Hadyn Oriti, Donovan Oates Hannaford

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Hadyn, you’re a Partner of one of Port Macquarie’s longest serving businesses: Donovan Oates Hannaford. Can you tell us a little bit about this law firm and how you think it’s stood the test of almost 70 years in business?

This a firm that has always seen itself as a part of the
community. That is part and parcel of the culture. Right from the outset, not only did the Founder and other members of the firm provide their legal services, but they also gave their time freely to the community service organisations of the district.  Whether it was the business associations, Legacy, the surf clubs, Rotary or the Golf Club, our history is full of examples of the Partners and employees getting involved. From a business perspective, this approach means that we have some exposure to and credibility with our clients and the broader community when they consider who they choose as their legal adviser. A good culture will stand the test of time. 

In your opinion, what does Donovan Oates Hannaford do better than anybody else?

It is hard to answer a question like that, without sounding “a bit up yourself”, to use the vernacular. So, I’ll include the response that we received to a recent client survey, where responses included those of some of our clients who have been with the firm for over 40 years. The responses suggest that what we do well is listen, understand and communicate.  We are in the advice-giving business. Clients look to us for outcomes – solutions to whatever issue they are dealing with.  People can tell when you aren’t interested in them. They can tell when you don’t care. The survey showed our clients trust us. We deal with their needs efficiently; we answer their phone calls and are responsive to them.

Your firm specialises in a diverse range of legal services, including commercial law. Can you talk about some of the ways that you can help business owners future proof their businesses, by setting up sound legal foundations?

When setting up a business, it is exciting and challenging.  However, everyone also needs to think about the structure they are using. Here’s where good financial and legal advice works well. Your Accountant working with your Lawyer can ensure the right company or trust structures are put in place to protect your family and achieve your objectives. We work with all the major accounting firms in the region. We understand them, and they trust us. That teamwork across both disciplines assures clients that they are getting the best solution. 

One thing I always tell clients about starting up something new is that they should also be considering what the exit will look like, especially if going into business with other people. Shareholder agreements and the arrangements for selling out need to be addressed up-front.

What’s the most rewarding part about your role as Partner and Lawyer?

Helping people is a truly satisfying thing to do. It is a great thing to have a client say, “Thanks, you’ve really taken a weight off me.” That happens in
business transactions and in other aspects of our practice as well. 

We provide pro bono services for some cancer suffers through the Cancer Council. Helping people when they are in the fight of their lives reminds me of what is important. But even then, when these brave people are dealing with what they must deal with, they are still so appreciative of the work we do to help get their affairs in order. There they are, in the midst of a cancer battle, and they still stop to think of others. It’s quite humbling really. 

What’s one thing no-one tells you about being a business owner?

How hard it is. We are a small business and have great staff who put in the effort to meet our clients’ needs and
expectations. We always need to focus on our clients, deliver quality advice and work in a timely fashion and believe that if we do that, it will ensure success and revenue. 

But you can’t stop for a minute. The expenses don’t stop. Business is a marathon, made up of 100 metre sprints. Small business drives this country, but there are some who think it is simply there to tax. I don’t think some politicians really have a clue about how what they do affects small business. 
Rewarding those who have a go would be a good start.

Hadyn, you were on the Board of the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce for nine years and became President of this organisation for five years. You are still an active member of our business community and sit on many committees that help shape the future of our region. In your experience, derived from both your career as well as your extra-curricular activities, what do you think makes a great leader?

A great leader listens to and understands their team. They don’t have to be the person that knows everything, but they do need to know their team. They also need to know where the business is going. How to get there is a lot easier when you know that.  “We’re lost, but we’re making good progress,” as Yogi Berra said, doesn’t really cut it in business. And throughout all the challenges that are inevitably thrown up, a good leader remains positive, committed and
encouraging. They don’t unfairly criticise or abandon their team when they need them most.

If you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?

Richard Branson, to entertain me and explain how you can go from selling records to planes and banking. Donald Trump, to explain the art of the deal again. And that grocer’s daughter, Margaret Thatcher, to remind me about perseverance in the face of the daily challenges.  

Thanks for your time, Hadyn.

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