By Bev Wilkinson
Imagine being picked on because you were tall and kind of awkward. Well this is how it all started for CEO of Ritchies Supermarkets Fred Harrison who admits as a child he was a scaredy cat.
Meeting Fred was like being in a confession booth it was fun to delve into the past and discover what makes a great CEO from the ground up.
We chatted about growing up in Frankston and Fred told me, he was never very adventurous and got bullied because he stood out from the crowd.
This did not stop Fred from making new friends at Frankston High School where he developed his confidence and became a little bit more adventurous.
If Fred could give advice to his 13-year- old self he would say to be more confident.
“I think too many people let themselves down by lacking self confidence, I think it is important to be a positive confident person at a young age even if it is a bit of a show,” he says
“But at the same time I got taught a valuable lesson in life that is treat people like you would like to be treated yourself, to me that is the most important attribute.”
Surprisingly Fred started at Ritchies from the age of 13 when he was determined to become a millionaire by selling fruit and vegetables.
This enterprising teenager would gather the fruit and vegetables that grew in his backyard and then sell them to the green grocer at the Ritchies Thompson Street Store.
“I thought I was a millionaire and I supplied Ritchies fruit and veg for three years,” he says
“I got a bit sick of it as a kid growing up, they said why don’t you come down and work as a casual at our Frankston store which I did and in fact I celebrate my 40th anniversary on February six next year.”
For those that wish to follow in Fred’s footsteps he stressed the importance of education.
“I think it is important to complete a university degree, I never I look back and have any regrets in my life but if there is one thing I could finish it would be my degree, I got half way and tried to do the degree at Monash part time,” he says
“Not that its held me back but to get to the starting gate you almost need a degree, so I don’t think it really matters what the degree is I think its more the discipline and the fact that you completed the degree, completed the challenge and was self disciplined,”
“Having the confidence and maturity to complete the degree, I think is the step in the right direction.”
Fred says he is very passionate about communication and most of all gaining respect in business.
“Work hard you simply cannot achieve unless you are a hard dedicated worker and the other is you have to be able to communicate well, “he says
“You must be able to mix and get on well with people that does not mean you have to suck up to them or you have to be their best friend it does mean you gain respect,
“The best way of getting someone’s respect is to be a hard worker and lead by example, the second way is to communicate and go out of your way to initiate leadership,
“To me leadership is about recognising being persistent and winning people over.”
Fred is very passionate about the role that small and independent businesses play in the community.
“We understand as an independent it is hard to be the leader on price,” he says
“Price is not our biggest attribute we had to work on other attributes. Try and discover our strengths we found as an independent our strength is community,
“We came up with the Community Benefit program in 1994, and today we have raised 3.6 million for clubs,
“We are very proud, it is nice to put your money where your mouth is, independents keeps the big guys honest, I will always go out of my way to support an independent rather than a big massive chain who survive through their size and weight. “
If I had to dot point the key pieces of advice that Fred Harrison shared they would be
-Have Fun while you work
-Discipline will get you everywhere
-Call on support of people who are role models or mentors.
All on all meeting Fred Harrison was a sure delight and shows that hard work and discipline is a valuable attribute to work on in business and most of all in life.