Yes! IRL events are back – Family Business Australia NSW Chairman’s Lunch

Given I’ve spent the bulk of 2020 at home in active wear (with a blazer as needed of course), it was very exciting last week to head to our first official IN REAL LIFE event. With the barrage of video calls, often sans break, life can certainly start to blend. No edges, no delineation, just zoom moosh (technical term I assure you).

There’s no team better equipped to kick this ‘IRL’ movement off than our partner, and always fabulous host, Family Business Australia. Why? The FBA events have such a strong sense of community and connection (even when they are being COVID safe).

The event was wonderfully MC’d by Danielle Robertson, NSW Chair and long standing member, and kicked off with a virtual address by CEO Greg Griffith (well timed seeing as most must have been having Zoom withdrawals at that point). It was fantastic to hear the amazing retention figures for FBA membership, given how tumultuous the year has been. Which really speaks to the value FBA delivers.

INTERVIEW — Frank Seeley of Seeley International

Seeley International are an incredible Australian, family owned business that are global leaders in air conditioning. People often talk about being global leaders, but Seeley has the evidence to back it up. They won the world’s largest evaporative air conditioning project amongst 200 global contenders to deliver over 45,000 air conditioners for 100,000 tents used by the millions of pilgrims to Mecca each year. It’s an amazing feat, delivered under incredible timeframes and well it’s worth watching this short video about the project to get a sense of the scale:

Frank was a great speaker, very authentic and quite the character. Peter Ivett of Vivente did a great job keeping him on track and drawing out those nuggets of wisdom. With a long and colourful business life Frank had some great tips to share:

UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT IS EVERYTHING. Frank’s wife Kathy has provided unwavering support that Frank attributes over 50% of his success to. It meant that bold business decisions could be made without having that layer of worry at home to consider. This has been a key part of Frank’s ability to take risks and innovate.

INNOVATE TO HIT THE WORLD STAGE. Frank was an innovator from the get go, even engineers would reach out to him to help problem solve. The first big step was when he started moving to plastic to avoid the corrosion issue. It wasn’t perfect at first, but people supported him for ‘giving it a go’. A few years later they went from a cooler with 389 parts to one with 56 parts – it worked better, it was quieter, was more powerful but drew less power. And it all simply clipped together, no screws, no nuts, no fuss. This put them on the world stage. Frank’s key learning: ‘innovation isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. It’s a never ending journey.’

AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE. Two keys to Australian success globally are innovation and automation. Seeley International have invested in equipment and processes that have enabled their success at a grand scale. They have a new molding process that allows them to mold in 30 seconds rather than 3 minutes. Those kinds of efficiencies matter a lot when you win the world’s largest contract.

HAVE HIGH STANDARDS. You have nothing without integrity. Your integrity matters more than anything and is a huge factor in the success of family business. Stand by your word, do right by others. If you are going to have family involved in the business they need to be as good as, or slightly better than the non-family options. And having a diverse and high calibre board really helps steer the business forward.

Thanks FBA for a wonderful event (and side note the food was DELICIOUS thanks Doltone House). We are really excited to be entering this new COVID phase of actually getting out and connecting face to face with both known and new humans!

Family Business Australia NSW Chairman's Lunch

Jodie de Vries

Written by: Jodie de Vries
Published: November 5, 2020

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