1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
A cup of coffee, paper and two Border Collies.
2. What is your background? What led you to start your own marine coating business?
I have worked many jobs over the years, perhaps my first job as a teenager working for a panel beater and painting cars was what provided the background for my current hands-on business. I have always felt I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss, possibly because I find confidence in being in control. I started a sandblasting business on the Gold Coast which for many reasons did not work. However, I did learn many valuable lessons which have contributed to the Hobart Marine Coatings (HMC) success.
3. What does a typical day look like for you and your team?
I do not think there are typical days in my business, especially on big jobs, like those at INCAT. I have many other people and contributors to consider. Each day I need to construct a new plan, and each toolbox meeting with my team is different. Flexibility is paramount in getting the job done.
4. How long does it take to paint a ferry and how many people are involved?
Anywhere between 3-6 months, with my team of about 8-10 men, however, this industry is huge and constructing an entire ferry involves so many other teams and workers, up to 500 a day. Smaller vessels like the Bruny Island ferry take fewer of my men and less time, so it all depends on the size and details.
5. Being a specialist business what type of skills and experience do your team need to have?
The team of guys I have built have all learnt the skills required from the ground up. They have started with work experience in other areas and I have trained them over a period of a few years. Some things cannot be taught like initiative, hard work and respect, but as their employer, I do the best I can for them. I began very hands-on doing most of the specialist tasks but have gradually been able to take on a more managerial role as HMC has grown.
6. Technology is impacting most businesses around the world, how is it impacting your business.
As I have mentioned, my work is more hands on. It is not the type of work that can be taken over by machines or computers so in that respect the impact of technology is minimal. However, I have benefited from technological advances especially in paint applications and measurements of environmental variables. The accounting side of my business has also been streamlined with computers and software, where I initially did it all by hand.
7. How has the marine industry changed over the fourteen years you’ve run your own business?
I suppose there have been many changes in the marine industry over the years. My job within the industry has certainly changed. I started out with ‘small’ jobs at the domain slip, where I still do jobs nowadays. HMC’s first job was painting a steel house in South Hobart! So, the business has progressively advanced into larger and more complex jobs within the boat building industry.
8. As a valued client of Collins SBA, how have they helped you and your business?
I have been with Collins SBA since 2013 and they have helped take my business to the next level by providing support and advice. I have been able to expand my business and investments with more confidence, but it has also allowed me more time to concentrate on doing my job, and spending less behind a computer screen.
9. What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I would like to be able to leave my boys a working and profitable business if it is what they want. If not, then maybe have a business someone will want to buy and carry on. This business has also been a means to ensure a secure and happy life for my family. Being able to help my kids is very important, so I guess in some ways my legacy is less important and I will be glad knowing I have helped them as much as I can.
10. What obstacles do you face in your business and how do you typically tackle them?
Main obstacles to my business are getting reliable team members and juggling contractors. Flexibility, patience and determination are very important.
11. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
It is rewarding seeing a boat you have worked on for often many months be launched and even seeing some boats years later sailing down the Derwent. The Sydney ferries are a highlight as well.
12. What are you most proud of at HMC?
I am proud when I stand back and see that HMC has become a successful business and see the role it plays in some of the massive crafts that travel the world. Getting the INCAT contract was a memorable and proud moment on this journey.
13. What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
My advice to someone would be to research your market. Is there an opening in that market you can fill? Always assess the competition, as well as understand the politics involved. A good financial institution such a Collins SBA is also something you want to think about. The extra support provided here is invaluable.