046: In 1989 aged 35 bought 4,500 acres of Byron Bay rainforest and Macadamia trees, 10 years later started the cereal business, now exporting to 12 countries, 2 FTE to 70 and grew 10%-100% p.a. (Pam Brook)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

October 19, 2020

In this episode, I interview Pam Brook, the co-founder of Brookfarm, Australia’s leading producer of gourmet macadamia products known for its Macadamia Mueslis, Walkabout Mixes, etc. With some friends, Pam and her husband Martin bought 4,500 acres of rainforest with Macadamia trees in beautiful Byron Bay in 1989. Ten years later, they moved from Sydney to finally start their business. Since no one was adding any value to Macadamia nuts, they launched their cereal range and started selling in the late 2000s at the Bangalow Farmers’ Market. They now export to 12 countries and sell around Australia but choose to never stock in Coles and Woolworths after seeing how they treated suppliers in the 90s. Pam stayed as a part-time dentist for the first few years and Martin would hit the road selling. In 2003, they built their own factory on the farm and sales grew between 50% and 100%, 10% to 12% per annum.

Sales grew 50% to 100% in the early years, now 10% to 12% per annum. From two full-time employees to now over 70, they funded their business from their own capital, bank credit, and some grants without taking on investors. They grew the business mainly from profits. Pam shares that she felt she had succeeded when she gave up a part-time job as a dentist and went all in, winning the Telstra Business of the Year award a few years later. She says the hardest thing about growing a small business is getting the finances right. The one thing she says she would tell herself on day one of starting out is, “You can do it, and focus. Focus, focus, focus!”

This Cast Covers:

  • How they planted 1,500 Macadamia trees and later on decided to add value to them which formed the start of Brookfarm.
  • Leaving their jobs to go all-in with Brookfarm and combining their skills to run it successfully. 
  • From 2 full-time employees to over 70, and growing to export their products to over 12 countries all over the world.
  • Growing by more than 50% a year in their early years while currently maintaining a 12% annual growth over the last 10 years despite challenges.
  • Why they decided to make their business a generational family business.
  • The lessons she learned from being awarded the Telstra Business of the Year award.
  • Successfully marketing their business by sharing the genuineness of their brand story.
  • Regularly measuring their customer loyalty using the Net Promoter Score.
  • Starting out with their own capital from savings and using bank credit instead of bringing on investors.
  • The impact that the Export Market Development Grant has had on their business.
  • Losing a customer that set their exports back about 50% and how it taught them not to be complacent or take anything for granted.
  • How sales and distribution are some of the most challenging parts of doing business in the food industry.
  • Enjoying the difference that their business makes in people’s lives.
  • Hiring people who are smarter than you at what they do, understanding them, and trusting them appropriately while managing them well.
  • Leveraging contract manufacturing to use their machinery to a maximum and help their employees build their skills.
  • The importance of focus and listening for every small business owner.
  • Why a potential employee’s attitude is critical to the success of a business.
  • Building a kickass culture by connecting, developing, and celebrating team members.
  • Being the only brand that adds allergens to their natural organic baby cereal to meet the health needs of babies.
  • Everything she does to achieve some work-life balance.
  • Investing in continuous learning, books, conferences, courses, and networking that contribute to her business knowledge.
  • Combining the passion for a business with getting the business plan and finances right.
  • Collaborating with those who can help you grow your business. 

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“Sometimes you learn a lot more from the challenging times than you do from the times when everything is going well” – Pam Brook

“Success is celebrating along the way but it’s a lifelong journey too” – Pam Brook

“Success is when you get all those bits and pieces in place that you’ve been grappling with” – Pam Brook

“Hire people who are smarter than you at what they do, and understand them, and trust them appropriately but manage them well too” – Pam Brook

“You can do it, but focus on what you want to achieve” – Pam Brook

…….

Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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