Family business

In 1996 I began working in the family business part time while also starting my undergraduate degree. I didn’t necessarily appreciate it at the time but working in a family business alongside my Dad was one of the great privileges of my life.

My family’s business was in fishing and along with a couple of partners and a bunch of investors my Dad ran a small fleet of lobster fishing boats in WA. There was so much I learnt from that experience but there are a couple that stand out.

The first was that family businesses are truly special. Starting a successful business is hard and handing it on from one generation to the next is a noble achievement…unfortunately I didn’t realise this until after I had moved on.

I still remember a moment in time when my brother was skippering one of the boats and I was working in the office with Dad. We had this conversation about how it might work for us to take over the business but we didn’t act and the moment passed. Matt moved to Port Lincoln in South Australia and I eventually moved on as well but I always wonder what would have happened if we’d both stayed.

The second this I learnt was far more mundane. I learnt how to do the book-keeping and how to use spreadsheets. Before I started working with Dad he was already using spreadsheets to track catches across different boats and to calculate different scenarios for changes to catch and cost.

When we started working together I helped build these spreadsheets out to track catch, income, fuel, bait, crew and boat expenses on a day by day basis across the whole season (and one of my jobs was entering all the data). At the time this gave us unrivalled insights into the profitability of each boat and we could provide feedback to skippers regarding fuel and bait usage relative to their peers.

One of my proudest moments was finding out that a decade after I stopped working with him he was still using the spreadsheets I created when we worked together.

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