Reid's resilience equals business success

02 May, 2014 02:00 AM
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Rosli Reid - one of the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100. Photo: Showglow Pix Nick Reid
Rosli Reid - one of the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100. Photo: Showglow Pix Nick Reid

BATTLING to make the farm repayments on their Colbinabbin, Victoria, wheat and sheep farm during the debilitating 1982 drought, Rosli Reid and husband Ian were threatened with foreclosure.

They were warned to either sell-up or increase their cash flow.

They chose the latter option and in 1983 established Reid Stockfeeds (RSF), which has become a major player in the industry as Australia's largest privately-owned stockfeed manufacturer, that employs 75 people.

"We purchased the farm in 1978 when interest rates were 18 per cent and we struggled to meet the repayments," said Rosli, a member of the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100.

"We were determined not to lose the property so our consultant (the late) Peter Kelliher offered two options to survive - start a piggery or crush our own grain for the nearby dairy industry - we took it from there and did it."

In the first year, they sold 40 tonnes of grain.

By the third year the figure had increased to 203t. The grain was mainly home-grown and delivered in the farm's Ford 600 truck, towing an auger behind.

In the past 30 years, the company has grown to supply 260,000t per annum, with a turnover in excess of $100 million. They run mills in Trafalgar, Colbinabbin and Cobden.

"Nothing happens unless you make it happen," Rosli said.

The business started with one tip truck and within two years expanded to a larger truck and hired its first staff member as a driver.

"We have continued to grow every year and often think that one day it will come to a stop, but it keeps growing," she said.

High profile customers stimulated the business, which Rosli said sparked feeding "trends" within the industry.

"We have built our business on quality and services so you have a few hiccups with customers occasionally," she said.

"But it is more about the management of staff that is the biggest heartache, as well as the biggest enjoyment."

Despite being one of the largest stockfeed suppliers in the country, Rosli said the company remains connected to its humble beginning.

"We built the business on that personal touch and we don't want to lose it," she said.

That connection to their customer initiated a student placement program at the Trafalgar site, which aims to attract more youth into the industry while addressing the issue of staff retention.

"Right across Victoria, farmers don't have that next generation coming through so as an industry we need to be more attractive as a career pathway," she said.

"Some of those students we have had for work experience have ended up going on and doing an ag science degree and ended up working for us down the track while some have been customers' children.

"We also employ agricultural science graduates with a nutrition background and they go on-farm and look after the customer and organise the mix that suits that property and cows."

While she was initially planning to take a business backseat in the near future, Rosli hopes to use her community profile to promote sound management within agriculture businesses.

"I'd like to bring more awareness and share my business knowledge with farming communities we supply," she said.

"The farming community is no different to any other business - it is always looking at ways to expand and improve the bottom line and our business is no different with takeovers and staff issues.

"We are all fighting the same battles - you need to improve and expand to increase profit."

Despite RSF's phenomenal growth and expansion, Rosli said the greatest success had been working closely as a family.

"Working together and getting through all the tough times isn't easy and has been a triumph," she said.

"To get through all that and get to where we are with a relationship that is better than ever is an accomplishment."

The Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 is a joint initiative of Emerald Grain and Fairfax Agricultural Media supported by Syngenta.

Read more of our 100's stories here.

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Annabelle Cleeland

Annabelle Cleeland

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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