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R U OK? A Conversation Could Change A Life

by editor arbor age

Advance Tree Works – heading in the right direction.

Who are the owners of Advance Tree Works?
Advance Tree Works is owned by Owen Hardy.

How did Advance Tree Works commence and when?
After working for and managing various companies for 25 years, I found myself jobless. I had lost my licence and sat around for three months not sure what I would be doing. During that period, I was depressed and could not see a future. Being in my forties, without a licence I struggled to see any future. The important action I took, even depressed, was to reach out for support. I made a call to my friend, Bud Quaid, who put me onto a contracting lead. That simple call and support from Bud Quaid made the difference. I borrowed $2000 from mum and Bud gave me $1250 to start my company in April 2015.

What has been the journey of Advance Tree Works up till now?
At the start, we won a major contract in the powerline industry with Active Tree Services (ATS). After three months into the contract, we had a couple of incidents and lost the contract. Fortunately, ATS supported us and kept us going for another 12 months. We returned to Queensland with enough gear to keep us going within the private sector. We placed a $50 advertisement in the local paper and that kicked us off. We became associated with Enviro Frontier, local council and other Government departments.

We put a lot of time into training our staff and upgrading our gear. We had $70,000 worth of equipment in 2016 and over $2M at the present time. It’s been a real slog with its ups and downs.

What are three things people will say set you apart?
Professionalism, quality staff and training as well as quality gear.

What have you found exciting?
Continuous growth, watching apprentices grow, the opportunities in our industry and new technologies.

What have been the pressures in the business?
Workload, targets, staff, overthinking, always wanting to be the best in our area and always wanting more, trying to find ‘me’ time to enjoy my family and have a proper holiday.

What has been the pressure or expectations you put yourself under?
I have been taking on too much at once.

Did you believe you were letting people down?
Yes.

Who were they and why?
They were my family. I was too absorbed in what I was doing.

You’re a business owner, a father – what expectations did this have on your thoughts?
My expectations were to be successful and my thoughts were on the fear of going broke and not being able to support staff and especially my family.

Did you reach out to anyone for mentoring or support?
Yes.

When and why – what made you decide to reach out?
I’m lucky enough to have several mentors that I’ve bounced off throughout the last six and a half years; Bud Quaid, Mark Willcox, Luke Hobbs, Tim Carbis, Andrew Baxter and Bob Wicks just to name a few. I reached out to them purely out of frustration and lack of knowledge as I considered these guys to be leaders but, most of all, who I trust and who would give me a push in the right direction.

What was the mask you believe you hid behind?
The ‘I’m OK’ mask when I wasn’t OK.

Are you OK now?
I feel I am heading in the right direction.

Where are you now on your journey?
I feel like I’m three parts there.

What do you share with yourself, family and team (staff)?
My goals, visions, failures and success.

What do you need the “macho” tree industry to hear from you?
Take the industry seriously, encourage and support each other. We all have our ups and downs. Band together and remember, it ain’t weak to speak and talk to your mates. If you ask people will listen. The biggest one is there is no dumb questions. By myself just reaching out years ago to support, especially when I was depressed, helped me get back on the journey. Just ask.

When a “hurdle” in the road, how do you reach out to let us know it’s OK?
At times I find it hard to reach out but it’s important to talk to your mates, involve yourself and surround yourself with good people as good people will always look after good people. I’m lucky enough the strong circle of family, friends, my employees and like-minded business people I am involved with, being the Beach House Fishing Club, always checking up on me and the trust in this group, encourages me to have a yarn and open up.

What can we do to make it OK?
Be aware, many do hide behind masks and not all is what it seems. Ask the question ‘are you OK?’. Make them look you in the eye, ask again and if you look hard enough the answer is there. Just be aware and remember, it ain’t weak to speak and talk to your mates and if you can’t talk to your mates find somebody, anybody and they will listen.

Special mentions to my beautiful mother Jean Hardy, my son Zack Hardy, my loving girlfriend Diane Moubarak who has to put up with my outbursts and all the people I mentioned in previous questions. To all my valued employees for understanding who I am and supporting me throughout as there has been many ups as there has been downs and Advance Tree Works would not be the successful company it is today.

Kind regards, Owen Hardy.

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