Congratulations to Geoff Hales who is the recipient of our PD scholarship for self-employed professionals in 2003.
Geoff has chosen to undertake the APESMA Risk Management course.
Thank-you to those who applied. The scholarship is awarded annually, and all current APESMA Connect members are invited to apply for Partnership 2004.
Geoff profiles his consultancy operation for us …
Career Background and Qualifications
I am a Civil Engineer, with over 18 years experience, mainly in the areas of project and asset management. I completed my civil engineering degree at the University of New South Wales in 1983. My first five years were spent working with Shoalhaven City Council on the South Coast of NSW. At Council I mainly fulfilled infrastructure management roles, responsible for construction, operation and maintenance of road, drainage, water supply and sewerage systems. 1989 saw my wife Karen and I relocate to Alice Springs where I took up a position with GHD, an Australian owned global consultancy company. In Alice some of my time was spent working on projects in outback Aboriginal communities, where I gained considerable experience in working in cross-cultural environments. Still with GHD, my family, which by then had been extended to include our two young sons, Jeremy and Simon, moved back to NSW. We lived in the Central Coast, where I primarily provided Asset Management services to GHD’s local and state government clients. 1996 saw our family relocate to Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley. There I continued work with GHD and gained experience in mining related projects.
In 2000 my desire to use my engineering skills in a developing country came to fruition. I worked for the Vanuatu Government within the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU) on projects funded by the Asian Development Bank and AusAID. Originally my main role was the project management of the completion of the $12M USD Urban Infrastructure Project; then I moved into the position of Asset Management Advisor to the Director General of MIPU. In this latter role I helped improve the management of the Ministry and its departments through Corporate, Business, and Asset Management planning.
My initial contract was for 18 months; however I extended for a further year.
We have just returned and resettled in Brisbane.
Business Structure and Roles
We chose a company as our business structure, with Karen and I as Directors and equal shareholders….with a total of one share each! Whilst we will each work in our different niche areas, Karen will also handle the day to day company administration, utilising skills she gained in various admin. and clerical jobs over the years. The company office is home-based; however some time will also be spent overseas and working on-site for clients.
Between trips to Vanuatu I plan to do short-term contract work in the areas of infrastructure asset management and project management. At present I am project managing a job for my old company GHD, and have other potential clients in Brisbane and NSW.
Formal Business Skills
I’ll have to confess….we have none. So we have been relying on advice provided by APESMA, our accountant, and several reference books we have sourced. APESMA’s Partnership 2003 scholarship gives me an opportunity to acquire some further risk management skills which I can utilise myself and also impart to others. We seem to be gaining quite a collection of “Dummies” books within our reference library. We intend for Karen to complete a MYOB course in the near future.
At the moment we are operating off our own personal finances, which are in debit thanks to the house we have just purchased. I am currently providing some services to a client, and have just noticed my first payment has arrived. What a relief. After many years as an employee with regular fortnightly payments, the irregular income will take a bit of getting used to.
For the infrastructure management, our clients and potential clients range from owners and managers of public and private infrastructure (within and outside of Australia), other consultants who service them, and aid organisations assisting developing countries.
For creative multi-media work, Karen will be focusing on finding work with organisations that have their own studio and equipment to give her the opportunity to continue building up her expertise, with the future aim of upgrading our own equipment and become more independent.
Our immediate hurdle has been that at the same time of setting up the business, we have been establishing ourselves in a new location (i.e. Brisbane) from Vanuatu. This has involved buying a new house, finding a new school for our boys, and living out of a suitcase for 8 weeks in 6 different locations as we have travelled around. A lot has changed in Australia during our 2.5 years absence, such as the introduction of the GST, and it seems that there has to be research and decisions to be made at every turn. In Vanuatu, you don’t get as many choices.
Another hurdle, that we are noticing, is the need to obtain some sort of continuity of work in between the four work trips I have to Vanuatu this year. Several clients I have had communication with are more interested in my services on a permanent basis, and cannot accommodate my desire to provide intermittent short-term services overseas. On the other hand, others would happily post me overseas fulltime, which does not suit my family commitments.
Gauging our success
As our business is still in its early days, it is a little too early to gauge how it is faring at this stage. However, when setting up a business it is always good to have an idea of what you are hoping to achieve, and to set goals so that you can gauge whether the business is doing what you want it to do. For some people a successful business is one which is bringing in lots of money. Yet this often happens at the sacrifice of quality of life, and family time. For us we will gauge our business a success if it enables us to fulfil our personal goals. It needs to be ‘a means to an end, not an end in itself’. For us, some key performance indicators are 1/ that we gain sufficient regular work to pay the bills, provide for holidays and the boys education, and help us be generous to others 2/ I am able to secure a few short term overseas contracts each year 3/ That my overall work commitments and hours, including my work overseas, are not too excessive, so I can spend quality time with my family 4/ That our clients and other people benefit from and appreciate our services.
Geoff can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.