In late 2000, I took a look at my life and realised the work I was doing just wasn’t making me happy. It was creative and I was involved daily in creative design projects but I’d had my share of working long hours for projects I didn’t believe in, with clients that weren’t really interested in my advice.
I wanted to work in a business that provided a creative, nurturing and positive team environment, where I could work on projects that excited me. I’d been in the industry long enough to know I couldn’t rely on anyone else to drop that sort of work in my lap.
I’d always had a passion for technology and it’s ability to make things easier, to streamline processes and make everything more efficient. If there’s one thing I love, it’s a challenge, so off I went and Mettro was born. I started out small but determined, with our first office across the road from the Story Bridge Hotel in Kangaroo Point. There was just me, Alistair, and our enthusiasm and determination. Our computers were second hand, but our ideas were shiny and new.
‘Doing good work, for good people, with good people.’
Whilst we were senior in our field, our business was new and we had to work twice as hard as anyone else to get clients to talk to us, and even harder to convince them to give us a go. But convince them we did. Our tiny team started to grow and we worked like crazy in our tiny office to deliver over and above what was asked of us.
The Story Bridge Hotel was the site of our early celebrations, and sometimes commiserations. And if our designer went missing for any period of time, we could peer out our window and see her getting her creative juices flowing in the beer garden.
Times were tight back there in the beginning, but I knew I wanted to stick to my mantra of doing good work, for good people, with good people.
One of our earliest clients was Healthy Waterways, which delivered the wonderful Gill Moody to our door. It would be years before she would eventually become our Account Director, but we loved her instantly, and we knew we would lure her in eventually.
From our modest start, our hard work began to pay off, and we started to grow. And we’ve continued to grow over the past 15 years. First, we grew too big for our Kangaroo Point digs, so we moved to a big shabby office in Woolloongabba where we wouldn’t have to sit on each other’s laps.
We focussed on customer service, attention to detail and made sure we delivered on our promises. We put a rigorous set of systems in place to effectively manage projects (and we still use these methodologies today).
Coming of age
Turning 10 was a huge milestone for us. We renovated our offices so we had our first boardroom, and a custom kitchen and office space. And we celebrated our coming of age with a huge Italian-inspired party, inviting our families and clients to celebrate with us. That night was the first time I really took a breath, looked around and thought, I bloody did it.
My confidence continued to grow when I won the Australian Institute of Management Brisbane Owner Manager of the Year, and became a Fellow of the AIM. I was invited to speak at the International Women’s Day Debate alongside journalist Frances Whiting and former Attorney-General of Queensland Linda Lavarch, women that I really admire.
This sense of professional maturity gave us all a lot of confidence and, fittingly, it was at this stage that our team started to change from a bunch of workaholic professionals to a more family-focused affair. In the space of just a few years, we went from having no children to having 10 between us – including two sets of twins.
When I came back from having my twin boys I realised my work life couldn’t be 100% perfect all the time on everything, so I came up with my 55% rule – that is, putting in 55% effort on tasks where perfection is a wasted effort – and saving perfection for where it truly matters. And the amazing thing is, we achieve the same great quality result.
Balance, sensitivity and intuition
So these days, we like to lead a more balanced life. We still have the same amount of energy and enthusiasm for doing great work, but we also love spending time with our families and pursuing other activities we love.
Because as great as those workaholic days were, I think we’re a better balanced, more sensitive and intuitive bunch now that we have other priorities. And that means we’re even better at helping real people solve real problems. I am lucky that my right hand man Alistair is one of the best troubleshooters in the business. We are able to get to the root of a problem, quickly.
We are a more senior team too, many of my team have been here for the long haul. Being highly experienced means we have “been there and done that” and seen most things so we are agile, flexible, unflappable.
We do still sometimes get so caught up in our work that we forget to stop and smell the roses, but a few years ago, we found ourselves as finalists in five categories in the AIMIA awards – competing against some of the biggest budget projects in the industry. It’s times like those we look up from our desks and wonder how the hell we got here, and give each other a small pat on that back. Then we get back to work.
That’s what it’s all about here. We call it the GSD (get shit done) school of business. It’s not always easy. Running a business is hard, it’s hard work and some days it’s difficult and depressing. But at the end of the day, I have created a business with a team of people I am proud of. I am proud of the work we do, proud of the problems we solve for our clients and most of all I am proud to own this amazing little business.