew back to the UK. We ventured the “let’s stay in touch” line on our last evening together before she headed home and a week or so after she left Australia, I made the call to her work phone in the days of the $2 per minute phone calls and no text messages. That was supplemented by a constant stream of mail back and forth. When a birthday present, a beautiful silk tie, arrived for me in March, I gathered things were going well. So important to me was the gift, I wore it to my University graduation in May.

June saw us holidaying in Los Angeles – a sort of trial run to see how it would work spending a life together. Back in 1991, it was incredibly difficult to for her to return to Australia unless we intended to marry, so we announced our engagement. Even then, our letters to each other and our intentions had to be divulged to the Australian Government before she was granted a visa that stipulated that unless we were married within 3 months of her arrival in Australia, she would be deported. Our somewhat unorthodox honeymoon involved a detour to the Department of Immigration so she could have her visa stamped and her permanent stay approved.

Trish has been a constant source of support and counsel throughout our marriage, my career and in our business life. In my opinion, it’s very difficult to succeed in family business unless you have someone very close to you that not only lends an ear, but also lends a hand. When times are tough, you need that special someone to help you do what has to be done to get you through to the next stage. Sometimes, that involves cleaning the office on a weekend, with your young sons in tow, whilst you right the ship of state.

Of the family businesses that I work with, the same applies. The greatest success I’ve observed comes to those where family support is strong and there is a close relationship between spouses or key life partners. Without their perspective, honesty and foresight, you’ll never achieve the success that you’re dreaming of for you, your business or your family.

This week, whilst the celebration is ours, take a moment to be grateful for the support of someone close to you in your family business that has stood there, beside you, in good times and bad, to build the dream that you have for each other.

Words of support are kind and often timely. Yet, it’s the contribution of those closest to us that truly demonstrate their belief in us and the future we’re creating.