Elly Hanlon presents at Compact Action Network meeting

Q&A with Liz Everist from GROW & Elly Hanlon from Hanlon Industries

Audio Transcript from GROW Compact Action Network zoom meeting Friday 30/7/2021

I’m Elly Hanlon from Hanlon Industries.

Hanlon industries is a two-decade old independent family owned and run company specialising in steel fabrication and commercial construction.

We provide a range of service including design, project management, engineering, maintenance, manufacturing, construction, labour and equipment hire. Today we’ve got 140 employees across 3 states with our head office and main manufacturing workshop here in Corio.

My mum and dad started the business and dad was always focussed on supporting local and investing in manufacturing in Australia.

He had the saying that ‘all of our employees can’t be all Stawell Gift runners’. He’s always been passionate about creating a balanced team and providing opportunities for Geelong people who have experienced difficulties in life.

Joining GROW was a pretty obvious choice for Hanlon industries. It was well suited to our existing culture of inclusive employment and then when we first signed up we found we were ticking quite a lot of the boxes for GROW so we didn’t have to really change the ethos of the business to make it work; that being said I think GROW definitely encouraged us to do more.

GROW has provided us with the knowledge, the contacts and the ideas to help us keep supporting the community.

Supporting the community has always been a core value of ours, however we have been very busy and have just gone through such a huge period of growth particularly in the last 18 months. Often pressing operational issues push your community involvement further and further down the list…

So normally I come out of a GROW event feeling really re-ignited and determined to fix all the disadvantages in the community! So I guess being involved in GROW keeps me involved, and our company involved and committed.

A lot of the changes that you can make being a part of GROW don’t have to be huge changes; they might not necessarily be putting on an employee from a disadvantaged background; it can be really small, easy things. We just changed our cleaning services to My Maintenance Crew which was a really easy change.

Another one we made recently was using Fruit2 work. One of our admin staff was spending an hour once a week going to get milk and bringing it back to the offices (we’re based in Corio so the closest shops are 10 -15 minutes away) so by choosing to support Fruit2work who support individuals who have been in justice system. In choosing to use them instead it’s been really beneficial for us; we’re not wasting time, we’ve improved our workflow and obviously helping out the community.  There’s a lot of really easy changes you can make like that.

Liz: I know there are some really tangible things you have done, as part of GROW, in terms of your inclusive employment, would you like to talk about that?

I think it’s just about the ethos of the company. We’ve just employed someone who’s just returned from the justice system. He went in while he was working for us and we supported him all through that process, during his trials and everything and he was welcomed back with ‘doors wide open, arms side open’ for him. He said he was having trouble integrating back into the community and felt people were treating him differently. I did think, if we didn’t give him that opportunity, who would?

Liz: Oh I agree, it’s amazing to hear that because it is so rare, that’s incredible. And I know you’ve also got people who have got real challenges and that’s been something that’s been hard but you’re sticking with it despite all that.

Elly: Yeah, I think that is probably the main thing I would say to people with private businesses is that we’re not social enterprises, and we can’t do everything – you just have to do something. And that’s what I think coming to the GROW events (helps with).

We’re not going to turn into a social enterprise but we’ll do whatever we can to help out and it definitely isn’t always easy… that’s the other thing as a business that we’ve learned is that it doesn’t always work out. You can give someone an opportunity and it might not work out! Whether it’s timing or the person wasn’t right or we didn’t have the support available at the time or whatever the reason; it doesn’t always work out. It’s not always a fairy tale ending. We’ve had people come on and they haven’t worked out AND we’ve had people start with us and have been with us for 5 or more years (from Diversitat for example).

Somethings work out; some things don’t – you’ve just got to keep trying and providing those opportunities and the right people will come on board and with your support and with the support of the GROW community we make it work.

There’s something that’s really important about being a GROW member and just being involved. In coming to these meetings you might end up setting a meeting with an organisation or social enterprise. That meeting might not eventuate to anything at the time, they might be trying to get someone into your business and it might not be quite right then and that’s okay. Because down the track in six months’ time you might realise, ‘Oh! we can use that person’ or ‘Now the timing is better we can look more into that’.

Just because it doesn’t fall into place right now, I don’t think that’s a reason to not stay involved in this GROW community. The community is great because it’s long term – it’s a long game not a short game.

Liz: Oh my goodness I’m so glad we recorded you today, Elly! To finish up is there any advice you’d like to offer to the GROW signatories in the room today that they should do – or not do?

Elly: I think it would be as a business don’t be so hard on yourself. Just  get involved and provide opportunities where you can; but you don’t have to change the world; you don’t have to be the one solution for all of Geelong and the disadvantage, you know? Just get involved and do a little bit. If everyone just does a little that’s what’s going to help.