Sharon Morrish | CEO | Surf City Cranes

In November 2014 I had a brain aneurysm. I woke up in ICU on life support not consciously knowing what had happening, but at the same time understanding something major at happened.  My husband framed a letter I wrote to my family whilst in the operating theatre, a note to this day I do not remember writing.” This sounds dreadful but behind this suffering and pain, there is a name Sharon Morrish, who is an inspiration for millions, a brave soul and an impeccable business woman.

After 3 weeks in ICU, 4 days on life support, one week in the brain ward Sharon came home. As the doctors explained to her; – 5% of people are lucky enough to come out like her.  She had no repercussions but it took her about 12 months to fully recover due to tiredness and mental clarity.  Sharon’s immediate feeling in hospital and thereafter was extreme love for all.  The blessed feeling she had and still has, is something difficult to describe. She asserts “To be alive is the greatest gift. After this our world has included a lot more travel.  We made a conscious decision to live and not just work; my goal was and still is to create lifetime memories with my husband and children.” She adds “When you work continuously, to have that 24/7 time with your family on a magic holiday is precious time.”

In an interview with Insights Success, Sharon Morrish, CEO of Surf City Cranes emphasizes on her journey to becoming a successful business leader and sharing some key traits of leadership.

“Dream specific dreams, think big, be kind and don’t be afraid to fall as you will always land in a better place”

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Give a brief overview of your background and your role in Surf City Cranes.

In the late 80’s, early 90’s I worked on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays in various roles from reception, cashier, reservations, supervisor, special events, secretary, PA and eventually becoming the first female Duty Manager.

From there I moved to Brisbane going from a team environment to very much a male dominated world. At 32 years I became a General Manager of a Leagues Club in Brisbane. I was the youngest female GM in Clubs in Qld and at the time there was only about 4 of us in the State.  Jon (husband) and I moved to the Coast in 2002 where I became GM of Southport Yacht Club for a period of 5 years.

My skills are definitely in Management and as CEO and coowner of Surf City Cranes Pty Ltd I instil all of my management experience, whereas Jon is very sales, mechanically and crane operationally minded. Our skills complement each other to create a successful, thriving business.   As CEO I am responsible for finances, HR, change, systems, operations, growth and marketing.

Mention the personality that you consider as your role model and what virtues of him/her do you want to inculcate in your everyday life? 

My role models initially were my parents.  Never did they swear in front of us, they always showed love, kindness and old fashioned manners.  Integrity, honesty and kindness were expected of us.  In a business sense people who have these traits, whilst maintaining positive, calm and unselfish attitudes remain my role models. I encourage people to disagree with me as this always produces a better result. It does not mean you dislike that person, it encourages you to have a voice. My admiration for people who never give up and people who positively change the world in any small way is high and these are the traits I live by.  Keep changing, growing and learning as a leader and as a person and always treat people with respect. Give your team recognition when they deserve it, never take the credit for someone else and always speak the truth. My bluntness, or to the point conversations, can be valued or cursed depending on who you are.

We all know you are a mother of three. So, how do you the daunting task of balancing between your professional & personal life?

Never did I doubt, I would have children and having met my husband at 36 meant starting a family later in life.  My thfirst child was born 4 days after my 40 birthday, second child at 42 years and my third was born one day after my 45th birthday.  Having healthy, retired parents is a blessing as they helped care for my children from the time they were 6 weeks old. My husband initially was the casual worker, stay at home Dad, but we had just bought a new house, were renovating, I was managing a Yacht Club fulltime and we were thinking about starting Surf City Cranes. It was still tough even with all the help.

Support is crucial, from the workplace environment, to the home environment. As a General Manager it is not feasible to take 12 months maternity leave. We were in the middle of upgrading/renovating the club and building our first superyacht berths.  To be honest looking back I wonder how we did it.  Up early, through the night, preparing meals, renovating at work and home, I think you just go into zombie mode.  If there was a Board meeting I would start work at 7am, finish at midnight, come home, prepare lunches for the next day and start again.  Our children were always in our bed with us, as this was the time that I cherished. We read stories, cuddled and enjoyed that quality time.  Sundays were family day. My parents gave plenty of love and help and those first 5 years we valued and needed this.   Although the guilt is always there, I knew my children were receiving the ultimate love and this is what is important.

When we started our own business it was again late nights, early mornings and weekend work. I created the business plans, did cashflow projections, set up the company whilst my husband sourced our first crane, sourced clients, allocated and did numerous cold calls. He is exceptional at what he does. We built it together and remain a strong partnership today. It was 18 months into the business that I could concentrate on one business and not two and work full time from home.

Now many years on, we still do a lot of work late at night when the kids are in bed.  We work around the family in the afternoons from around 3.30pm and work again from around 7pm. It is the norm for my children to see us tapping away on our computers.  Having this internal drive to continually grow, source better ways of doing things is something we both thrive on.

How do you deal with dynamics of market?

Constant research of where you think the market will be, adapt where necessary but always try to sell your value and not sell just on price.  Although we get frustrated with price driven clients we still believe that value will win long term. This is where we differentiate.  Each year a balanced score card is created and we try and incorporate something new and improve a section of our business. We are ISO accredited, have a sustainability plan, have our success profiles for our team and keep on changing.

What are some of the vital attributes, in your opinion, that every leader should possess?  

Nothing is more important than respect, kindness and caring toward your team. Good communication is crucial, it means listening, caring and talking. Being calm in stressful situations is also a necessity as your team looks to you for guidance, stability and reassurance. Always keep searching for a better way to do things, constant change is necessary and keeps it exciting.

Always give credit to your team and always admit your mistakes. We have an awesome team. Taking ownership for all things instils trust, makes you human and encourages others to be honest and not afraid.

How necessary is it to align business with technology and what are its outcomes?

Technology streamlines processes and although there are numerous programs out there, we have been unable to find the right one for us.  Our own app is being developed for internal use, in order that we function more efficiently, save time and give our team real time resources. Immediate communication can occur and our ROI will improve.

What advice would you like to give to the emerging entrepreneurs?

I’ve learnt so much over the years, it is important to always help others, never tread on someone else to achieve your success, never be intimidated by what you don’t know. Always ask someone smarter, never let age deter you from anything in life, always be grateful for what you have. Being an emerging entrepreneur can be frustrating but you must have the patience and everyday just do one small thing toward your dream.  At the end of a month, or even a week, you can look back and see how many roadblocks you have already conquered.

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