Movers and Shakers is a new weekly feature of people doing significant work in or for the Illawarra community
With the school holidays starting on Saturday the next two weeks are shaping up as the most important of the year for tourist attractions such as Symbio Wildlife Park.
The business under the management of Matt Radnidge has twice been named Illawarra Business of the Year in the last three years and has one of the biggest international social media followings in Australia.
Under Mr Radnidge's leadership it was also well placed to weather the storm during a summer of fire and smoke that kept people at home followed by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Mr Radnidge said people coming out and supporting local attractions during the next fortnight was really important for the whole tourism industry.
And businesses entering the IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards was also important.
Mr Radnidge said no one could have had 20/20 vision and predicted what was coming in 2020.
But his long term vision and planning has ensured the family owned wildlife park at Helensburgh has been able to not only survive but keep investing in the future.
The way Symbio has approached the Illawarra Business Awards is reflective of its quest to constantly improve as well as its persistence and never give up attitude.
Symbio entered the chamber run awards for more than a decade before winning anything.
But it kept trying to improve the business until it was rewarded with a flood of recognition.
The same philosophy has also resulted in a steady increase in visitation.
Mr Radnidge said part of the success at Symbio was to keep investing in facilities and exhibits.
Which he plans to keep doing during and after COVID-19.
And he encourages all businesses to strongly consider entering the annual business awards.
He said entering was rewarding in itself and a great exercise for any organisation.
With his entries he encourages the whole workforce to be involved in the process and share in any accolades and rewards that come.
"It is a really intensive process that allows the whole team to drill down deeply into why they do what they do and to ask themselves if they are achieving what they set out to," he said.
"As well as what their short, medium and long term goals are in the future".
Mr Radnidge said by writing an awards submission you also identify the things you haven't achieved as much as you would like and that can set the tone for planning the next year.
"It is almost like writing your next 12 month plan".
Persistence pays off
Mr Radnidge said his family have run Symbio for 15 of its 45 years and entered the awards many times in the decade leading up to its first category win.
So the small zoo didn't just arrive on the scene five years ago and start instantly winning awards.
There was a constant improvement process over many years in refining and improving the business to gain the recognition.
"It took us 15 years for success," Mr Radnidge said.
He encouraged businesses who have entered before without taking home a trophy to keep trying because the next awards could be their time to shine and ben acknowledged for all their achievements. And in the process find more areas they want to improve.
If customers stop coming we don't survive so we have to keep listening and keep providing what they want. That is why we keep building new infrastructureMatt Radnidge
Mr Radnidge said when you win it is an incredible experience for the entire workforce who get the chance to swap their khaki zookeeper uniforms for formal wear.
"You can see the excitement on their faces at the awards and at work afterwards," he said.
"For them to get that recognition for all the extremely consistent hard work is fantastic. In the process it gives them more appreciation of what they do and contribute".
Mr Radnidge said every time Symbio wins an award team members see it as an opportunity to set themselves a new benchmark to do even better.
He said the zoo has been winning business awards since 2015 and each year the team have used it as motivation to raise the bar and keep improving.
Mr Radnidge said he can't wait for this year's awards in October to hear and be inspired by what the winners have to say.
"There will be some unbelievable stories of resilience out of this period," he said.
"Everyone has gone through it and everybody has been affected.
"And I am sure we will hear about companies and individuals who have found a gap, gone for it and succeeded through the most challenging time we will probably ever experience".
Mr Radnidge said the Illawarra Business Chamber for being one of the few to push ahead with awards this year. He said it was going to be really important for the region and its reputation for resilience, innovation and determination.
And thanked the chamber for being so supportive of lobbying for all businesses in the region. As well as the community for its ongoing support which he never takes for granted.
"If customers stop coming we don't survive so we have to keep listening and keep providing what they want. That is why we keep building new infrastructure".
Important two weeks
Mr Radnidge said during the school holiday break Symbio will have restrictions 'but we are still going to make a visit fun'.
"We can't do encounter photos or presentations that bring people too close together," he said.
"So we are activating the whole park and making sure there are more zookeepers around to answer people's questions and show them things while they are working with the animals".
Mr Radnidge said there was plenty of room for visitors to enjoy the experience of a day at Symbio while maintaining a safe social distance.
He said the winter school break was really critical for all tourism businesses.
"You couldn't have scripted the last six months," he said.
"For most businesses it was just one thing after another they had to deal with.
"But it really shows and highlights even more the importance of good management".
- Early Start Discovery Space reopens on Wednesday but initially for members and their invited guests
- School holiday fun on agenda for Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk and Zipline Tour from Saturday
- Science Space plans a grand reopening on Thursday in time for the school holidays
- Excitement is building for the grand reopening of the new 3Sixty Indoor Skate Park few got the chance to visit before COVID-19
- Children happy as inflatable play centre reopens at Warrawong
- No ball pits but plenty of other fun activities as play centres reopen for Illawarra children in time for the school holidays
- Second engine arrives for Southern Cross replica at HARS
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