Sunbury’s Graeme Lofts has written a new book Family Business Success Stories, detailing the journeys of eight Australian family-owned businesses. He spoke with Jessica Micallef.

What is your connection to Sunbury and/or Macedon Ranges?

I’ve lived in Sunbury for all but two of the past 45 years. Sunbury and the Macedon Ranges are great places to raise a family, with so many opportunities in sport and special interest groups. My sons and grandsons have all played basketball in Sunbury and it’s great to go and watch my four grandsons play footy with the Sunbury Lions Football Netball Club.

What are you passionate about?

From the age of eight years, when learning the recorder was mandatory in primary school, I’ve been passionate about music and since then have had formal training in clarinet, singing, guitar and most recently drums. I’ve tried, with limited success, to teach myself the banjo and piano.  I’m also passionate about education and I believe that all children should have equal opportunity to learn in a safe environment.

Tell me about your book Family Business Success Stories

Family Business Success Stories traces the journeys of eight of Australia’s oldest family-owned businesses, including Coopers Brewers, Furphys of Shepparton, Brown Brothers, Dymocks and Bulla Dairy Foods. All of the family businesses featured in the book are more than 100 years-old and their stories reveal inspirational examples of entrepreneurship, resilience and perseverance, often in the face of massive setbacks and heart wrenching tragedies. The way in which they have stood the test of time provides interesting reading as well as some valuable lessons for the family and small business community.

What inspired you to write the book?

I had already written a book, called Heart & Soul: Australia’s First Families of Wine, about 12 family-owned winemaking families which was published in 2010. My wife Dianne and I interviewed family members of each wine business and their responses revealed astounding passion, resilience and strong family values. That experience got me hooked on family-owned businesses. It was seven years later that I read a newspaper article about Bulla Dairy Foods and found to my surprise that the company was family-owned.  The idea for Family Business Success Stories was further inspired when I discovered that about 70 per cent of all Australian businesses are family-owned and together they employ more than 50 per cent of the Australian workforce. In fact, family businesses are the engine room of our economy.

How long did it take to write?

It took two years between the initial idea and publication. During the first year I had to work out which family businesses to include and find the right publisher. Once I signed, the serious research, interviews and writing began. It was very intense but the interviews with the amazing people who have kept their businesses afloat provided more than enough motivation to continue.

What else have you written?

A secondary science textbook series called Living with Science and Technology. Then I wrote with author Merrin Evergreen, a series called Science Quest. At about the same time I was senior author of Jacaranda Physics. In 2008 I wrote Australia’s Dangerous Creatures for Dummies, with Peg Gill. Then came Heart & Soul, which was my first book without a co-author.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

I really struggled with science and mathematics in my first two years of secondary school. My teachers during those years would certainly not have believed that I would complete a science degree with a major in physics, become a science, physics and mathematics teacher and write science and physics textbooks. By year 9, through a combination of stubbornness, determination and hours of self-inflicted homework, I was beginning to break through the barriers. From then on, I felt that nothing would stop me.