Small business

What makes Bruny Island Cheese a successful small business?

Ambition, clever marketing, and management aside – the story behind this Tasmanian small business’s success begins and ends with the product.

By Cameron Cooper

Being a small business, and not a big one, is central to the success of Bruny Island Cheese. Business owner and cheesemaker Nick Haddow isn’t interested in chasing sales to the United States or other export markets, or dream of becoming a major company.

“I’m slightly terrified of Bruny Island Cheese Company becoming a big business in a way, or even being perceived to be a big business,” says Haddow. “I spend a lot of effort making sure that it does stay true to its original mantra – we make great cheese and the reason we make great cheese is because we love making people happy through what we do.”

“We start pretty much every decision-making process with the question – what’s best for the cheese?”

Operating on Bruny Island in southern Tasmania, Haddow leads a team that concentrates on providing wonderful traditional cheeses for visitors to their cellar door, plus about 20,000 national members of its Cheese Club. It is quite a turnaround for a business that once exported about 40 per cent of its cheese to the US before Haddow realised the venture was losing money and creating production problems that prevented him from supplying local customers – his natural target market.

“As an entrepreneur you are led to believe that export is the ultimate nirvana for small business in Australia and the reality for us is quite different,” he says.

DIVERSITY OF SKILLS

Now performing well and comfortable with the business’s direction (it also has a wood-fired bakery and a new brewery is under construction), Haddow reflects that many smaller businesses have some very talented leaders, but they often lack a diversity of skills.

“They might be incredible financial managers, they might be brilliant marketers, they’re often extraordinary producers. But they’re rarely all of those things and you need all of those skills, particularly early on to get the business off the ground.”

To counter this issue, he has built a great team around him that just wants to make the best cheese possible.

“We start pretty much every decision-making process with the question – what’s best for the cheese?” Haddow says. “Once you get that right you automatically start ticking a lot of the boxes and requirements of the market.”

FIND A MENTOR

Over the years, Haddow has also drawn from the experience of a range of mentors, including artisans from his travels and training in the cheese-producing regions of France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. He believes having mentors – and offering others advice – is essential for all business leaders.

“Doing things in isolation, well for some people maybe it works, but it doesn’t work for me. I need to be able to talk about things and bounce ideas off people and just have some affirmation that what you are doing is OK.”

US politics

Why some believe Trump's victory is a win for the American way

Trump's victory: a win for the American way?

How did Donald Trump win the election? By appealing to Americans who wanted a leader proud to make an unequivocal case for the American way, writes Ron Read FAIM.
How did Donald Trump win the election? By appealing to Americans who wanted a leader proud to make an unequivocal case for the American way, writes Ron Read FAIM.

workplace

The problem with the open-plan office and how to fix it

The problem with the open-plan office

Open-plan offices may have triumphed over cubicle farms, but they haven’t delivered all the benefits promised. Is there a better office layout to try?
Open-plan offices may have triumphed over cubicle farms, but they haven’t delivered all the benefits promised. Is there a better office layout to try?

regional Australia

Can Geelong be the innovation capital of Australia?

Geelong: the next innovation capital?

As manufacturing declines, regional cities are looking to startups and tech innovation as the way to reignite investment and employment at a local level. Geelong is leading the way, reports Marina Williams.
As manufacturing declines, regional cities are looking to startups and tech innovation as the way to reignite investment and employment at a local level. Geelong is leading the way, reports Marina Williams.

The Lowdown

Are printed business cards obsolete in the digital age?

The end of the business card

The printed business card is thought to have originated in China in the 1400s, but does the digital age signal its demise?
The printed business card is thought to have originated in China in the 1400s, but does the digital age signal its demise?

Thumbs up/down

Thumbs up: Feminist PM Justin Trudeau vows to fight for women's rights

Thumbs up: Feminist PM Justin Trudeau

Leadership Matters finds examples of good and bad leadership around the world for the regular Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down column.
Leadership Matters finds examples of good and bad leadership around the world for the regular Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down column.

Jane Caro

Jane Caro: How to be a good decision-maker

How to be a good decision-maker

Making a good decision may come down to being brave enough to risk making a bad one. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect choice.
Making a good decision may come down to being brave enough to risk making a bad one. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect choice.

Legal

5 ways for businesses to keep leave balances down

5 ways to keep leave balances down

Accruing annual leave and not taking holidays isn’t just bad for an employee’s wellbeing, it’s a headache for employers, too. So what can you do to keep leave balances down?
Accruing annual leave and not taking holidays isn’t just bad for an employee’s wellbeing, it’s a headache for employers, too. So what can you do to keep leave balances down?

Global politics

Fear, hope and leadership in a Donald Trump presidency

Hope and fear in a Trump presidency

Businessman Donald Trump, with all his flaws, is set to become the 45th President of the United States. AIM student member Grace Hamer looks at how Trump won the election, and what kind of leader he will ...
Businessman Donald Trump, with all his flaws, is set to become the 45th President of the United States. AIM student member Grace Hamer looks at how Trump won the election, and what kind of leader he will ...