Gerry Ryan OAM on cutting up business reports, checking out factory waste, saving time and other secrets of entrepreneurial success.
Gerry Ryan had a great start in life, rich with the important things that mattered; encouraging parents, 8 siblings and a free childhood in Bendigo jumping fences and checking out thoroughbreds at the jockey club. “We didn’t have a lot….but it was a lot of fun.”
These beginnings together with his likeable down to earth nature and innate ambition, all set the foundations for a successful entrepreneurial journey ahead.
His first business was selling newspapers at the age of 12 and despite being told school wasn’t his thing, nothing held him back. By the age of 22 Gerry Ryan joined Sunwagon Camper Trailers where he sprinted up the ranks within 6 months to production manager. It was here at this time that he made his connection with Jayco and struck up relationships that set him up for life. “People are your number 1 asset” Mr. Ryan states. And it also appears to be his number one secret to success. “Early days I learnt a lesson that it’s so important people in business. Not just the people in your business but also relationships outside your business. Your suppliers, your customers… and it's critical that you keep a good relationship because they’ll stick with you long term.” This fares him very well as he has continually succeeds to maintain a competitive position in the caravan market, despite the economic climate.
However Mr. Ryan is not one to focus on doom and gloom. “Out of every crisis comes opportunity.” He states “Opportunities are in all industries…. IT, online businesses, tourism, hospitality, building….we’re in industrial building and its busy…as soon as you put up a shed or a warehouse someone’s got a For Lease sign or it’s sold” He also talks of changes in the caravan market and how he maintains his 50% market share, most of it coming down to 4 important things; good relationships, good cashflow, innovation and efficiency.
“Everyone is equal in an organisation and everyone has a part to play…you have to communicate.” He says. In parallel, Mr Ryan is always looking for efficiencies and how to save time and waste. “I still go down and check the waste bins out….we’ve got $8 million dollars worth of waste, if we can get that down to $4 million, I can then share the rewards with the staff. It’s important the awareness of efficiency, waste…and the biggest waste is time.”
Mr Ryan also tells the story of his innovative reshuffling techniques within Jayco “The first meeting, a pair of scissors, I cut the reports up…no one reads them.” Egg timers were placed in meetings so talks were done in half the time. Chairs were taken out of the meeting rooms. But there was good reason for his actions; it was all to create an awareness in the company about unnecessary activity, efficiency and wasting time.
Being a fast mover and surrounding himself with good people keeps breeding success for Gerry Ryan, not only within Jayco but also his plethora of business ventures which together generate in excess of $500 million p.a. In addition to being a 3-time Melbourne Cup winner and ‘growing fast horses’, Mr Ryan, together with his son Andrew Ryan revived the renowned Mitchelton Winery where they built a 58 room hotel, day spa, cafe and expansive indigenous art gallery on site. He is also founder of green edge cycling, a men and women’s UCI WorldTour cycling team and is Chairman of Global Creatures/Creature Technology; a company which is now the world’s best, award winning electronic manufacturer of its type.
Despite living this busy, fulfilling life overflowing with success and activity, Gerry Ryan still loves to enjoy his weekends in his beloved Nagambie by the river and gumtrees. When asked what’s next on the cards, he contentedly answers “Enjoy what I’ve got, more importantly enjoy my grandchildren, spending time with them and doing special things.”
Watch our full video interview with Gerry Ryan OAM here