Australian businesses ‘don’t care’ about recycling

A SURVEY by waste and recycling company claims that up to 80 percent of companies in Australia have no green policy in place and do not separate recyclable waste from non-recyclable.

BusinessWaste said business was indiscriminately filling landfill waste sites and some were resorting to “illegal activity” to get rid of rubbish.

The research showed most businesses do not sort paper, food and glass waste, despite the practice being widespread in domestic waste collections. 

BusinessWaste’s survey found business were commonly not recycling paper and cardboard, plastics, printer cartridges, green waste for composting, electrical waste and old computers.

“It reflects very badly upon us as a nation,” said BusinessWaste recycling manager Jonathan Ratcliffe.

“Other countries have forged ahead with commercial recycling, but a high proportion of Australian companies seemingly can’t be bothered and contribute to the millions of tons of waste we produce every year.

“Landfill is both wasteful and expensive and businesses are hitting themselves in the bank balance because of their inability or unwillingness to recycle. It’s not a great step implementing a green policy, and it saves money almost from the start.”

The BusinessWaste survey of more than 1200 businesses also found that some companies were prepared to break the law in order to reduce or eliminate their waste-handling costs.

“We’re well aware that some companies will still fly-tip in this day-and-age,” Mr Ratcliffe said. “But we've found some smaller businesses prepared to admit that they dispose of their waste at the household tip while posing as a member of the public.

“It’s a dangerous game. Companies that breach their waste management duty of care face unlimited fines if they get caught.”

Mr Ratcliffe said fortunately governments were incentivising green policies and recycling through tax breaks for energy efficiency, and the landfill tax, which penalises organisations that do not recycle their waste.

Local governments around Australia are also increasingly offering commercial and industry recycling collection services. One of the most comprehensive business recycling services began through Brisbane City Council in 2010.

“At up to $102 per tonne going to landfill, it soon adds up for companies that don’t recycle,” BusinessWaste’s Mr Ratcliffe said.

“Our company is committed to the vision of a zero-waste, 100 percent recycled economy.”


EXTRA: What happened to Business Acumen?

EXTRA: WHATEVER happened to Business Acumen?

We tell this story, in a subscriber-only extended version here, to illustrate the points made in our print edition's Liquidation Epidemic special report: There must be a better way.

The decimation of Australia’s SME sector – including far too many agribusinesses and generational family concerns – is now a fact. The concern now is that new businesses, many similar to the types that have vanished, along with others completely new and reliant on new technologies, are being touted as Australia’s ticket to new economic and employment success.

If that had been the official realisation in 2009 rather than 2014, Business Acumen may not have even needed to conduct a feature report of this nature. 

Business Acumen is not seeking to blame but to explain. From an understanding of where Australia is standing, right now, it must logically be easier to chart a more successful course.

From our own experiences of liquidation and the evidence we present in this report, we see that an attitude change is needed among such pivotal organisations to the business sector as the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the major banks.

This is a plea for collaboration with business people rather than blind procedure. This is a plea for such vital organisations to listen for a moment, rather than tell all the time.

This is a suggestion that the system might work better if these organisations adapt to the new environment wrought by the digital revolution – a revolution in which there is more connection, more collaboration and more integration. It means the ATO, the banks and ASIC becoming economic team players – because team sports are where Australia really shines – instead of judgemental spectators. At the moment Australia is losing from the situation in which these vital players may know and work to the rules of the game, but cannot be relied upon to play in the spirit of the game.  

What happened in the lead up to, and during, the Acumen Media Pty Ltd liquidation process is instructive and may help others caught in similar situations to see the signs, understand the environment, and perhaps navigate a way clear. And realise that, at the moment, administration/liquidation remains a zero-sum game in Australia.




THE Business Acumen magazine experience is, unfortunately, fairly typical of the small and medium business routing that occurred from 2011-2013 across Australia.

Business Acumen magazine’s then-owning company, Acumen Media Pty Ltd, was directed into liquidation in the Federal Magistrates Court of Queensland on March 23, 2012, at the request of the Australian Taxation Office. It was the magazine’s eighth year of publication.

Five of those years had been reasonably profitable. It employed about six people on average, in the first phase of its life. It drew and paid GST on advertising, subscriptions, postage, courier fees, printer maintenance, paper, digital toner and inks … and of course the other regular business costs such as power, rent, body corporate fees, staff amenities.

The first year of Business Acumen Queensland – 2004 – had been tough, but it had the benefit of emerging from a fairly successful graphics and large format printing company, which shared its directors and some staff.

From then up until 2009, with the GFC and financial collapse of several major advertisers, the magazine had enjoyed steady circulation among CEOs, business owners and business leaders, along with vital advertising revenue growth. Business Acumen had been invited to join the business community-minded mentoring group Queensland Leaders in 2006, and began an association of circulating to, and drawing fascinating stories from, its group of leading Queensland CEOs.  A mark of the integrity of Queensland Leaders has been that this association continues today, stronger than ever, and it was encouragement from Queensland Leaders that helped energise Business Acumen’s return to full print and online publication this year.

The magazine’s early years drew increasing support in subscriptions and advertising from the Queensland Government’s State Development Centres, from where it was distributed to the business leaders that department’s teams were working with regionally; the new Brisbane economic development arm, named Velocity at that stage, then Brisbane Marketing; and a range of innovative businesses, including Zernike Australia which had also launched its Innovation Series in 2004. Business Acumen teamed up with the Innovation Series in a fruitful partnership that endures to this day and has, since, expanded to Melbourne and Sydney.

Acumen acted out its mantra of being overwhelmingly positive about business and striving to help create business opportunity through publicity. The magazine and website had a focus on innovation and presented many inspirational case studies. A simple but welcomed formula.

There were many winners who knew how to leverage the positive publicity Business Acumen generated, and was increasingly sought out for, by business leaders. Take Absolute Data Group (ADG), whose CEO Tammy Halter found that the pre-seeding of Business Acumen editions featuring stories on ADG, by the Los Angeles Trade Queensland office, played a helpful role in gaining a hearing from the US military on her innovative electronic technical data manuals. ADG won a series of breakthrough contracts with the US Air Force and Coast Guard.

There was the Brisbane start-up which designed lockable surfboard racks. Business Acumen was contacted by a large US sporting goods distributor, who just happened to pick up the magazine from his Brisbane hotel’s executive lounge, and passed on contact details.

There was the James Cook University and MDB Energy-developed algae-based carbon dioxide capture and conversion system, which was struggling for recognition until CEO Andrew Lawson’s appearance at the Innovation Series and a story in Business Acumen helped to cut through the right corridors of the Queensland Government. Within a year MDB had a grant and trials operating at Stanwell’s Tarong power station in Queensland, then on to Victoria’s Loy Yang A plant and NSW’s Eraring power plant.

There was also the ongoing relay, to business leaders and owners, of information on government programs, grants and changes brought through the taxation system by the ATO. This was all part of the business community service territory for Business Acumen magazine.

None of this was considered or deemed relevant when, on March 23, 2012, ATO’s representative legal firm, Gadens Lawyers, told the court its client, the ATO, believed Acumen Media Pty Ltd should be wound up and its assets liquidated to recover a taxation debt of, by that time, approximately $160,000. It was a mix of GST, PAYE, penalty fees and penalty interest. A post-flood income and cashflow crisis throughout 2011 had meant there had barely been enough cash available to keep staff employed, let alone service the ATO debt.

The ATO’s position was that it was not confident of Acumen Media’s legal representative’s claim that the debt would be serviced by the impending publication of its 2011-12 Queensland Yearbook. Acumen Media’s solicitor’s request that an adjournment of the case be made for that publication to complete (and advertising funds to be collected) was rejected on the ATO’s advice.

The ATO’s position to the court was that it was ‘not confident’ any further delay in liquidating the company would stand a better chance of collecting the debt. There had already been several adjournments granted – which the Registrar noted were at the ATO’s request – and this latest request by the defendant’s legal representative was opposed. The Registrar took the ATO’s advice and nominated the pre-nominated liquidator, Bentleys. The order, and Acumen Media Pty Ltd, was summarily executed.

There were 40 small and medium businesses being considered in that morning session. Of those, 27 were earmarked to be liquidated by the ATO and just a couple of other petitioners.

A notable exception was the property company of the Gold Coast Titans, which fought well to escape a summary decision a week earlier to be wound up by the ATO, only to be in court that day again as creditor Reed Constructions took over the action. The matter went on to be considered in another court hearing that day: about a month later, Gold Coast Titans (Property) went into voluntary administration, but the club itself restructured and the up-and-coming team staved off liquidation with the backing of the NRL.

Editor and Acumen Media director Mike Sullivan was sitting in the court that day, watching this disastrous turn of events unfold. For the Business Acumen editor, this came in an excruciating way.

In his briefcase, at his feet, were two copies of that Yearbook, numbers 999 and 1000, produced on Acumen Media’s in-house digital press the previous day. Another 9000 copies of that edition were set to be printed and distributed over the following weeks.

Mr Sullivan realised, in a cold sweat, that he had made the disastrous and fundamental mistake of not representing the company himself. A former court rounds reporter, he later lamented that he should have simply asked the permission of the court, held up that magazine, and politely pointed out that the print and distribution process was well advanced and stood the best chance of a positive outcome for the ATO and all concerned. It may not have worked, given the ‘liquidation system’ was in play, but it should have been tried.

But he was tired. He froze. He described it as a “surreal” sensation. His every inclination had been to rise and ask the leave of the court to present an item of evidence to Acumen Media’s solicitor. But things were moving so fast and the people did not stop talking … the court was eager to get through the morning’s list.

Mr Sullivan later admitted his mind was blunted and exhausted after 18 intense months of fighting to keep the company alive. Acumen had endured a steady loss of clients, many of them with unpaid advertising bills, to liquidations and closures, along with the withdrawal of all advertising by its bank – accompanied by the same frantic tightening of bank credit and loan covenants that all Australian SMEs experienced from 2008 onwards.

At a crucial time in negotiations with the ATO he also had been personally beset with the deaths of two friends in November and December, 2011, both from brain tumours.

A month before that he thought the worst had passed when the ATO send a letter announcing that it had garnisheed Acumen’s Westpac trading accounts. This had come after an intense series of ATO requests, discussions and reports were made in order to assess Acumen Media’s ‘viability’ in the damaged trading environment that followed the January 2011 Queensland floods.

Mr Sullivan was relieved at the time, as the garnishee seemed to give permission to continue to bring the flood-affected Queensland Yearbook to publication, it was just that any money collected would be going direct to the ATO. He would have to find operational funds, mainly to pay staff. But at least Acumen could still trade.

It was a relief to have the liquidation threat sidelined, he thought … but it had not.

For whatever reason, the ATO did not take funds from the business accounts and the next contact was a summons announcing the winding up hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court.

Urgent phone contact took place, desperately seeking the case officer for the company. As frustrating as the phone chase was, stretched to hours in waiting time, there seemed to be an opportunity to complete the publication – although the ATO now wanted more company information, cashflow and budget projections so it could assess again if Acumen Media was viable.

At a time when all effort was directed to client contact and getting the stories, design and advertising material finalised to go to press, days were to be lost in meeting the ATO’s requests.

One hold-up was an assessment required from an accountant. Accounting figures were delayed past the nominated deadline by the unexpected business travel of Acumen Media’s accountant – a friend who was not charging to complete the task, understanding the situation and wanting to see Business Acumen survive.

Another black mark went against the company.

The first black mark had been for earlier budgets and accounts figures, such as the aged payables and receivables ledgers, which reached the ATO a day later than specified, mainly because of technical barriers in the ATO’s system at that time.

The Acumen Media team was astonished to learn that these items had to be either received by mail or faxed, by the deadline. They could not be e-mailed and Acumen Media was informed there was no e-mail address available to receive them. They had to be faxed, a process that took almost a complete business day of dialling, re-dialling and waiting for the ATO’s line to accept them. Those lines dropped out many times, usually with just the first page transmitted. What was not understood, when the 29 pages finally did go through, was that the nine final crucial pages had dropped off. They had apparently not transmitted, although there had been no warning.

In a letter, a week later, the ATO pointed out that all the information requested had not been received. This would accelerate the winding up.


He’d had little sleep.

On March 23, 2012, Mr Sullivan had “stupidly been worried about having enough money for petrol and parking that day” to attend the court hearing. Money had been very tight for many long months. He had parked at a friend’s home at Spring Hill and walked down the hill to the Federal Court, rushing to make the start time. The Acumen Media case did not arise until the second hour of the hearings. The sweat formed cold on his back in the court room.

Just a day earlier, when he had been informed by the ATO’s lawyers that an expected further adjournment was not going to be granted, he had desperately called on a solicitor friend who had been helping him with other looming business debt issues that go, as any small business director knows, with this territory.

He had unfortunately not been available, but delegated another solicitor from his office who was briefed and fully expected to be able to buy time to complete the publication and settle the tax debt.

Mr Sullivan estimated to the solicitor that full publication of the Yearbook and collection of the proceeds would have settle the ATO debt within 4-6 weeks. Buying time to ‘get product out’ and recover debt obligations was the goal. This is precisely what Mr Sullivan and his accounting helpers had been putting to the ATO since the wind-up action surfaced in late 2011.

“It felt like a team sport contest in which the result was challenging, but within reach,” Mr Sullivan said of those weeks.

“We had a good team. We had a good track record of ‘helping’ business and the government, because our editorial stance was always a-political and to be ‘overwhelmingly positive about business’. Business Acumen could continue its role of helping to create business opportunities through publicity.  Our opposition on this occasion, the ATO, was tough but would surely play fair. The winner would always be Australia.”

It was a naïve and fatally misguided confidence.

Yet that attitude was what had probably sustained the Business Acumen team since the event that had triggered this company’s latest financial crisis: the Queensland floods of January 2011. Acumen Media’s offices at Kerry Rd, Archerfield, had not been inundated – but most of the Yearbook’s key client list throughout Queensland certainly had.

That was why the Yearbook became known as the 2011-12 Yearbook … the aftermath of the floods had prevented publication of the 2011 Yearbook. Most of the paying clients in that publication were regional council economic development organisations using the Yearbook, which was distributed nationally and internationally, to outline their competitive advantages, to draw business and investment to their regions.

Most of those regions were now deeply in crisis and could not afford to publish. They invariably asked not to feature until the crisis had been sorted out. It was to take more than 12 months.

Another major advertiser and long-term sponsor of the Yearbook, one of the big four banks, pulled out at a very late stage, without explanation and in breach of its contract commitment. Enquiry revealed a change of bank staff had prompted a change of priorities.


When, on the afternoon of March 23, Mr Sullivan called around to the office of the appointed liquidators, Bentleys in the Brisbane CBD, the first commiserative words uttered to him were,  “Well, we didn’t expect to see you here today …”

The ironies stacked up. On page three of the latest regular edition of Business Acumen had been a story on Bentleys’ capital raising support for innovative early stage companies. Acumen Media’s liquidators were aware of the coverage and thankful. They shook their heads in disbelief as its editor dropped a copy of the freshly printed Yearbook on the table, 9000 copies short of solving the problem.

The three Bentleys men assigned to the liquidation interview began to discuss a way forward. There might be a way that Mr Sullivan could complete the Yearbook publication, collect the money to get the best outcome for the ATO and then get permission to continue publishing the magazine into the future. This had, in fact, already been quietly suggested by Gadens Lawyers after the court case, prefaced by the optimistic suggestion, “Look, it’s not the end of the world … ”

Not yet it wasn’t.

Over the following two weeks, as Mr Sullivan began writing the detailed eulogy for Acumen Media in the form of the required financial, legal and property records – gathering everything of “value” for the liquidators – he began to understand that his own legally-required actions were driving more nails into the coffin, not resuscitating the business.

For a start, access was removed to all bank accounts and the liquidator controlled them. This allowed them to collect more than $20,000 in past advertising payments that subsequently came in, which were to eventually be divided up as the court-deemed payment to the ATO of $5087.50 and $15,000 retained by the liquidator as fees. In the liquidator’s final report, it would be pointed out that this sum was less than half what the actual costed $33,000 fee should have been for a liquidation of this nature.

With no income and no bank accounts, there was now the desperate dilemma of how to pay staff members and, indeed, operate. With the Yearbook rescue and resuscitation looming as a mountain in the background, the landslides of liquidation began to impact proper.

Clients and suppliers were notified by the liquidator, as is part of the process, from the supplied MYOB file lists. A notice was posted in the daily newspaper. This induced a rolling period of explanations and mild panic as the contagion spread and even suppliers not owed money cut off any potential service. Most were commiserative, but wary.

The most devastating of these losses was Lanier, a marketing partner and supplier of Acumen’s digital press – and a vital cog in the printing of the Yearbook and any future editions. In fear of having the liquidators resume their machines, they urgently and rightly sent in a team to dismantle and take them away.

The Acumen Media land lines and VoIP phones were summarily cut off. All mobile phones, with another telco, were also cut off and numbers lost. The landlord was notified and made moves to change the locks on the building, but understood the situation once explained and was thankfully persuaded to hold off.

All the while, discussions ensued with Bentleys about a purchase of the rights from Acumen Media (in liquidation) to publish Business Acumen on the basis that a majority of proceeds would be passed back to the ATO. That was the desired outcome. Bentleys was bound to proceed with the liquidation process, to the letter of the law. On that basis, a request to use the funds that had come in to the Acumen Media account, to finalise the printing of the Yearbook, and bring in its advertising income, could not be granted.

But there was still hope.

Budgets presented to the liquidator were seen as viable, but all had the same hurdle: no funds could be clawed back, another company had to purchase the rights and that company also had to have enough money in hand to pay staff and pay for printing and distribution.

A couple of false starts ensued in the coming months as potential buyers and collaborators tried to fashion deals that worked for them. But all were hampered by the fact that Business Acumen was not being published and the confusion of the liquidation required a re-building of confidence among advertisers before, realistically, any payments would be realised.

The fight was steadily lost. Business Acumen staff had valiantly tried to hang on, without pay and in their spare time, to be ready for the re-birth, but to no avail.

In the wake of the company liquidation, print company Geon Group successfully petitioned the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney to declare director Michael Sullivan personally bankrupt, seeking payment of a $37,000 residual debt, plus almost $20,000 in costs and interest.

Little if any of that claim was realised by Geon Group as Mr Sullivan’s mortgage-secured business banker, NAB, had soaked up a large part of the equity in his family home through a long period of charging fees and penalty interest compounding on a rolling bill approaching 19 percent per annum. Less than 12 months later, Geon would itself go into administration and then liquidation, owing creditors more than $29 million.

Through a quirk of the way it had been established, the ownership of the Business Acumen website and e-newsletter system was outside the scope of the liquidation and so, off his own bat and without income, Mike Sullivan kept populating the site with news in the hope of an eventual rejuvenation.

This finally came on December 17, 2012 when Screamer Media Pty Ltd purchased “such rights and title as Acumen Media Pty Ltd (in Liquidation) own in the publications and titles” from Bentleys.

The edition you are reading is the second print edition of Business Acumen published by Screamer Media Pty Ltd and printed on its in-house digital press.

Business Acumen now circulates nationally and has an innovative digital print and online information mix that gives subscribers access to extended and prior information not available to the general public.

The 2011-12 Business Acumen Queensland Yearbook has been published as a digital magazine only, available to all readers as a free download from the website.


 POSTED JULY 23. 2014.





EXTRA: Brad Skelton – from the depths to create Depth

EXTRA: BRAD SKELTON is a highly decorated business leader who made his name – and a great deal of money – in the international shipping and transport service industries.

In 2012 he faced a business nightmare. His bank at the time, HSBC, unexpectedly took control of his companies’ accounts and placed the Skelton companies embraced under the umbrella Skelton Sherborne brand into the control of administrators, Deloitte. 

Mr Skelton’s is the kind of entrepreneurial pedigree that business schools love to case study – among other things he won an Ernst & Young (now re-branded EY) Entrepreneur of the Year award, the 2004 Australian Institute of Management Owner Manager of the Year and won Lloyds List DCN Transport & Shipping Logistics Awards in 2005, 2006 and 2007 – but in late 2012, he lost the lot as a result of ‘bewildering’ action by his bank.

And Brad Skelton’s lot was a lot … among other ventures he had created and guided Skelton Trucking, which grew into the largest road heavy haulage company in Australia; boutique agency Skelton Travel; crane hire company Skelton Vertical Transport; and Port of Brisbane cargo handling and processing facility Skelton Terminals. Skelton companies were well regarded internationally as one of the most reliable Australia-based freight forwarders.

This predicament did not start well for Mr Skelton and within months of the bank’s actions it did not end well, either.

In spite of being able to regain control of the Skelton companies, for a short period, the loss of working capital to the administration process and the disruption to clients and loss of confidence mortally wounded the companies. They were placed into liquidation in early 2013.

Today, Brad Skelton may not have recovered the business that he once had, but he has soldiered on to re-create his business life, developing another innovative set of businesses under his new Depth brands. Some of those businesses are engaged in shipping, but these days Mr Skelton is a highly valued adviser to other companies on shipping and transport systems and issues.

But those few accursed months in 2012 that destroyed such valuable businesses – and the livelihoods of many staff who had been with those businesses for more than 15 years – are being put to work in their own way as Brad Skelton prefers to ‘new-build’ from that experience rather than rebuild.

There is enormous value in understanding what Mr Skelton and his staff went through and how they handled this crippling situation. It is best explained in his own words.

Business Acumen presents edited extracts from Brad Skelton’s brutally honest weblogs, which he continues to this day as a cornerstone of his Depth group of companies.

Mr Skelton’s extreme business challenges became known in his blog of Thursday, November 29, 2012:

I am sorry!

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Deloitte in Brisbane have been appointed by HSBC bank as receivers to my company, Skelton Sherborne. Therefore they are currently in full control of the company, not me.

Deloitte have advised they intend to keep the business trading while offering it for sale. An advertising campaign began yesterday in various Australian newspapers.

Skelton Sherborne has truly great people who I can say without reservation are among the shipping industry’s best in the world. I am extremely grateful to every one of them for the incredible professionalism they are displaying right now in very challenging circumstances.

I am so proud of them. Most of these people have given the business between 8-15+ years of their lives and I hope they think it has been an interesting, fun and personally rewarding ride with the company so far. I thank them for the dedication to company, and I, and for their hard work. I am personally doing my best not to let them or their families down.

This team has built the company’s systems and procedures from the ground up and they are world class and very innovative. Skelton Sherborne’s business model and processes are probably the most copied by competitors in the heavy logistics market. With some amusement, the team and I have always taken this as a compliment. 

The company would make an outstanding acquisition for someone and has a track record of good profitability and growth. If you are interested please contact Deloitte in Brisbane directly.

So what happened at Skelton Sherborne for the company to be currently in receivership?

Clearly we lost the support of our bankers, HSBC. Late on Tuesday the 20th of November, without warning or notice, they froze Skelton Sherborne’s bank accounts. The company was not outside of any bank covenants or limits.

Furthermore the company was trading very profitably having just delivered the best four months results in years. The company did not have a single default or judgment against it that would give justification for our bank’s action. 

Since late September this year HSBC had imposed a rapid step down of credit facilities the company relied upon. They required the business to reduce one of those facilities by $100k every Friday or they threatened receivership.

I am proud to say that with the tremendous help and support of my team, long standing clients, suppliers and friends, Skelton Sherborne met this step down – as impossible as it initially seemed. We were still trading profitably and I thought the receivership threat from the bank was removed. Increased attention was then given to reducing creditor balances as fast as we could. As a consequence of the rapid step down required by our bank our cashflow was under pressure but recovering.

HSBC’s action in freezing our accounts last week paralysed us to pay customs, shipping lines and other suppliers in order to ensure smooth cargo and service delivery to our valued clients.

The company immediately engaged our lawyers to try and get this freeze lifted, seek our bank’s justification for this action and to reserve our rights to claim for any losses and damages caused. As we were within all bank limits we had hoped that we could quickly resolve this with them and continue serving our clients and paying suppliers.

Unfortunately we were unable to get HSBC to lift the freeze and their lawyers informed us that all of our banking facilities had been cancelled and withdrawn. At the same time we were also given an immediate demand to pay out the full balance of the remaining facilities. The company could not meet an “immediate” demand of that magnitude and subsequently HSBC appointed Deloitte as their receivers.

I know this receivership is hurting people. I humbly, humbly apologise to my team, our clients and suppliers who have been hurt or affected by what has transpired with Skelton Sherborne over the last nine days.

I am working very hard to try and somehow regain control of the business and continue on trading after the receivers have done their job for HSBC, if I can. This situation is temporary and I am fighting like hell and determined to be one of those many companies who have successfully emerged from a bank receivership. This situation is a massive setback that will slow me down but it will not stop me.

Deloitte are making decisions that they think are in the best interest of the company and no doubt their client, HSBC. Many of these decisions and actions my team and I do not agree with nor in anyway condone.

We are sad to see some of our great clients, who have become friends as well, incurring further expenses that in our view could have and should have been avoided or at least minimised. Client and supplier relationships are being damaged and right now losses are being incurred. I am powerless to stop this at the moment.

For the company’s competitors, who are nearly all former employees of mine, this situation presents an amazing opportunity. It’s not every day that the biggest player in their market suffers misfortune like this. I don’t blame any of them for trying to exploit it. I would seize the opportunity myself and indeed would buy the company from the receivers if I were them.

By the way, to my former employees . . . if your non-compete obligations in your contract have not expired then I strongly suggest you think very carefully. You know that we always enforce them and seek our damages. This situation will be no different.

I take my responsibilities as director very seriously and have been at the office every day. I have not run away overseas as some competitors are saying. Everything that I can do to improve the situation is being done and I know and accept the ultimate responsibility rests with me.

My team and I have at times been overwhelmed with calls and emails through this period. I am sorry if we have not been able to get back to you in a timely fashion. We have frequently been reliant on Deloitte for directions on how to respond to people.

It has been heartening to my team and I to receive so many calls and emails of support from clients and suppliers. Thank you! It is nice to know that you believe in us and the brand. Skelton Sherborne is a great company and I am determined that it will keep going somehow and hopefully with me still at helm and the team intact.

Again I am deeply sorry for any hardship, expense or inconvenience this situation is causing anybody associated with Skelton Sherborne. I am sincerely doing everything in my power to make things right.

Please stay tuned to my blog for further updates as this situation is worked through. I might even lift the lid on a few secrets on people in the coming days.

All for now – Brad Skelton. The Shipping Bloke. 


Friday, November 30, 2012

Fighting back.

Thank you for all kind messages of support since publishing my blog yesterday. I am grateful that so many clients and suppliers alike want this great Australian company to pull through this situation despite some hardship they are currently experiencing.

Our goal is to have the receivers, Deloitte, complete their task as fast as possible for HSBC, so my team and I can then take back over and try to salvage the business and take it from there. We respect that Deloitte are still running a sales process in the background for which they have received expressions of interest already.

We know getting the company back on track after this receivership is going to be a HUGE challenge as some clients have been forced to take their business elsewhere to keep their cargo flowing. We respect this and do not blame them in the slightest for taking this action and regret the inconvenience and extra costs caused to them.

While Deloitte are “trading” the business while they are trying to sell it, they are currently instructing our team not to take on new work. This is going to leave a void for us once they are gone making the recovery more challenging. Our team and I are up for it though and judging by the sentiment of most clients we hope they will come back.

If you are a client that ALREADY has delivery of your cargo but have outstanding final invoices relating to this then we would be very grateful if you could immediately make payment to us. The faster the funds come in and HSBC and Deloitte get paid out the sooner the receivership will end and we can start the recovery and return to normal.

To ensure we can keep trading and recover post the receivership we are hoping that we can pull the following things off.

1. We need a new bank! If any bankers are reading this blog and are interested in helping this company with a recovery, then please contact me urgently. In a future blog I will let you know what bank or banks were willing to support us.

2. If you are a creditor and Skelton Sherborne currently owes you money, then we are willing to consider a ‘debt for equity’ swap. Again I am sorry for any amounts we owe you and any hardship this is causing you and your business!

3. If you are one of our team members, overseas agents, a supplier or an investor that would like to see this company survive and are willing to invest in it then we would welcome that.

Peter Lucas of Kestrel Solutions will handle the ‘debt for equity swap’ and new investment process. Kestrel Solutions assist companies like mine in these types of difficult situations and can be relied upon to take a highly professional approach. Peter can be reached by calling +61 (0) 7 32325250 or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Again my team and I are grateful for your support and well wishes. We are determined to get through this and hope that with a bit of help from everyone we can get all of our business relationships properly back on track and, receivership period aside, continue our good profitable track record.

This great Aussie company deserves to survive and my team, my clients and my suppliers will suffer far less if it does.

All for now – Brad Skelton, The Shipping Bloke.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

I’m back in control of Skelton Sherborne but ....

Just before 5pm last Friday afternoon Deloitte advised me they have been “partially” retired by HSBC as receivers to Skelton Sherborne and handed control of the business back to me. A circular was sent by Deloitte to clients and suppliers early that evening advising them of this. 

If you have read my two previous blog posts you know the team and I have been fighting hard to find a way to get the control of Skelton Sherborne back and the receivers out. I should be really happy as I am largely in control again, but I have been handed back a company that has literally had its heart ripped out as a consequence of HSBC’s actions in unjustifiably freezing bank accounts and then appointing receivers who brutally carried out their task in getting the bank’s money with little or no regard for our clients and our ongoing relationship with them, the future security of employment of my team and payment of other creditors who are owed money too.

I fear that these actions may have caused the company to become insolvent and as any responsible director knows it is against Australian corporations law to trade while insolvent. I am urgently seeking advice on this and the exact financial position of the company to get clarity on this.

Therefore regrettably I need to put our clients on notice that we may not be legally able to resume normal trading and cargo deliveries right away and there are the other issues raised as a consequence of a partial retirement of receivers I need to urgently find a way to overcome.

So what does “partially” retired as receivers mean?

Deloitte advise that the only areas of the business they continue to maintain control over are bank accounts, the debtor book as at the 30 November and statutory refunds. All other aspects of the business are back under my control as the director. They have pulled their people out of our office on Friday so it is just my team and I there now.

So what does this mean to the operation of the business and can it start to resume normal trading? Breaking it down ...

Bank accounts.

The HSBC bank accounts remain under their control. This effectively leaves the business without a bank account to operate and any funds contained in the existing HSBC accounts Skelton Sherborne doesn’t get the benefit of to operate the business.

Debtor book

Deloitte will be collecting all amounts owed to the company as at 30 November, 2012. Therefore Skelton Sherborne will not have access to these funds to allow us to operate with either. 

Statutory refunds

The company has a stamp duty refund due of about $86,000 so Deloitte advise they will collect this as well.

Therefore, to run the business, I effectively have no banking facilities, no cash coming in from past work performed nor the benefit of a stamp duty refund. Furthermore subject to the advice I am seeking, we may now be insolvent and therefore cannot resume normal trading unless this situation can be resolved within the law.

During the receivership Deloitte kept advising clients they were “trading” the business. Well as a business owner my definition of “trading” includes taking on new work. Many of our incredible clients have tried to keep supporting us through this period. Sadly we were instructed by Deloitte to turn this new business away so Skelton Sherborne has next to nothing in its immediate pipeline to keep us going either.

I feel like we have just taken the hospital pass from hell with all of this but we are not dead yet. Anyone who really knows me will probably say I never give up on anything I believe in. I believe in Skelton Sherborne, its people and know their families are worth fighting for. If we can find a way to keep trading, as HSBC should have sensibly allowed us as a profitable company to do, then the outcome for the Skelton’s crew, our clients and our suppliers will be much better. 

My team and I are grateful for the many comments on this blog, some media attention, countless emails and texts of support. The words in one email in particular I love and have kept me going and smiling despite the seriousness of the situation. 

An old acquaintance of mine in Perth who said he has been through the same thing with his former bank said, “Good luck and don’t give up until the bastards have nailed you to a cross.”

Well, neither Skelton Sherborne or I are on the cross yet let alone nailed. We will find a way to keep going and survive this as intact as possible.

I will keep posting a blog daily with important information for clients and suppliers and details of how this unfolds. For more immediate and frequent updates on cargo movements and the situation you can follow me on Google+ . I am sorry but unfortunately sometimes my key team and I are struggling to keep pace with the phone calls.

All for now – Brad Skelton. The Shipping Bloke. 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We lost our battle.

Sadly I have had to appoint a liquidator to Skelton Sherborne this afternoon.

The Deloitte receivership conducted on behalf of HSBC has been catastrophic to the company’s future viability. Despite the great efforts of my amazing team to save the company post the receivership, we deemed it could not be successfully salvaged while the bank accounts, debtor book and statutory refunds were kept under the control of Deloitte.

Effectively Skelton Sherborne’s cash flow was cut off and as a consequence the company became insolvent. As a director I was compelled to appoint a liquidator.

Therefore Anne Meagher and Terry Rose of SV Partners have been appointed and will proceed to wind up the company. I am no longer in charge of the company’s affairs. SV Partners office phone number is +61 7 33102000. They will soon be in touch with all clients and creditors.

I know many of our clients have been hurt and inconvenienced by what has occurred with Skelton Sherborne these past two weeks. I am sorry that we were not in a position while Deloitte were in charge to achieve the right outcomes for you with your cargo. 

For any clients with cargo stored with us at our Brisbane Terminal, we ask that you make arrangements to promptly collect it. There will be a skeleton staff staying on with the company to assist you and the liquidators for a short time with this and to help clients with cargo still on the water.

To my crew. Thank you! You have been awesome and I am shattered for you and your families that this company could not survive. The loss of your jobs so close to Christmas is dreadful. I am so sorry!

I think we can honestly say we did our level best though. The professionalism and commitment you have displayed to our clients, suppliers and each other in very challenging circumstances has been truly inspirational and helped keep me going and fighting hard every day. I am deeply touched that such was your determination for this great company to survive that you all volunteered your time and expertise these past two days without pay. I could not dream of more support than this and I want everyone to know what you did. I am sorry I have let you down in the end.

I am in disbelief that such a good and profitable company with a great track record can lose the support of its bankers and end up in this position with so many innocent people hurt along the way. I am sorry to the people Skelton Sherborne owes money to and any hardship this has already caused you and may in the future as the liquidation proceeds.

Thank you for the tremendous support the team and I received from so many people.

This is a setback for my children and I. The five year plan just became a 10 year plan, I think, so the job of rebuilding starts tomorrow. I will soon be back bigger, better and even smarter so stay tuned to this blog.

I’ll chalk this up to another great entrepreneurial learning experience that you can’t get at any university in the world. For entrepreneurs it’s not about the money. It’s about the journey and the best days are still to come.

All for now – Brad Skelton. The Shipping Bloke. 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The adversity paradox

The Christmas break has given me time for some introspection and to reflect on 2012 and its highs and lows and the lessons learned. This year’s adversity has tested me on all levels like no other year has before. I have survived and am more life and business savvy than ever.

The adversity I am facing right now, while very painful and something preferable to avoid, I am certain will actually be my making. I feel more equipped and battle-hardened than ever to accomplish extraordinary things personally and professionally. Therein lies the adversity paradox.

The concept of an “adversity paradox” was something that I learned while at MIT University undertaking the Birthing of Giants (BOG) programme. BOG was founded by my friend and mentor Verne Harnish and has been responsible for developing some amazing self-made entrepreneurs over the years.

I graduated in 2004 and still regularly review my notes when I am developing ideas. I also frequently bounce things off my classmates to gain greater global perspectives.

The lecturer that spoke to our class about the adversity paradox was J. Barry Griswell. He is a man that has overcome tremendous adversity and wrote and talked about the power of it in putting many of mankind’s greatest achievers on incredible success trajectories in all fields of endeavour. These people consciously chose not to be a victim but instead to use the adversity as a source of strength to fuel their pursuit of greater goals. 

So how has adversity changed me and set me up for what’s next? 

For starters I will continue to do my best for the people that have been hurt by what happened to Skelton Sherborne. I acknowledge adversity I have suffered has caused adversity for others which I am sincerely sorry for.

Apart from that responsibility the slate has basically been wiped clean and I have the opportunity to rebuild my life and future business model exactly the way it needs to be. I have much more clarity how to do this, what’s most important, and who I want with me and who I don’t. No victims, princesses or people wanting a free lunch allowed!

I know who my friends REALLY are now by who stood by me and who didn’t. I will be using the word ‘No’ much more in all aspects of my life to preserve my energy for my main priorities.

The perspective I have gained will be invaluable. When you have endured the adversity and pain I have there isn’t anything or anybody who can deliver you more of it than you already have experienced. As a result I am more resilient, resourceful, fearless (not reckless) and tenacious than ever. All I see now is opportunity and upside. The entrepreneurial passion and spirit is starting to flow freely again for the first time in about three years. The hunger is back and I am relishing the challenge.

There is no shortage of challenges to overcome. The business environment has changed and will keep changing faster constantly.

The swing back to the East from the West is well underway even though some people in the West prefer to be in denial about it. In a truly global economy the West can no longer compete with its high labour costs and high debt compared to the East.

The internet combined with fast and modern shipping methods have enabled global competition. It’s no longer a concept it’s a reality and this is what is really driving change in the global economy.

The power in a sales transaction has shifted too. It now rests with the buyer, not the seller as it previously did. This is the new landscape and there is no doubt in my mind that it is here to stay and we are going to see many great companies’ business models, particularly in the West, being challenged and many of them will fall by the wayside and whole industries will disappear.

I was talking to one of my Canadian BOG classmates about a week ago who pointed out to me that most people who are not business owners themselves view business like they do a game of football that you either win or lose. He said that it isn’t like that at all because in a game of football there is a full time siren. In business it is never full time as the game goes on and on with no real end or respite.

You have to constantly make the best of every situation, adapt, re-invent and keep your work rate higher than the competition to stay ahead of them. He is finding his business model being challenged by the new global economy and when he looks back over the last 15 years he says 13 of them were great and only two have been bad, so the scoreboard is okay and he has received tremendous personal satisfaction in creating opportunity and prosperity for his people and all other stakeholders in his business for the risks he has taken. I’'s not about the money to him either.

As we head into 2013 I can’t help thinking that the number 13 is considered unlucky by some people. It’s not unlucky from where I am sitting right now and I think it will be a great year of re-invention, opportunity and proving J.Barry Griswell’s adversity paradox theory.

All for now – Brad Skelton, The Shipping Bloke.



As a child, Brad Skelton dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps of owning his own business, as he had. Little did he know that playing with those Tonka trucks in the sandpit of his suburban Brisbane home would later lead to shipping the real thing all over the world in his own company.

This business was the foundation stone of an exciting and ongoing entrepreneurial journey which continues today.

In 1995, Brad Skelton took a huge gamble: With just $2,000 he started his own international freight forwarding company primarily shipping earthmoving and construction machinery. Back then, there was just Brad and his secretary and the beginnings were very humble. 

“I’d use one credit card to pay another so I could make payroll,” he recalled. “Or I’d ship an excavator and use the profit to buy office furniture.”

The focus was on growing the business and this company at one stage had revenues topping $140 million and 200-plus employees with offices operating in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the Netherlands shipping high and heavy cargo around the world. That’s why he is known as The Shipping Bloke.

Mr Skelton is a serial entrepreneur, so using this company as the foundation stone he launched many other businesses most of which were highly awarded and recognised by Business Review Weekly magazine as in the top 100 fastest growing companies in Australia.

These included: Skelton Trucking, which grew into the largest road heavy haulage company in Australia; Skelton Travel, a boutique travel agency; Skelton Vertical Transport, a Brisbane based crane hire company; Skelton Management; Skelton Terminals, which operated a large cargo handling and processing facility at the Port of Brisbane.

Mr Skelton has undertaken many acquisitions of other businesses and competitors as one of his growth strategies. He also has made some gutsy exits from some businesses. The trucking and crane business is one example whereby he committed to an unreserved auction of the complete truck, trailer and crane fleet yielding sales of $32 million over two days.

Like most entrepreneurs Brad Skelton has had some setbacks too but these have served to provide tremendous lessons along the way and he is a better businessman for the experience.

Mr Skelton has also been involved on various levels as an investor in a retail DVD kiosk rental company, a motorcycle dealership and a meat rendering company. He has gained knowledge and experience in broad range of businesses and is sought after as a mentor, business consultant and speaker.

Developing new businesses under the Depth Industries brand in accordance with the new rules of a truly globalised and restructuring economy is his current passion. All new businesses are enjoying high growth.

The experience gained in acquisitions had led to Mr Skelton now working as an advisor to a global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and investment banking firm specialising in deals from $100 million to $1 billion.

A firm commitment to continual self-development on all levels is one his character traits. With some of Mr Skelton’s business growing at over 200 percent annually he knew he had better educate himself on handling high growth and needed to ensure his skills kept ahead of the business needs. Consequently he applied and gained entry to the prestigious ‘Birthing of Giants’ programme at MIT in Boston. The knowledge and contacts gained at MIT kept propelling his businesses forward.

He is an innovative challenger of the status quo and a highly competitive and astute business strategist.

Brad Skelton is a current member of the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) and a former member and chapter chair of the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) in Brisbane. These organisations have been instrumental in his personal development and he enjoys participating in international business and events through his contacts in YPO and the forum he is a member of.

He has enjoyed a long involvement volunteer surf lifesaving and is a former club captain of the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club and looks forward to encouraging his two children into this great Australian institution.

Brad Skelton is driven by helping people and achieving outcomes for his clients, business associates, his friends and family.


POSTED JULY 23, 2014.

Interim executives association could see old heads shoulder new technologies


AN AUSTRALIAN association formed to assist interim executives could provide an unanticipated boost for firms battling so-called digital disruption.

While Australia looks to new businesses and young tech. start-ups to create new business segments and new jobs, it may be the old hands – interim executives who are not only highly skilled but also highly experienced and ‘connected’ – that prove the key to success for many of these ventures. 

Founder and managing director of the Australian Interim Executive Association, Mal Walker, said interim executives – also often called ‘interim managers’ – were again in demand as they have been in other times of business and economic crisis. Ironically, many of Australia’s most skilled managers were in the interim market as a result of taking early retirement and redundancy packages.

Mr Walker said a similar situation in 1995 saw the initial formation of interim executives in Australia.

“At that time, many financial institutions, government entities and SMEs made too many people redundant too quickly, and had to call for experienced executives to help them out on a short or medium-term basis to see them through a period of profound challenge and change,” Mr Walker said.

“It happened again with the Global Financial Crisis. Is it happening again?”

Mr Walker’s experience, and that of the association which formed last year, would suggest it is again a challenging period in which interim executives come into their own – this time taking on the more seminal disruption wrought by digital technologies.

AIEA is part of that revolution, with its new match-making service that gives businesses direct access to a database of senior professionals.

AIEA has created a website tool, the Find-IE search engine, which reduces recruitment costs, lessening the financial impact of hiring on companies’ bottom lines.

AIEA founder and managing director, Mal Walker, said companies could save tens of thousands of dollars each year by using the AIEA’s Find-IE search engine to outsource senior executives.

“Times are tough for businesses and companies need experienced people but can’t afford to have them on their payroll,” Mr Walker said.

“There’s a rapidly growing sub-sector of senior professionals who are available to work on a short or long-term basis, called interim executives.

“The AIEA puts businesses in direct contact with these experienced senior executives.”

Mr Walker said there has been wide spread interest in the service since the association’s website was launched this week.

“Traditionally, businesses looking for senior professionals had to go through recruitment agencies which could take months and be very costly, particularly for short term roles,” he said.

“The AIEA now allows internal and external recruiters to go online and search for professionals that meet their current needs for free.

“If they like the look of one of the profiles they can then purchase the person’s resume and their contact details will be immediately available.”

Owner of Gjenesys Pty Ltd, Peter Gjersoe, has been an interim executive for seven years and said there was a need for an association like the AIEA in Australia.

“It’s a win-win for everyone and I haven’t come across anything like it in Australia,” Mr Gjersoe said.

“It’s a different way of doing things and provides interim managers with a new avenue to do business and seek new opportunities.

“We are often on our own as we move from one job to another, so it’s important to be a part of wider group where we can network and be represented by a professional organisation.” 

Mr Walker said the association’s Find-IE search engine is only one of the services available to members.

“Members will be formally recognised by the association and receive discounts for personal development courses and networking events, and will be given a unique email address and personal webpage,” Mr Walker said.

“It really is a one-stop-shop for senior executives and businesses.”

Obviously, interim executives are not a long-term fix, Mr Walker said.

“They meet a short-term need – which may be a fast moving acquisition or merger. It may be to cover an unexpected departure of a key person. A company may need additional experience to cope with an unplanned expansion, or a relocation. It could also be a start-up or closure.”

Mr Walker said interim executives would adopt a strategic approach in a senior management role, operating with executive authority.

“It's not always essential to have experience of that sector,” he said. “In many roles like finance, they can act across sectors. What is important is to have experience of the change process.


Media leader Kim Williams hits out at 'soft' management


CRITICISM is a vital business tool, make sure ‘plan A’ works and forget about ‘plan B’ … and no genuine business leader can afford to have a glass jaw.  

The messages came loud and clear from Kim Williams, a man who has led Australia’s largest communication company: News Corp. 

The former News Corporation Australia and arts leader laid it all on the line at the recent QUT Business School’s Business Leaders Forum.

Mr Williams explained to an enthralled audience of about 600 how his early career in music performance prepared him for the rigours of high-level management, which for the past 43 years has spanned film, television, newspapers and arts organisations.

He said in the music industry, criticism was an essential part of improving performance. However, he said he had found in his “unusual executive leadership journey” that criticism was frequently poorly given and received.

“There was a frankness about providing criticism that ... can only be described as unusually direct. I suppose that represents one of the great life lessons for me, the degree of professional accountability for one’s work,” Mr Wlliams said.

“I have always been open to professional criticism and feedback and similarly have never been fearful to provide it.

“It has always been my view that Australians generally do not receive criticism well and that our inability to receive criticism is matched only by our inability to give criticism in ways that are thoughtful, caring, constructive and nourishing.

“All too often we are the land of the glass jaw. And I believe we will never realise our real national potential until we learn the value of thoughtful critical review and the thoughtful and discipline that requires.”

He also described how mistakes and challenges were an important part of building personal resilience.

In this day and age of digital technology impacts, it was more important than ever to adapt – and quickly.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” he said of the considerable challenges bringing technology and process change to the early Australian arts and film industries.

“It was in the Arts that I learned to never give up,” Mr Williams said. “To approach a problem from a variety of angles until a solution is found. That sense of resilience and perseverance has served me well.”



Mr Williams spoke about the media industry, describing how historic business practices were no longer working.

“It is not changing, it has changed,” he said.

“The evidence is everywhere. The old paradigms are breaking down or are broken . . . Consumers are now in charge . . . It is time to reinvent.”

He said businesses should embrace “big data”, or the awesome array of data analysis that was available thanks to modern technology. He said this data was increasingly replacing the often unreliable tool of intuition, and therefore producing better outcomes.

He also said the best leaders today were collaborative, as it was only via teamwork that businesses could keep abreast of the dynamic environment that was modern commerce.

“Leadership today is a sophisticated team sport,” Mr Williams said. “The Lone Ranger style of leadership of a highly hierarchical model simply does not work with large educated workforces.”

And, there was no room for ‘plan Bs’, he said, as the best leaders were too busy to formulate one because they were channelling all their effort into achieving ‘plan A’.

“People who talk about having a plan B have never run anything,” Mr Williams said.

Perhaps with that statement in mind, Mr Williams’ comment on his former boss, head of the News Corporation empire Rupert Murdoch, is telling:

“A pretty dynamic and impressive individual . . . a remarkable human being.”

The QUT Business Leaders Forums will continue in 2014.

Ian Narev, managing director and chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Bank Group will be the first speaker for the 2014 QUT Business Leaders Forum on March 3.






Businesses begin to see benefits from promoting 'mentally healthy' workplaces

UNDERSTANDING the importance of employee mental health and wellbeing in work environments is coming into sharper focus for enlightened Australian business leaders.   

Experience is showing the effects can be both economically and socially vital, according to a recent survey by SuperFriend, a national mental health promotion foundation created by the Industry Funds Forum, an association whose members are the CEOs of Australia's largest industry super funds

A survey of super fund executives, group insurers and corporate HR employees who attended the recent 2013 SuperFriend Symposium in Melbourne revealed Australian businesses are beginning to understand the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

With one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in any given year and 45.5 percent of the Australian population aged 16-85 experiencing a mental health issue in their life time, SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon said workplaces needed to realise it was far better to support employees and keep them in work irrespective of whether they are living with a mental illness.

She said by providing a positive work environment, research showed staff productivity increased, and there were reductions in staff turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism, along with an overall improvement in morale.

While the majority of respondents (60 percent) said their workplace currently invested in promoting mental health and wellbeing, Ms Lydon said it was important to note that the majority of the survey respondents were already a step ahead in understanding the impact of mental health problems.

"It is an encouraging first step to see that majority of attendees have workplaces currently investing in promotion of mental health and wellbeing, however, the situation extends beyond this group and impacts all Australian workplaces," Ms Lydon said.

"We understand that Australian businesses have a multitude of priorities and it is a difficult task to juggle all of these. However, businesses need to understand that people are their greatest asset and there are a range of benefits from creating a mentally healthy workplace which impact both the culture and the profitability of the company."

According to the survey, 43 percent of group insurers and corporate HR employees believed improved morale and job satisfaction to be the main benefit of ensuring Australian workplaces promote positive mental health and wellbeing. About 30 percent viewed increased staff productivity as the second major reason.

"The benefits of investing in programs that promote a mentally healthy workplace are mutually beneficial to both the organisation and the worker," Ms Lydon said.

Over half (56%) of delegates said their workplaces were engaging in activities to promote a healthy work/life balance to improve mental health and wellbeing, followed closely by engaging in RUOK conversations (44%) which encourages and empowers all Australians at work to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?'.

"There are a number of initiatives employers can implement to nurture a healthy workplace," Ms Lydon said.

"It can be as simple as encouraging workers to connect with their colleagues, having an R U OK? At Work event and ensuring strong leadership of employees. Workplaces will also benefit from training staff in early detection of mental illness and on supporting employees while they seek assistance," she said.

SuperFriend has developed as a national foundation aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of industry superannuation fund members, employers and staff. SuperFriend's mission is to reduce the incidence of suicide and the impact of mental illness on individuals, employers, workplaces, friends and families, Ms Lydon said.

"SuperFriend is interested in a total holistic solution, not just an economic one, or a human one. Addressing these imminent issues is about achieving total health," Ms Lydon said.

SuperFriend collaborates with industry funds, group insurers and the mental health sector to facilitate targeted workplace mental health initiatives for members of these funds.



Hitting customer expectations for six: how a ‘quality management’ system can drive profits

BUSINESS leaders seeking long-term sustainable growth need to focus not on what they need to do but how they need to do it.

Introducing a quality management system can boost profits.


In his experience, SAI Global quality management trainer David Gray said he had seen businesses grow and become more profitable – even in an environment of very high customer expectations – by developing integrating high quality management systems into everyday business operations.

Delivering an impressive customer result is often linked to the quality of a company’s internal operations, Mr Gray said. While most businesses understand this synergy, many fall short of having a strong quality management system (QMS) in place. It is an area of increasing focus by quality management training and certification group, SAI Global.

“It’s surprising that most organisations continue to operate without implementing an effective quality management system, especially when failing to do so can be detrimental to both reputation and profit,” Mr Gray said.

“The consequences may include ongoing operational delays, budget overruns, and a waste of precious resources. As a result, both a business’s reputation and profit may be at serious risk.”

Mr Gray said some employees responsible for quality management morph into the role without any official training or education.

“In some companies quality management can land on the lap of an employee who hasn’t undergone any training whatsoever,” he said. “While this may have been a natural step within the business structure, it may be detrimental to overall performance.”

Mr Gray said an efficient quality management system, managed by a qualified staff member, improves performance and internal efficiency, identifies inconsistencies and problems and recognises ways to resolve. As a result, staff morale and productivity is increased and consumers are given confidence in the business.

SAI Global recommends managers responsible for quality evaluate their skillsets in accordance with recognised standards such as ISO 9001. Mr Gray said ISO 9001 was the international benchmark for any employee looking to implement a QMS.

SAI Gobal has developed an online Auditing Quality Management System training course to provide a portable qualification that meets the standard. Mr Gray said the 8-10 hour course was becoming popular as it was cost effective, flexible and attractive to time-poor businesses.

Based on the official ISO 9001 standard, SAI Global has developed six clear steps business leaders can use to instill quality processes:

  1. Document your business model: As a first step, ensure there is a person responsible for quality management. This person is to ensure the company has a policy in place that defines its ‘quality promise’, underpinned with stated objectives and targets for employees. Be sure to include instructional documents as well as a defined ‘roadmap’ to guide employees through to fulfilling that promise. This information is to be accurate, accessible to those that need it, and detailed to a sufficient level.

  2. Build relationships: Have a clear understanding of your point of difference in the marketplace – this means you must know your competitors. Know your customers, too, and what they value most about your products and services. Communicate this information to your employees, ensuring they understand what is needed to ensure happy and satisfied customers.

  3. Enable and empower your people: Engage employees by delegating responsibility and authority to deliver the promise of quality made by the organisation to its customers. Remember if you spell out these aspects of operation, employees understand what is expected of them. Without these fundamental guidelines, employees will not understand the rules and they will develop their own which may not align with the expectations of the organisation or the customer. You must also ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills to perform their work with confidence.

  4. Deliver on your promises: Make sure all operational aspects of the organisation are working cohesively to deliver the promise of quality, ensuring not to forget those aspects that are outsourced to external third-party providers. Do they understand what your promise of quality is, and their role in keeping this promise?

  5. Evaluate and seek improvement: Objectives and targets are of little value, unless they are used as the baseline to gauge success. Monitor and measure performance results to determine whether the promise of quality was achieved. And if not, determine why not. Using these results, seek to understand what needs to change in your business roadmap and operations.

  6. Apply the wisdom: Up to now you’ve assessed the possible roadblocks to quality. Now you must remove them through controlled changes in your operations. If you have a sufficient quality plan in place you will be able to assess which process is most appropriate to the issue and apply the solution in a timely manner to achieve results.




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