CBH stalwart hands over mantle

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

To many in WA's grain industry, Colin Tutt is almost part of the furniture.

Beginning his career with Co-operative Bulk Handling in 1974, the name Colin Tutt is often uttered in the same reverent tones as the names of Imre Menschelyi and Mick Gayfer.

But the well-known industry identity, who oversaw some of the biggest changes to the grain supply chain across the State, believes it's time follow the footsteps of both his mentors and hand the mantle to the younger generation.

Mr Tutt retired from CBH last Friday after 41 years, saying the organisation had come a long way from the tin, wood and wire H-type storage systems from 40 years ago.

"Looking back, one of the biggest changes that I have seen is the industry moving from a 2.1 million tonne harvest to the 15 million tonne crop we expect to receive this year. It's a new world out there now," he said.

"In fact, in just four days this year we took as much into the CBH receival system as we handled across the State for my entire first harvest. It's been a huge shift."

Looking back on one of the most recognisable careers in the West Australian agribusiness sector, Mr Tutt isn't shy in admitting he has had the "odd" run in with a grower here and there, but he believes the good times have outweighed the bad.

And for someone who has been at the coalface of the grain supply chain for most of his career, it's been that interaction with the grower that has kept him striving to improve the grain supply chain.

"I had one of the best jobs in WA. I know I've hurt the odd growers, for sure, but we've also had a lot of fun, and I know I have delivered value in the supply chain, and it's been an honour to work on behalf of growers," he said.

"Being connected to the grower, that was the highlight for me."

Starting with CBH as a receival point operator in his hometown of Narembeen, Mr Tutt moved quickly up the ranks after spending 12 months in the coveted cadet supervisors course in Perth.

After time at Morawa and Moora, Mr Tutt believes the turning point in his career was when he was appointed operations supervisor at the Kwinana Terminal, coming head-to-head with industry heavyweight Imre Menschelyi.

"Imre shaped me and influenced me and my career more than anybody," he said.

After two years in this position, Colin headed back to the country, spending two harvests at Corrigin before moving for a longer stay at Lake Grace.

"I spent a lot of time down there changing the culture of the organisation in that part of the wheatbelt, and some of those really good people who worked for me are still with the company," he said.

From Lake Grace, Mr Tutt was appointed manager of the Geraldton Port Zone, and during his time there, was part of an exchange program with the Alberta Wheat Pool, the company now owned by Viterra.

After several years in Geraldton, Mr Tutt made the leap into the position of general manager operations prior to the Co-operative's merger with the Grain Pool of WA.

"Getting that role was another defining moment in my career. Mick and Imre rang me in the middle of harvest and told me that I had got the role, that I would jump a couple of ranks to get there," he said.

"It was a real shock, something that was difficult to comprehend for a couple of days, but I did get a lot of guidance and support from Imre, and really, from that point, I didn't look back.

"I sat in that operations role for 20 years managing the supply chain before transitioning a few years ago into the new role of looking at alternative business opportunities for the organisation."

Mr Tutt believes ones of the most memorable moments in the history of the CBH organisation was the building of the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

"Mick Gayfer was very brave in making that decision, it was incredibly courageous, but it really put our stamp on where our supply chain was going," he said.

And despite his trust in the next generation of leaders coming through the system, Mr Tutt says it is also critical to remember the history of the organisation and how the co-operative began.

"I think history is very important. It's the foundation of the business and we need to understand where we have come from. This company was built by growers and we can't afford for that foundation information to disappear with the new generation," he said.

"In saying that, we need to listen to the younger generation and adapt the organisation and the supply chain to align to their needs.

"This new generation demands innovation, high productivity, more accountability and more transparency.

"CBH was built in a regulated environment, but in a deregulated world we need to reshape our business to better perform in this environment, and we are not quite where we need to be yet.

"The businesses that will win in this new deregulated environment will be those that can adapt to change and execute the sales."

But for Mr Tutt, life will no longer be about receival points, storage systems, supply chains or grain growers.

For him, the future will be about travel, new opportunities and a greater focus on his family, in particular his wife Vicky.

"Vicky has been part of this journey too, and she has been there to celebrate the successes, and also to support me when I've needed it," he said.

"This is a new chapter in my life, and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails