Business Masterclass Roz Shaw - video transcript

The following is a transcript of the video of Roz Shaw, Chief Executive Offier, Moreton Island Adventures speaking at the Lord Mayor's Business Forum on Monday 19 October forum at Sandgate. She talks about how to get off the "treadmill" and look to the future.

Julian Simmonds:    Roz, let's start at the beginning. They say if you do what you love you never work a day of your life. You obviously grew up around the island, it's something that you love. So tell us a little bit about what you do at Moreton Island Adventures and why you love it so much.

Roz Shaw:  Okay, so first of all my title isn't Managing Director, it's actually Chief Escape Officer. I get to escape to Moreton Island a lot which I've done all my life and yep, most amazing place. I'm sure most of you have already visited.

I actually grew up from a transport background, fourth generation transport business from 1921, which was my great grandfather.

When I was a small girl my parents decided to buy a holiday house on Moreton Island and that's where this business grew from. A small ferry service growing larger each time. Of course, I spent my childhood supposedly running a shop but actually going surfing a lot of the time.

I managed to sort of drop out of school just before I finished Grade 12 and say, yes, I want to come into the business. There were basically three employees, two family, one external, and it went from there.

I was 17 when I started in the business doing anything from driving a forklift to the family ironing.

Julian Simmonds: Okay. So you started off in what was a very family orientated business. There'd be quite a few people who are probably in family businesses at the moment. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about some of the challenges that you faced taking on what was a family orientated business and I know that you have done a lot of work professionalising that.

So maybe some of the challenges and why you have taken steps to professionalise the business a little bit more.

Roz Shaw:  Yeah. So I worked in the business for quite some years. We grew it - we sort of had the tourism business and the transport business at that stage. Grew into ending up with 60-70 employees and all my family members still worked in the business, the next generation came into the business and basically we had a large business that was based on a small business. It was sort of getting a bit out of control and I thought I don't really know what I'm doing here.

So my first port of call was to - I actually joined the Family Business Association and they sort of taught me about how a family business should be run as a family in business rather than a family business. Which means that just because you grew up in the family doesn't mean to say you have a job and if you are in the family you should still be paid like you were an external member.

So I started down the path of this professionalising our business, which ended up being quite a long path and quite difficult because we'd already gone down the wrong path for a long way.

But the other thing that Family Business Association can teach you is if you want to take your family business to the next generation - some people want to grow it and sell it, other people want to hand it on to the next generation and that can become very complicated when you get into the third and fourth generation. It's where you need to start having some processes in place and treating the business as a separate thing from the family.

A lot of challenges.

Julian Simmonds: I think it's a great message that you've just mentioned about reaching out for help if you do need it.

Roz Shaw:  Mm.

Julian Simmonds: That you shouldn't be afraid to reach out for help.

When you did that did you feel some trepidation? Did you know who you were reaching out to? How did you figure out where to start in order to get that kind of assistance?

Roz Shaw:  Yeah, well I did a lot of things wrong. I was sort of - I'm actually the youngest family member. All my siblings are seven, eight and nine years older than me and I ended up being their boss, which they had no issue with. But at that stage we also employed the next generation and some of them were in roles that they didn't belong in and I had to make those hard decisions to get them to move into another business because they didn't quite fit or should have been doing a different job.

My sister was another example, she didn't really want to work in the family business but thought that she owed the family. So she stayed there just because she thought she should.

So it was tough, and the toughest part basically is the people part of course.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay, so you professionalised the family business a little bit but you've still got to make sure it's profitable and you have a little bit of work to do there I understand.

So perhaps you can tell everybody here about your experience with taking a business that wasn't doing so well and making sure that it was then turning a decent profit, the journey you went on.

Roz Shaw:  I suppose the biggest example of that is a business that we purchased some 10 years ago. Well there's always a bit of luck involved I think if you have success, and timing. I think if you're going to buy any sort of business or improve your business the timing has to be right in that industry, in that region. Of course Brisbane at the moment I think is a great opportunity.

I was lucky enough that the outgoing employer was not a really nice guy. But he had a lot of really good people working in the business.

I went and became a dish hand, a console operator, kitchenhand, worked in the business, just sort of talked to the people, they didn't really know much about me. I started talking to them, listening to the people who were actually doing the work and talking to the customers and they sort of told me what to do in the business. So that was the first thing I did.

The other thing I did was look at all the little bits and pieces, the suppliers, how much we were paying them. The opening hours, it was open 24 hours a day but for eight hours of the day they lost money so as soon as you change the opening hours immediately you've got a massive difference in the bottom line.

So it's all those little things that you do that then add up to something big.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay well let me pick up on one of your earlier points in that you were lucky that this business had some good employees. Everybody is looking for good employees, that's a key thing for any business. So what criteria are you looking for in your employees, how do you spot a good employee and where do you find them? It's a tough question.

Roz Shaw: Well it's taken me a long time to get this point where I am and I think the first thing you've got to do is figure out what you're like in your business. What you want your culture to be like?

Because we - I think you have to be careful when you go to professionalise your business - and this is one of the other things I did wrong, is go down that processes, procedures, a big business feel.

If you go too far down that path as a small business you sort of lose your identity and your culture.

So we sort of went back the other way then. We've got a thing that's sort of called escape the fake, so every bit of language we use in our business is not corporate, it's escape the fake language.

So when we interview somebody they've got to fit in with our culture first of all. It's not that they're right, wrong, good or bad it's just that if they want to fit into a corporate environment or a different type of culture, they're not going to fit in with us.

So that's the first thing, it's more important than qualification, experience, you can do all of the rest. So I think knowing your own culture is the first bit.

Julian Simmonds: Okay, and then people talk a lot about making sure that they have innovation in their business and that they're always thinking about new ideas.

Yours, particularly the ferry operations, is a great example of you applying innovation to a business model that doesn't automatically lend itself to it. You had that opportunity I know when you designed a new [MICAT], maybe you can talk a little bit about how you brought innovation to that process.

Roz Shaw:  Yeah, I always struggle with that because if you're going to industry things and you've got manufacturers in the room and - because we don't make anything, we don't make widgets. So I can't have a R&D department, we're a service business.

So it's more about - I sort of said okay well why, if you've got a vehicular ferry, why does it have to be fat and slow and everyone goes oh I've got to go on that boring thing? So I thought well could we make it faster, could we make it that the journey is a great experience, not just when you get there.

So that's where that sort of question came from and it's all about, okay so why is it that you have to have this sort of thing, and what if we could do that? That's our innovation. We don't have R&D, we have ask the question why. Just because it's like that today, why can't we do it differently?

So if you get everyone in your whole business to do that - and it doesn't have to be formal, we don't have any formal stuff, it's just someone comes up with an idea and it might be a really silly one in the beginning but it ends up being a really good one. 

Go back to the Growing your Business Masterclass videos page.

08 June 2018