Employer of Choice: Rampage Marine & Fabrication

Who are you?

My name is Cass Martin, and I am a co-owner of Rampage Marine & Fabrication with my husband Troy Herbert at Telegraph Point, which is a very small country town near Port Macquarie, surrounded by  cows! We run two businesses from the site and also live here. We employ 13 people.

Describe your core business

Our two main businesses are Rampage Marine & Fabrication where  we build and repair large boats and trailers, oyster punts and other types of boats. Our other business, Marine Farming Solutions, is a marine business consultancy and administration business – we offer grant writing (as a free service to our customers), as well as bookkeeping, business administration, and other services to support marine businesses. We almost lost everything when COVID hit so we had to diversify very quickly – before COVID, the majority of our work was overseas, building boats for oil and gas rigs. All those contracts were cancelled and we were left with the materials. We felt we had a strong responsibility to support our team, and it’s worked out well.

How would you define an excellent employer?

Just being fair and consistent. For us, seeking out opportunities for team members to develop their skills to get to them to the next level is a key part of being a good employer – you have to invest in your team, and lead by example.

In your organisation, what are some of the things you do that make you an employer of choice?

I don’t believe in leading from the front – we work shoulder to shoulder with the team.

What you allow is what you approve – you can’t just turn your head and not deal with something that is in front of you. We believe in hiring for diversity, which has created a team with no hierarchy, as well as one that really appreciates the strengths and challenges of the range of team members. We have a mature team member who is profoundly deaf but runs rings around everyone with their speed and fitness. We also encourage young women to come and work for us – they don’t have the brute strength of the men, so they learn other ways to do the job, ways that men can also learn to help them work more sustainably and reduce their injuries.  Older team members share their wisdom, and people with neurodiversity such as autism and ADHD – all bring their own strengths and talents.

*Cass is autistic – she has worked in big companies and is very good at what she does:

I’ve been taking people on this journey all my life and it made sense to do it in my own business.

Why is it important to you that you are an excellent employer?

We just want everyone to be happy – happy people are more productive, they work harder, we work closely and care for them.

What have you learned along your journey to becoming an employer of choice?

A strong work culture is the best performance management tool you will ever have.

If you bring someone in who is a bad recruit, the culture will push out those people. You have to make some decisions privately but every decision you can involve the team on, you should, to create a sense of ownership.

Do you employ young people (under 25)? Do you consider you do that effectively? Why/Why not?

One of the things we do best is support and train our young ones: We have three fulltime 17-year olds, one full-time 18 year old and one new 15 year old. We work with Newmans College in Port Macquarie. You need to have a lot of patience to employ young people, they require a lot of training, including life coaching. They wear their heart on their sleeve and don’t know how to leave their problems at the door – they need time off or they burn out. We keep good relationships with the trade schools and their parents which creates a village atmosphere and helps us solve problems when they come up.  Their generation is so different to ours – especially their learning and communication styles are chalk and cheese to ours. They are used to everything being digital – we had to put in a digital workforce program to suit them, which one of our 18 year olds built, under my supervision! 

What is your advice to organisations that want to improve as an employer?

It sounds harsh, but you need to invest in the right people and quickly cut loose the wrong ones. Having the wrong people in your team can be very destructive. As a boss you can be friendly and caring, but you also need to have boundaries and be firm. It’s also helpful to have little rewards and incentives like early marks, a long weekend, or team lunches – the right team members reward you tenfold so it’s worth it.  

What key trends do you see impacting your business in the next 5-10 years? 

I’m worried about business closures over the next couple of years – especially the independent businesses – people are burnt out from the past few years of natural disasters, COVID and then cost of living increases, supply chain issues and now labour costs. Importing parts and equipment is a real struggle, it takes longer for us to build and deliver. It’s really hard for small business at the moment. 



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