As director of Moose Industries, on March 25th, 2022 I placed the company into voluntary administration. This was an extremely difficult decision and one that was not taken lightly, but in the end it was either the business or myself that was going to break. Considering our states of mental health, my wife Emma and I both felt that it was the only option, and the decision was made in the best interests of all stakeholders. Following recent media headlines and stories, I would like to add some additional context so that individuals can make a more informed judgement.
Once the administrators had taken control of MI (Moose Industries) I was informed that a media release had been prepared. My understanding was that this would only be used if the media picked up on the story. I wasn’t shown the media release and was unaware that it had been provided to the media. We found out that it was in the media through friends who had read the article, and had made contact out of concern for us. Upon reading it ourselves, we felt as though we had been painted as criminals, which added a huge amount of mental weight onto people who are already on the edge. As a result of the article and the perception that it created, I have personally been abused (as have others who have been involved in MI), and whilst the article is factually correct, it goes to show the power of words. The article states that we owe creditors (which includes loans and equipment finance etc.) in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The article fails to mention that the work being completed during the administration period is also in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The article also states that there are six customers who have paid up to $50k each in deposits and are yet to receive their goods. This could also have been written as there are six customers who have paid deposits starting from $2590 which would also be factually correct. Of the six customers who have paid deposits, it is anticipated that five will receive their goods during the administration period. One customer paid a deposit of $56k. This was payment one (of three progress payments) for a machine that we were building for him. Due to staff and skill shortages and supply chain issues, we were behind schedule and weren’t going to meet our intended completion date (which is not uncommon in the manufacturing industry at present). As a result, the customer cancelled his order and expected a full refund, which we have been trying to facilitate.
We made contact with various newspapers asking to have input (if they were planning on running the story), but we weren’t given this opportunity. Of all of the media outlets (print, online and radio) who ran the story, not one has made contact with us to get our side of events. My thought was, if this is so news worthy why wouldn’t they want a balanced perspective? The reality is that they have had an article provided to them, and all they need to do is add a sensationalistic headline and their work is done. To get a balanced perspective means they would have to do some extra work, and ultimately a balanced story is probably not going to make a big headline! I have been informed that there are approximately ten thousand businesses each year that enter into (voluntary or involuntary) administration, and/or liquidation. Based on a 38 hour work week this equates to one every 12 minutes! Obviously, the vast majority of these cases don’t make the news. What makes our case so news worthy? The perception created by the story and the abuse that we have been subject to has made this experience exponentially worse for us. We are trying our best, to do the right thing, in an awful situation. Following the media release I actually considered walking away. But through pride, my conscience and probably stubbornness I couldn’t do it, despite strong encouragement to do so.
Through some of the abuse that I have received it has been suggested that this has been planned and deliberate. I totally refute this suggestion. If this was my intention I would have ensured that certain assets (like vehicles etc.) were not in the company name. I could have also made additional sales, and received extra substantial deposits. I didn’t do this because of my concerns (from a production point of view) of not being able to deliver products on time, which had become a challenge. This is absolutely unplanned and it is something that spiralled very quickly (about two weeks) prior to administration.
Going back 4 years, we were encouraged to develop a new seeding machine which was conceptualised in 2007 and initial design began in 2012. This involved a significant investment of both time and money which had an impact on the financial position of the business. Following this, COVID arrived, which had a massive impact on the business. The result of this, was one of the lowest financial year revenues that we have experienced in 25 years in business (down by 56% on previous year). Each time we enquired about COVID assistance we were told we didn’t meet the criteria (it may have been different if my last name was Harvey, or my first name was Gerry!!). Coupled with some questionable financial advice, we have been on the back foot ever since.
Over the past twelve months we have had numerous ‘good’ employees who have been poached by other companies (including clients!), and like a lot of businesses, we have had challenges in sourcing quality, skilled employees. We have always bent over backwards for our employees, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Our current employees are of great character and we are very grateful for their service. We wish them well with their future endeavours.
The biggest blow came in December last year when an employee (and friend) of seven years committed suicide. Emotionally, we supported and invested a lot in him during the previous three years, knowing where his mind was at, and what his external circumstances were. The impact that this has had on our own mental health cannot be overstated.
Eventually, in late February this year, following a significant event within the business, my wife suffered a nervous breakdown and declared that she has had enough and wanted ‘out’ of the business. I made the decision to complete orders that were currently in the system and then exit the business by (a) selling Moose Industries as a going concern, or (b) if not sold, then selling plant, equipment and stock, and exiting the current business by June 30th this year. Since my wife’s breakdown I have been the sole manager, but haven’t been coping with the workload as well as my own mental health battles. On Friday 25th March, it was pointed out to me that I am not able to perform some very basic engineering work (things that I have done hundreds of times over the years). I knew that I was struggling mentally, and continuing onwards was not going to be good for anyone. Days earlier I had discussions with ‘Oracle Insolvency Services’ who had given me forms to sign (to enter into Voluntary Administration). I signed the documents knowing that I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with the business transition on my own.
I decided to engage administrators to navigate the business to a point where the impact to creditors and customers is minimised, and we can restructure things to create a simple, sustainable business which doesn’t rely on employees. Handing the business over to administrators is one of the toughest things I have ever had to do, but my mental state and general health ultimately lead to the decision. I have been encouraged by people for some time now to walk away from it all, for my own (and my family’s) wellbeing. In the end, I was faced with the decision of walking away immediately (going into liquidation), or entering into voluntary administration. Walking away would have been a hell of a lot easier, but would have meant that other people are worse off as a result.
We have only ever tried to do the right thing by all parties, including employees, suppliers and customers. The hardest part of all of this is knowing that there are people who have been let down, and I am sincerely sorry for this. I hope that in the future I am able to “do right” the wrongs that have occurred, for those who have been impacted. My aim is to restructure and downsize the business and continue with a much simplified business model, based on outsourcing of manufacturing (preferably within Australia), of a small select range of products.
Those who truly know us understand why I am working through the voluntary administration period, and not running away from the situation. From a mental health point of view I don’t want be here, and it would be so much easier to walk out, shut the door and not come back. I hope that people can respect this. I would like to thank those who have shown support for us (those who genuinely know who we are). I would also like to acknowledge those who have opened up about their own struggles, from both a mental and business perspective. I have been surprised by how many businesses are just hanging in there, or business owners who would get out at the drop of a hat if they could. The challenges of business can take its toll on individuals, and (if there is a positive to come out of this) hopefully more people will open up about their own struggles and choose a positive outcome for themselves and/or their business.
Thank you to all of our customers, suppliers, staff, and most importantly to our family for all of the support that we have received over the past 25 years.