by Mollie Berry
Mollie Berry interviews David Forrest for his insights on the business world.
Where did you start in the workforce and what led you to your current position?
That was a few years ago Mollie, originally I was accepted into Uni as a Physical Education Teacher – late 1980’s.– my dream job in Highschool & Matriculation However, I chose to do Aquaculture at University Launceston, it was the first time the course was offered, a 2 year Associate Diploma – then extended to a 3 year Diploma course to support an industry in it’s infancy. Today you can even do a doctorate, I think.
This decision was made as the family had been involved in the Aquaculture Industry (oysters) since I was 15 years old. I spent 28 years in the family business Barilla Bay, building Barilla Bay Oysters to be an internationally recognised purveyor of fine Oysters. The construction of Barilla Bay Restaurant and Gourmet food stop was finished in 2004, Winning best Seafood Restaurant in Tasmania 2004 & 2005. Won Tas Tourism award for best new development and represented the State at the National final awards in 2005.
The business was recognised as a world leader in Aqua Tourism including Farm tours, hosting numerous awards dinners, product launches and even the Launch of one of Virgins New Aircraft. We even put together an Oyster Book which Won Best Seafood Cookbook in Australia at the Gourmand World Cookbook awards.
I left the family business to come and work with Tassal after a fall out with my parents (that’s an even a longer story) - an interesting outcome considering I was part of the Next Generation Committee with Family Business Australia, a great organisation.
Tassal were looking for someone with my skill sets and I was interested in the position they were offering.
What are your key responsibilities at Tassal?
I am fortunate to understand most parts of the business and don’t just limit myself to the marketing side but enjoy contributing in other areas of the business. My immediate responsibilities include the successful running of the Salamanca Shop and New mobile salmon truck and ensuring they meet not just Company expectations but also that of the community – we are the face of the Company within Tasmania so that first point of contact can be critical in community engagement.
I have also been responsible for building a shop in Melbourne and assisting De Costi Seafoods at The Royal Sydney Easter Show each year since the Company’s take over 3 years ago.
What are some of the challenges you face in a normal day?
Daily challenges generally include insuring we remain focused on our goals each day and contribute towards the greater Company goals. There are always business challenges and personal challenges each day and ensuring that people come to work each day and leave safe is a key priority. Hopefully the business and even myself can help them learn and grow each day assisting in creating a highly successful team with the same vision.
As the National Business Manager, what are some of the projects or initiatives you are most proud of?
As I mentioned earlier, being flexible is the key to the opportunities that are presented to you. I am open to anything. And in the words of some of my bosses, I get stuff done.
I work with new product development and logistics when required and find that interesting.
Strangely enough I think one of my best achievements for the Company was closing our Melbourne Shop. We had a short period of time to make good and exit the business. I maintained a full staff crew until the last day of business and made the rest disappear – including the sale of the remainder of the business to a new building owner. This was all done after just one conversation with my boss, faith and trust go a long way!
Do you have any tips for students interested in management?
Relationships are the key – ensure you develop and learn all the traits of a good manager – trust, sharing, empathy, have a vision, etc.
Remember respect goes both ways – you will be treated as you treat others!
Management within an organization will be different from managing your own business but the basic principles will always be the same.
If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life – I did that for 28 years within my family business.
Never be satisfied with second best – It will destroy you from the inside.
Dream of being the best in the world, and then do it!
by David Lee
Roll up your sleeves and get a taste for the fundamental steps of building a startup!
This is the tag line first read by David Lee when he went on the Wade Institute website to do an application. Unfortunately, the website is a little bare, so here are his insights on this awesome event.
Start up Spring is a weekend start-up event run by the University of Melbourne’s Wade Institute. The idea is to develop and validate a business idea in a small group whilst getting feedback from other attendees and mentors. The atmosphere is busy, but friendly as there are no prizes for the best idea, the goal of the weekend is to encourage creativity and collaboration rather then competition.
As a 3-day event, it is made clear that time is limited so getting it done, is far more important then getting it ‘right’. As a practical workshop based on the basic components of building a startup, the three core principles of working hard, moving quickly and pitching (selling) your idea, are built into participants mindsets from the start. The key notion is every idea should be tweaked, modified or completely discarded as quickly as possible and that being able to sell an idea is almost as important as being able to come up with one.
The first day was about idea validation. We were put into groups and given the task of coming up with as many ideas as possible. With the focus on quantity over quality, the ideas started strongly but waned in practicality and feasibility over time. From this pool, we chose our best 2 ideas and were instructed to pitch them to the class to see which ideas we would be working on. It was pretty hard to see some people part with ideas that they had spent a large amount of time thinking about which led me to realise, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve been thinking about an idea for 10 minutes or 10 weeks as at the end of the day, it depends how well you can sell it.
The finalist Ideas to be worked on over the weekend:
I think a common theme from these ideas is that none of them are really that unique which is fine; as one of the mentors said, “completely new ideas are usually unfeasible or will scare investors away with their uniqueness”.
I decided to join the baby food team as I thought it would be a simple product business while the other ideas would be complex or I thought were too technical to develop within the 3 day period. Our team was multi-disciplined and we definitely had no shortage of ‘smart people’ (5/7 people on our team had PHDs). The composition was:
So with this motivated group of mismatches we went about creating the greatest baby food product the world had ever seen.
Working with a large group of people is never an easy task and with strangers is even harder. Our initial discussions seemed to go around in circles as we all shared our thoughts on what we thought was the best way forward. We were given a guiding plan buy the mentors but were left free to go about the actual development of the product whatever way we want.
I think a reason we “wasted” so much time is due to everyone being nice to each other. In effect we had a product that attempted to please everyone which was actually impossible to sell as one of our mentors kindly pointed out to us. However, this is not to say that being mean and straight up telling someone’s idea is bad is the right way of giving your thoughts on an idea.
The second day was about product validation which meant going out and asking random people about their current problems and how we could potentially help them out. We decided to split our team to visit 3 different areas – parks, museums/libraries and baby food health stores.
After scoping out a couple of local parks for parents with prams we asked them for their insights on what they thought of store bought products. Receiving the mixed news of “we hate store bought products” meaning they weren’t interested in buying current offerings but also leading to the realisation that this also included our product, we went back to the college to share insights.
Up next was our first pitch to the judging panel. Unfortunately, our group didn’t do as well as we should’ve as the customer insights process had all given us different impressions which lead us to change the slide deck to the last moment before presentation. Compounding the problem was due to time constraints, I was forced to write up a narrative pitch which was only loosely linked to the slide deck rather then the standard process of narrating the slides naturally. As a result, our pitch wasn’t as well integrated as the other groups, though the judges were able look at our actual product offering and provide valuable feedback on that.
After this hurdle, we stayed up to midnight, reshaping our business idea and making sure everyone was on the same page. The final day, was dedicated to creating the final pitch we would show to the judges. We divided our team into components including a pitch team – story flow, design – making the pitch deck and our market statistics team – market and competitive analysis.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic event and definitely something anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship should consider attending. Working with a group of strangers to create a product and business model is not easy but a very rewarding experience. I think the diversity of the group was something I found very interesting. I was expecting a student cohort but found that 75% of attendees were professionals from a variety of top tier professions. Amongst a number of academics, Corrs had several lawyers present as while there was an investment banking complement from Credit Suisse.
As a free event, the Wade Institute provides all food and accommodation for interstate participants for the weekend so if you’re interested in learning about startups or have a cool idea you want to work on this is definitely a great way to spend your weekend.
Check out their website here: http://wadeinstitute.org.au/startup-sprint/
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