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Ruby Connection Networking

07 March 2011

One of the benefits I had not foreseen when I agreed to speak to the Ruby connection lunch in May this year was that my network would increase in so many different ways. I increased my network directly because I met many interesting women at the lunch. As a result of coverage of my ideas in the West Australian newspaper I had people reach out to me as well.

The most interesting outreach was a letter I received from Richard Huston, a farmer and lawyer, who was until recently based in Kojonup. I knew of Richard as his brother Jonathan attended Duntroon at the same time as my brother Craig but we had never met. Enclosed with Richard's letter was a copy of a book he has recently written called \"... and they all lived happily ever after ...\". I opened up the book and was unable to put it down until I had finished the first chapter. I was hooked and the following weekend spent a happy time on my back verandah enjoying the Perth autumn sunshine and delving further into the book.

One quote caught my eye \"Gender bias is without doubt the single greatest cause of conflict and unhappiness in farming families\".

The book is about succession planning for farming families in Australia. There is also many wonderful messages in it about the need for farming enterprises to maximise all the resources they have at their disposal; happily debunking traditional prejudices about the right role for women on the land.

The book really resonated with me as I had seen the issues Richard writes about at first hand when I was the zone chief manager for Queensland Country for Westpac and I visited farming customers across the length and breadth of rural Queensland. At the time Westpac was undergoing a period of intense change and I had the difficult task of closing a number of branches. It struck me that the loss of the bank branch was only part of the loss the community felt. The local people spoke eloquently of the loss of the direct involvement of the branch staff and their families in the community. The Bank manager's wife seemed to be a specific role in many towns. Just like the farmer's wife was spoken of as a specific role. But don't get Richard started on that topic. His words say it best \"a \"Farmer's wife\" is not a possession, item of property or an appendage. Nor is it an occupation or career\". Richard feels, as I do, that a farmer is a farmer is a farmer. Irrespective of race, colour or gender!

Richard and I met for a coffee at Kate Lamont's wonderful enoteca in Station Street Cottesloe (I have to admit to treating Kate's place a bit like an office I don't need to pay for. I enjoy being there in between the end of lunch hour and the start of dinner hour when I can have a quiet coffee or glass of wine and watch the staff get ready for the next rush.) I was fascinated when he told me that some of his clients see his book as a marketing ploy - in fact it's just the opposite. He makes a clear case for an ounce of prevention to avoid the pound of cure. And if every family business, not just farms, took his advice there would be far less legal fees going round in general. And way less heart ache.

I hope many farmers, of both genders, read Richard's book and take his advice to heart.

Richard's book is featured at where the Introduction, Table of Contents and Chapter One of the book are accessible at no cost. For those who may wish to purchase a copy of the book, the web page also includes an online Order Form.