Ross, you became the Managing Director of Men at Work in October last year and Kiel the Director, after the founder David Bigeni passed on the organisation. Can you tell us a little about Men At Work and the services it offers?
The succession fortifies Men At Work as a locally owned, family operated company. Established in 2001 by David to provide temporary staffing solutions to the Port Macquarie area, Men At Work has evolved to be a market leader and preferred supplier across the North Coast in labour hire, temporary staffing, traffic management, training and Aassessment and more recently, automotive services. To quote our namesake, it’s “business as usual” for Men At Work.
Ross, in your role as Managing Director, how do you engender a culture that recognises and encourages strong leadership?
Culture starts at the top. For me, this is about involving our staff in the future of the business. It is somewhat of a charismatic approach compared to transactional leadership often found in larger corporate and public organisations. A key outcome for our 2020 strategic plan is to maintain, enhance and nurture the Men At Work family ideals, which will go a long way to encourage not only Kiel and I, but also our staff key to be strong leaders.
What are some of the changes you have seen within your industry over the past decade, and how have you adapted your business practices to adjust accordingly to these changes?
Ross: Since I started with Men at Work in 2008, I have seen much change internally within the business itself and also externally. Both require differing and dynamic business approaches.
Externally, a stand out for me in the past decade has been responding to a linear increase with work health and safety compliance and changes in government regulations. Working in high risk environments, it is essential that we marry this compliance with results on the ground. That is, by ensuring our work method is safe in a practical sense which can be readily documented, but most of all that is responsive to the health and safety of our employees.
Kiel: Internally Men At Work has grown its traffic control fleet to over 50 vehicles and also has the addition of an automotive department. To be responsive to the needs of the ever changing traffic control environment, we have added specialty vehicles in our traffic control fleet. We have just rolled out our first Truck Mounted Attenuator (TMA) with two more in the pipeline. These vehicles have a “crash cushion” on the back, protecting workers in front of it. Similarly, we have introduced cone trucks that allow us to close lanes much faster and more safely than we have been able to do previously.
What do you think is the single most important factor in running a successful family run, regionally based business?
Ross: Our people. People are the core of our business. We value each and every staff member and the expertise that they bring to the company each and every day.
Can you share some insight into some of the nuances of an industry that essentially deals with people as their product?
Both laugh. Ross: Oh man, we could write a book and not even scratch the surface. No two days are ever the same!
Kiel: A Hollywood Director would be proud to tell some of the stories we hear and about the people we get to work with. On the whole, we are so fortunate to have some of the most dedicated and loyal staff of just about any business.
Ross: When you phone a team leader for a call out on Boxing Day and they have every sign off their truck because they are in the middle of cleaning them, you know they are dedicated.
Kiel: If you look after your people, they’ll look after you.
What is the most rewarding part about your role with Men At Work?
Kiel: Giving people jobs!
What are some of the biggest challenges you have personally faced throughout your career?
Ross: Juggling work/life balance is a constant struggle with a young family. Having said that, we have kids around the business all the time before and after school. This brings a real vibrancy to the workplace in what can be a pretty hard slog late in the afternoon.
And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?
Ross: Kerry Packer and Richard Branson, to discuss success and how influential they were/are. And on a personal note, I would also bring Adam Philp from Port Macquarie’s Hire a Hubby.
Kiel: I would bring Scotty Lawrence from Lawrence Built. In a busy world we all too often miss the chance to sit down with our closest mates and catch up for a chat over a counter lunch.
Thanks for your time, Ross and Kiel.