On our fortieth anniversary, 16th September 2016, we held a party for 100 staff, former staff, clients and their spouses at Eureka 89. From there we looked down on Melbourne, on our office and the MCG. My nephew Nicholas Roy and his trio played music and Greg and I gave short speeches. Here I reminiscence about this significant event in the life of Fenwick Software.

In 1976, I had a non-working wife, three small sons and a home in suburban Canterbury with a large mortgage.

In 1976, I had a non-working wife, three small sons and a home in suburban Canterbury with a large mortgage. Our home had two lounge rooms at the front. We had converted one into a billiard room with a half-size table. When I created Fenwick Software, the billiard room became an office; I never played billiards again. Years of practice, a misspent youth, all gone to waste. Such are the sacrifices entrepreneurs make!

It was in that office that I interviewed my first employee, Helen Vorrath. Helen had a profound influence on the firm in its formative years.

It is no use employing talented people if you insist on controlling everything they do.

I was really chuffed that so many of our former staff came along to celebrate with us. Joining Helen were Ewan Smith, Margie Richards, Mary Thackeray, Tony Bates, John Hemman, Mandy Dore, Sam Kosky, Ian Thompson, Joao Jesus, Glen Lawson, Matt Giddens, Lucia Fonti, and Marg Kent.

My philosophies about individual liberty consciously influenced the culture of our firm. Our employees have been granted an appropriate degree of autonomy and responsibility for their own actions, provided with opportunities to grow and assume more responsibility, and encouraged to apply their skills to help each other and to deliver value for their clients.

It is no use employing talented people if you insist on controlling everything they do. It is important to have guidelines; a culture that is clear, ethical and inspirational. But to get the best from them, you must leave people to make their own decisions to the best of their abilities.

Peter Drucker taught us that “the purpose of a business is to create customers”. It is a wonderful insight. In forty years, we created quite a few. In the beginning they were large, listed companies – NCR, CUB, Comalco. Recently, particularly with our waste management expertise. we have again dealt with larger companies. But for most of our forty years we worked for SMEs – many of them family businesses.

I have always liked dealing with family businesses. They operate on a value system of doing the right thing.

Among the clients celebrating with us were David Bilston from MFB, Stephen McEwen from Confoil and Lynne Burgess from FTA, all of whom are still running family businesses established many, many years ago by their mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers.

I have always liked dealing with family businesses. They are people you can trust. They believe in long-term relationships. They operate on a value system of doing the right thing by their staff, their customers and their suppliers. It is in their blood. That is why they thrive and grow.

I thank all our clients for the opportunities you have given us. I hope we will continue to serve you well. To give you systems that work from people who care. And that you will prosper.

Five years ago, I retired, sold 75% of the business to key staff and appointed Greg Galloway as CEO. Under his stewardship, the culture has remained strong and the business has thrived. It is much more profitable than when I left. People ask me “How do you feel about that?”… I just smile.

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Written By Peter Fenwick

Peter was born in Geelong and educated at Geelong College. He studied Civil Engineering at the Gordon Institute of Technology and Melbourne University, graduating in 1966. In 1972 he completed an MBA with distinction at Melbourne University. He studied philosophy under Fr. Eric Darcy and is an alumni of the Cranlana Colloquium and a member of the Mises Institute. For thirty-five years, Peter managed Fenwick Software which he founded in 1976. In 2011, he established an employee shareholder scheme and five of his long-term staff now own seventy–five percent of the company; one of them, Greg Galloway, manages the business. Peter remains involved part-time as chairman. He has been married to Jill, a school teacher and author, since 1966. They have three sons and three grandchildren. He enjoys jazz, film and theatre, and plays tennis, royal tennis and chess. He has written two books: The Fragility of Freedom: Why Subsidiarity Matters and Liberty at Risk: Tackling Today’s Political Problems. Both are published by Connor Court. His blogs appear on his website

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