Building a family business
Russell Schmidt began working in the family quarry and earthmoving business when he was 15 – a point where the business included his parents and one other employee.
34 years later, the business employs more than 30 people and produces high-quality road construction material that’s highly sought-after in the mid-north of South Australia.
Russell’s family bought Clare Quarry from the Council in 1971. They have since built a second quarry (Spalding Quarry), created a testing facility, and expanded into concrete production. Russell said that focusing on self-reliance has paid dividends: “In creating a NATA-endorsed testing facility to check rock quality for DPTI, Local Government and Civil construction projects, this was also an opportunity to create a second revenue stream. Around 95% of its income comes from other clientele using the testing facility. Our business has been created in a very hard environment, and our ability to maintain our own machines, and understand how to create maximum efficiency, has been behind our survival and growth.”
Dealing with legislation
The business predominantly moves earth, and supplies sands and quarry products mainly for commercial with some domestic. It also does mobile work. Spalding produces about 175,000 tonnes each year, and Clare almost 40,000. Russell said he wants to expand further, but there are many challenges: “Our key issues are around red tape and legislation changes. There have been huge changes in Occupational Health and Safety laws, work safety, environmental policies and more. We want to hire people, and to pass things on to the next generation, but there are many different hurdles. It takes many people just to do all the paperwork, recording, monitoring and sorting out the legislative requirements. Accru Harris Orchard has been a big help advising on financial and management decisions, and I know I can leave things to them with real confidence.”
Knowing the industry
Accru Harris Orchard Managing Director, James Orchard, is clear about why Russell has been so successful: “I have known Russell for almost 20 years, and he knows his industry inside-out. It’s second nature to him and it’s in his bones – he knows how to crush rock and how to get the most out of his vehicles. He and his team know how to fix any fault imaginable, and if Russell needs a part, he’ll fly up to Queensland to buy it if needed. He knows exactly where to go and what to do, to make every part of his business as efficient as possible.”
Above all, the business has succeeded by ‘sticking to the knitting’ and remaining true to its core function. Control over various aspects of the business and an ability to fine-tune processes means that Clare Quarry and Spalding Quarry will be around for a long time to come.
To hear more about the Clare Quarry story, click on the video below.