Reaching a half or full century in business is an incredible accomplishment that so very few can say they’ve done. Yet there are several Townsville businesses here who have worked against all odds to achieve this. They’ve stood the test of time against economic downfalls, wars, recessions and business altering revolutions thanks to the birth of the Internet and the craze of social media. Yet what is really uplifting is how passionate these businesses are – not just about the local community members they proudly help out – but the competitors who they say have worked to help them in times of need. It’s a testament to just how strong our business community is but it still doesn’t mean their road was easy.
What a year 1983 was. Australia II had won the America’s Cup, Bob Hawke became Prime Minister, Australiana was number one on the singles chart and Townsville was introduced to Steve “Pricey” Price. With over 30 years of radio experience under his belt, Pricey’s name has certainly become synonymous with our tropical identity.
Both Pricey and 4TO FM’s overwhelming success comes down to the ability to connect community members together – a skill that any businessman would tell you is the foundation for longevity and success.
“It’s a whole new lease on life working at a radio station which has incredible history,” Pricey says, enthusiasm for 4TO FM’s 86-year history clear in his voice.
4TO FM has seen many changes in their near century of operation but they know better than anyone that the rules of business are no different, regardless of industry.
“The most important person to us is the listener. The most important person to the shop and business owners is the client,” Pricey says. “If you’re a new business to this part of the world, spend time and learn. You can have your great business acumen and your finance and product knowledge, but you’ve got to know the audience. Take time to learn about the city and its attitudes. For example, if they’re going to shop on the weekend, be open on the weekend.”
However, he says Townsville businesses have a way of connecting that is so unique even big cities – like Sydney or Melbourne – would struggle to ever replicate it.
“Everyone wants you to be successful. Yes, even your competition,” he says with a laugh. “In fact, half the time your competition will help you in this city. They will help you out when you’re in strife and when you need to learn. What we’ve got to do up here is help each other and find a way to make sure there’s work because if there’s work, there’s money going around and that benefits every business regardless of what you do.”
Pricey says it’s also important for businesses to go back through their own history and re-evaluate what worked and what was successful in order to apply it to our modern-day needs.
“Have a look at things and say, ‘gee that worked, why did that work? How can I reinvent that to suit now?” Pricey says. “We’ve done it here at 4TO FM. If you can do that, it’ll pay itself off in the business. Then you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it in the first place!”
Nestled among Townsville’s parklands, just ten minutes from the CBD is the gorgeous Rowes Bay Golf Club, which started as a volunteer organisation in 1967 and grew to employ 25 locals.
Yet, it’s not their picturesque views that have kept them in business for over fifty years – rather, their dedication to changing with the times and focusing on their strengths. It’s this dedication that has seen them become the biggest membership-based golf course outside of Brisbane for non-resorts. Impressive!
General Manager, Gary, has implemented several key measures to ensure the course continues to run smoothly. Many of which are simple, yet incredibly effective.
It’s important for all businesses to look at their most crucial asset and see how they can continually improve it. For Rowes Bay, this is obviously their golf course but also their passion for providing top-notch service. By continually providing a good experience both on and off the course, Gary says it comes back to them in the form of corporate sponsorship and new memberships, which pushes the club into a better position year after year.
“Everyone is working harder for their dollar, you just have to work smarter with what you do and you still just survive on service,” Gary says.
Whilst short-term expenses certainly help to improve long-term benefits, it shouldn’t have to create a strain on your budget if you’re smart about it. “We have state of the art watering systems, which is what you have to do to save water and power,” Gary says, as he tells us about the smart provisions he’s put in place to keep all 27 golfing greens up to spec.
“That’s really how we sustain what we do. Most of the diverse businesses that move with the times and stay in the zone, survive.”
The improvements don’t stop there either, with technology playing a huge part in the clubs advancement.
“We’ve taken over the golf shop and put in state-of-the-art cash-register systems which link trophy accounts for members in the bar and shop, so they can utilise the money they win in both areas,” Gary says proudly.
Acquiring the golf shop has been a hugely helpful way for them to streamline services and keep the cash flow within their club so they can continue to improve the experience for everyone.
“We’ve had to change the way a lot of our memberships are structured now,” Gary says. “So it’s direct debited out of an account. This improved our monthly cash flow and made a big difference to our rolling cash flow throughout the year. We also changed our system so we pay all our leases and loans over nine months. This means we don’t pay leases and loans through the wet period and if we don’t get a wet season, then it puts us right on the front foot for the rest of the year. Technology is just so advanced these days so it’s one of those things you just keep learning.”
With Castle Hill as the backdrop and gorgeous rolling greens in every direction, it makes sense that Rowes Bay Golf Club would see the potential for visual mediums such as social media. It’s a step that many businesses in their age bracket simply don’t take advantage of but Gary says it has helped immensely.
“Social media has been a massive part of our business and it’s really made a big difference to our business. We capture a different market and we reach out to a lot of different people that wouldn’t normally come here, so we’ve just had to move with the times,” Gary says.
Paul Rissman, a McDonalds Licensee, attended a Ronald McDonald House North Queensland Charity Golf Day at Rowes Bay Golf Club and says that keeping business alive also comes back to how you treat the community.
“You have to give back in a town like Townsville. We can’t do it without the support of each other and they understand that and it’s quite evident that they support us in many ways.”
If letters from the Queen were given to businesses, Ede Shade Solutions would have one royal piece of paper on their hands. Successfully making it through 102 years of business, Bronwyn – who is a fourth generation family member and co-director for the company – says the company has certainly been through some hurdles.
“In 1964 our shop, which was located on Victoria Bridge, burnt down,” Bronwyn says. “This was devastating for our family at the time but Clary was able to set up temporary shop and everyone in the town, including suppliers from the South, helped to keep him in business while the new shop was built.”
Since then, Bronwyn says one of the biggest hurdles was adjusting to technology, which they did quite early!
“My father Daryl could see where technology was going and implemented computers back in the eighties. This was a huge step for the business back then and even resulted in two office employees retiring,” she says.
“Now we have started the process of moving to the Cloud. Again, another big step and this time it’s me getting used to the change.”
However, Bronwyn says that adapting to technology shouldn’t just be done to suit the business, with customer experience and interaction a key focus as well.
After being in business for so long, it’s tempting to ease off and simply rely on loyal customers. However, Ede’s passionate staff have always had a finger on the pulse with their rebranding and plans to innovate internally pushing them ahead.
“Our 100 year anniversary and celebration was a massive turning point for us I believe. We rebranded with a new name, added a showroom so our customers could see and feel the products, updated our website and created more of a social media presence than ever before,” Bronwyn says.
“We are constantly reviewing our business and how we’re tracking to achieve our goals. It’s difficult to find the time to work on the business instead of in it but it’s something that must be done. Putting in the hard work now will lead to seeing the result of our vision in the future.”
Their other co-director and third-generation family member, Russell Ede, agrees. “Obviously a lot of things have changed over the 100 years in business but to me I think being in a smaller city has definitely got its advantages. We find working close with other companies benefits you as compared to trying to work against them,” Russel says.
These may sound like simple lessons but how many times have you put off up-skilling staff, looking at budgets, making charts or knuckling down to create a three to five year plan due to being time-poor? Being in business means that you’ll almost always be time-poor – it’s when you have too much time on your hands that you should be worried.
When it comes to Townsville law firms, one of the most notable and long-standing names is wilson/ryan/grose Lawyers – and for good reason! They have continuously served the Townsville community since 1895, working through two World Wars, a Global Financial Crisis, subsequent Great Depression and every natural disaster Mother Earth could have thrown at Townsville. One of their founders, Lachlan Chisolm Wilson, even found fame leading Australian troops through Gallipoli and Palestine throughout World War I.
Their Managing Partner, Michelle Morton, says that despite everything our world and city has been through, their firm has adapted to the modern era and differing client needs, learning some huge lessons along the way.
“The practice of law has completely changed over 100 years, particularly in the way in which we communicate with our clients,” Michelle says. “We originally had typewriters, telex machines, facsimile machines, massive computers and massive printers and we now have a paperless office using sophisticated legal software, tablets, laptops and mobile phones. We interact with our clients via LinkedIn, Facebook and electronics.”
However, Michelle says that communication isn’t the only thing the Internet has changed.
“We have to do what the Internet and Google don’t,” Michelle says, explaining that the team constantly work to ensure they put together a solid solution for their clients and provide a better service than those who might be enticed to research it themselves.
In this digital era you’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that’s not overrun by competition which is why Michelle says the best decision they made was finding a niche.
“One of the major and significant strategies we implemented was specialisation,” Michelle says. “We valued what our clients said and understood that they were looking for highly specialist advice but didn’t want to go to capital cities to obtain it. So that’s one of our long-term strategies which has been very successful. It also means our people have a better quality of working life. So instead of having to know a little bit about some things, it’s a lot less stressful to be focused.”
Successfully navigating their way through times of unexpected toil also comes down to their in-depth business structure, which keeps them on top of monthly and yearly progress – a business strategy that Michelle says everyone should employ and more importantly, stick to.
“We set budgets yearly and monitor them monthly. There’s a three year plan which is monitored and reviewed to ensure it is relevant and we are on track, which we usually review twice a year,” Michelle says.
“We have spent a lot of time trying to ensure that we weatherproof ourselves, so we think hard about where we’re heading, where we think the new industries are, where the new work is going to be, what kind of skills we’re going to have to meet, the needs of our business community and the needs of our private clients.”
On top of keeping up with industry trends, they also strive to keep up with clients and their needs, which often means streamlining their business to make it more accessible for clients.
“I think we’ve had to become far more approachable, far more adaptable and far more responsive because of the accessibility that people want. You have to be willing to embrace that,” Michelle says.
“You also have to be affordable. We have to be able to make sure that we meet the expectations of the community with respect to providing trusted and correct advice in a timely manner and an affordable fashion,” Michelle adds.
Keeping their clients happy also comes down to keeping their employees happy and ensuring they have the right staff.
“Our people are extremely important. I think you do need to invest the time into training people, making them believe that they are valuable and what they do is valued,” Michelle says. “I think that we have a great culture of respecting and treating people in a way that makes them want to do the best for our clients. Then obviously the most important thing after our staff is that everyone here has to be a hundred percent committed to our clients. Our clients are extremely important and our staff must work within this culture of recognising that we’re here to deliver the best service we can to the community and our clients.”
After more great lessons from key leaders? Consider checking out “The tough truth about leadership” to hear about the raw side of success.