1 Violet Street, Katoomba NSW 2780.
Established in 1945 by Harry Hammon. David Hammon joined the firm in 2006 and became Joint Managing Director with sister Anthea, in 2011.
Converting a disused mining site into a bustling tourist attraction took a lot of foresight in 1945. Today, family-owned Scenic World is staking its claim to being one of Australia’s most popular attractions.
Featuring the steepest passenger railway in the world and a glass-bottomed cable car, they know how to capitalise on what the Blue Mountain’s have to offer.
David Hammon, Joint Managing Director for the company (with sister, Anthea), enthusiastically spoke with us about being a three-generation family business.
Has being a family business helped with your success?
We’re a third generation family business, so we’ve been running this site for 68 years now. After you’ve been somewhere for that long you get pretty good at it.
I also think, as a family business, you tend to be a bit more dynamic and willing to try new things, and because we have that ‘freer’ perspective we can react faster. Our Facebook page is a really good example; we looked around and saw that nobody in our industry was doing it and we were able to react very quickly and gain an advantage. Because we have a flat structure and the board of directors was happy to let us run with it – we were able to set everything up quite fast – and we now have over 300,000 more ‘likes’ than the next best.
Do you promote being a ‘family business’?
It is something we’re doing more and more. We’re finding that our Asian customers respond really well to our being a family business; though it doesn’t seem to have quite the same emphasis with Australians.
Do your family values let your employees feel they’re a part of your business?
We decided about 5 years ago to be the ‘employer of choice’ in the mountains. I believe we look after our staff really, really well and they see all that.
As a family business we’ve taken the philosophy that they are part of our family and that up here on the mountains, we need to take better care of them than anyone else.
What governance do you use?
We have an internal board of directors with an external chairman. Above the board we’ve got a family council, which is there so that family who aren’t working in the business day-to-day, know what’s going on and can give suggestions. It’s really important that they maintain their connection.
And governing the family council there’s a family constitution that helps us be clear on how everyone relates to the business and, if we hire someone from within the family, keeps it an arms-length transaction.
Do you have any future plans for growth?
We do... and that’s part of the reason we now have an external chairman... we know how to make Scenic World the best it can be because we live and breathe it all the time, but sometimes you need that external person to come in and look at it and say well, you could do this... or diversify into that.
Extract from the KPMG and Family Business Australia 2013 Family Busines Survey.