MEGAN MACDONALD: SO CHARLIE, YOU FEATURED IN THE MAGAZINE’S SEPTEMBER ISSUE 20 YEARS AGO, AND YOU SPOKE ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU FAILED HIGH SCHOOL, BUT INSTEAD OF THAT BEING THE END OF YOUR EDUCATION IT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING. DID THAT CONTINUE?
Charlie Henry: You know who else didn’t finish high school? Lindsay Fox! But yes, I went on to keep learning, especially after the completion of a company director’s course with the University of New England in 1994.
MM: SO, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
CH: Well, sadly my wife passed away at the age of 61, and that’s when I decided to walk away from the business. I actually sold it to a friend of mine, Neil Weston, for only a dollar! Plus all the stock was valued at nearly half a million.
My brother-in-law (who was also in the business with me) died just prior to that, so it was a sad period in my life. I decided to give it all away, and a year or two later I remarried (which wasn’t successful) and ended up moving to the Gold Coast, and have been here ever since.
MM: ON REFLECTION, DO YOU STILL BELIEVE YOU MADE THE RIGHT DECISION?
CH: I do, especially because my children, who worked in the business at the time, went on to be very happy. My daughter Linda is now a principal at a high school in Cairns, with two little boys, and my son David works for a timber company in Brisbane.
MM: WHILE THE TIMBER INDUSTRY IN AUSTRALIA IS VERY SEGMENTED STATE-BY-STATE, IT IS A CONSISTENT FEATURE OF THE INDUSTRY THAT MANY BUSINESSES ARE FAMILY-OWNED. DO YOU STILL BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT FOR FAMILY-OWNED BUSINESSES TO REMAIN PROMINENT WITHIN THE TIMBER INDUSTRY?
CH: Yes I do, but I have noticed that they are becoming more conspicuous due to their absence – many family businesses have sadly disappeared over the last decade or so. But a great feature of this industry is that, even after you’ve left it, you’re still connected. I still, keep in touch with all my old colleagues from the industry and we still all get together for a lunch every now and then.
MM: I LOVED A QUOTE FROM YOU IN THE 1995 ARTICLE WHICH SAID, “WE WANT TO KEEP WORKING – AND WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW EVERY BLADE OF GRASS IN THE FRONT LAWN BY ITS FIRST NAME, LIKE OUR RETIRED NEIGHBOURS!” IS THIS STILL THE CASE?
CH: That’s right! I’m too busy. I’m busier now than when I was in my business. Today I’m doing volunteering with Marine Rescue, and I’m an operator for them at least once a week. So I answer radio calls and give them weather warnings – sometimes there can be up to 70 boats out there – so you want to make sure they all come back in one piece. I also have a bowling team, The Tinnies, so there is not really a lot of spare time.
I long ago finished an apprenticeship in the furniture and joinery industry, so I have a lovely little workshop under the house, which I don’t get much time to play in. Maybe on the very odd occasion
MM: YOU ALSO MENTIONED, BACK IN 1995, THAT YOU WERE A BIG ADVOCATE FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING IN BUSINESS. YOU SAID, “IT’S LIKE THE WEATHER – EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT IT, BUT FEW DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.” DO YOU STILL BELIEVE THIS TO BE TRUE TODAY?
CH: I actually noticed, over time, that a lot of my former colleagues really cottoned onto that. One friend, Don Towerton, has since managed to walk away – to a certain extent – and he now allows his daughter and son to run the majority of the business. So knowing when to walk away is always a great strategy!
So yes, I do still believe it to be true today. It’s extremely important, and a lot of the businesses that are still around today would have implemented that kind of thinking a long time ago – if you weren’t competitive back then, you aren’t in business now!
It reminds me of my favourite saying: “There is nothing more constant than change”.
MM: WELL, ON THAT NOTE CHARLIE, WE HAD BETTER LEAVE YOU TO IT! ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE.
CH: I’m now a lot more like my mate Jim Philcox in Adelaide – they call him ‘Sir Lunch-a-lot’