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Family Business Profile: Centenary Hire

Many hire companies, ranging from personnel and labour hire to equipment hire, are families in business. Centenary Hire, one of Queensland’s highly regarded general hire companies is no exception. Established in 1981, the business continues as a family owned and operated business, based in Brisbane’s south west.

It supplies a broad range of equipment such as power tools, small and large machinery, scaffolding and trestles as well as elevating work platforms. This equipment is primarily used by builders, tradesmen and contractors as well as home owners tackling a major DIY task or simply mowing the lawn.

Now in its second generation Centenary Hire passed from the founding father to his son, General Manager and Director, Matt Gordon, who commented that if his six year old son had it his way they would be training the third generation already!

Matt and his father aspire to continue as a family business predominantly for the growth opportunities available. Matt realises this growth has also become a necessity as the business has gone from supporting one family to two families and potentially more.

Family businesses in Australia are known for their long-term view and sustainable approach to growth, which in many cases gives rise to greater longevity than their non-family counterparts. The genuine commitment to improving their family’s prosperity, means many family businesses place great importance on their long-term relationships with stakeholders. This sentiment is evident in Matt’s experience in the business saying “the high level of customer service which has come to be expected from our customers, is often attributed to the family ownership”.

Research indicates family businesses are highly trusted in the community and Centenary Hire actively promotes that they are a family owned and operated business, displaying the Family Business Australia logo next to the HRIA logo on their entry doors and displaying the Australian Owned Family Business emblem on their paperwork. 

Matt’s commitment to his family to run Centenary Hire presented him with an invaluable opportunity to take part in the Global Rental Alliance Exchange Program. He was encouraged to apply for the program which involves a six to eight week exchange with a rental company in one of The Global Rental Alliance countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, France or other countries of the European Rental Association). Matt was placed with Nor-Val Rentals in Brittish Columbia, Canada, and his enthusiasm for the opportunities and insights the program provided were palpable: “you get to know about their business and ask questions you can’t ask in your country” he says. “I had the opportunity to work in a business larger than ours, and see the differences and where we could be in the future”.

Matt says one of the greatest challenges he’s faced being in a family business is knowing how to separate work management issues from work ownership all the while maintaining not only amicable but healthy interpersonal family relationships.

He recommends that families intending to transition the business from one generation to the next open the conversation sooner rather than later, involving all members of the family. Finally, he recommends engaging a third party to mediate the process “do it now because this process will take much longer than you expect. Involve everyone, even if they present no interest in the business because that way the process is transparent” he says. “Spend the dollars on a professional who has navigated this process before because they will be the voice of reason and logic when emotion is brought to the table”.

Matt has been a long-term member of Family Business Australia, saying “FBA offered me training and professional development courses which are tailored to suit a family owned business which is important as often we will make decisions based on different criteria to corporately owned businesses. Being able to connect directly with other business owners who also share this component of business called family has also been an advantage”.

If you would like to learn more about the professional development courses and social networking opportunities available via Family Business Australia visit www.fambiz.org.au