Bullish approach for Balzarini

The West Australian

_What has been your biggest career break? _My biggest career break was to leave Europe and to invest in Australia. When I did that, it was the start of creating Wellard as we know it now. I don't think I would have achieved what I have if I had stayed in Europe.

_Describe your leadership style. _What I do as a leader of this company is really try to create a team of people around me and to empower the team so they participate in decision-making. They don't necessarily make the decision but it is good that we work as a team.

_Most memorable executive experience? _The decision to build what is now the Ocean Drover (the world's biggest purpose-built livestock-carrying vessel). When we took that decision in 2000, the industry was very different. There were old ships, converted ships. I came up with the idea of spending - in those days I think it was $40 million - on a new vessel, 23,000sqm. Pushing the decision through was hard but it changed our company and the industry because, after that, more new vessels were built. People might find it surprising I nominate that, given what happened to the vessel recently (a fire which injured a crewman). However, she has recorded 142 successful voyages since her launch and I have no doubt will record another 142 successful voyages.

_Your first or most unusual job? _ I was a stockman on one of our vessels in 1995. I came to Australia with my father and he said if you really want to understand how this thing works, you jump on board. I was the stockman for one voyage from Fremantle to Egypt.

_More unusual than your career in professional motorcycle racing? _That was motocross and not unusual for me because it was my passion. I raced professionally for three or four years. It was not something I thought of as a job and when it became a job, I quit. I still ride and sponsor a team. It is a passion I will always have.

_Best way to improve productivity? _The biggest single problem we have as a company is red tape, green tape as well. We have a division of our business where we employ more people looking after paperwork than actually doing the job. You have this inability to extract the maximum potential from people and the business because of red tape. It is one of the biggest problems for productivity in Australia.

_Do you use social media? If so, how? _Not vey much. I am a bit old-fashioned. I like to sit in front of people and talk to them and see their reactions. I also travel a lot and rather than looking at reports or social media about the Vietnam market, for example, I'll go to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and see things for myself.

_What do you do in your spare time? _The list is so long but at the moment, with a young family, a lot of time is devoted to them. When I do have spare time, I try to keep fit. I still ride motocross bikes, I ski, I do mountain biking, horse riding. But since the children came, a lot of time is devoted to building the family, which is very important.

_What are the big challenges facing Wellard and other Australian agribusinesses? _I see more opportunity than challenges. I think the biggest challenge for this industry is to embrace the animal welfare issue very, very firmly. We have done such a good job so far with the introduction of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System and regulation on the transport of animals, but we need to keep working on that.

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