11/02/2003 - 21:00

Fishing in new waters

11/02/2003 - 21:00


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THE Catalano family know their fish. Indeed, it would be hard not to for a family that has known nothing else since Frank Catalano bought a fish and chip shop more than 30 years ago.

Fishing in new waters

THE Catalano family know their fish. Indeed, it would be hard not to for a family that has known nothing else since Frank Catalano bought a fish and chip shop more than 30 years ago.

While he still works regularly in the Bassendean processing plant that the company, Catalano's Seafood, bought in 1998, a new generation of Catalanos’ have taken over its management, led by Frank’s son Nick, who acts as its managing director and was once president of the Perth Football Club.

The move to Bassendean from its former Cannington premises gave the firm four times the floor space.

Nick Catalano said the move also gave the business a new lease of life, allowing it to grow by 60 per cent over the past four years.

It now processes between 30 tonnes and 50 tonnes of fish each week.

With nothing on the horizon that is likely to hold growth back, turnover is expected to continue along a similar vein.

Staff numbers have also increased during that period from 25 to around 60.

While the evolution of the business’ operation over the past decade has been driven by an increase in domestic fish consumption, largely due to a greater presence of fresh fish in supermarkets, the next decade’s growth is expected to come increasingly from exports.

The Western Australian fishing industry has traditionally found the fish export market a difficult one to crack.

High quality standards are seen as paramount for the industry’s success overseas.

To meet these stringent standards and satisfy overseas customers, Catalano has taken the unusual step of launching into the fishing industry.

The company bought its first boat Morning Rose to fish off Onslow in the State’s north-west to supply export markets.

This vertical integration into a fishing operator is likely to continue over the next few years with around four or five vessels seen as a good fit in the medium term.

The company currently exports around three to four tonnes a week to Europe and the US and expects to double this over the next year.

For that to occur it is believed crucial for the company to control its product and ensure its quality from the sea to the plate.

Meanwhile, the company’s internal structures are being reviewed and changed to allow the company to expand beyond the capabilities of the Catalano family.

A development plan for the family firm that was formulated last year is expected to provide the framework and room for management to expand yet further.

For the Catalano siblings, Nick, Maree and Paul and their children and in-laws it heralds a period of adjustment as they gradually allow others into the management fold.

It also puts at risk the ingredient that is behind the success of the firm – a business run by like-minded family members.

However, it is a risk Mr Catalano believes is necessary if the business is to progress further.

“It will progress the family business to a management structure that enables delegation. It’s about sharing responsibilities with key staff members,” he said.

Mr Catalano said the family had managed to survive and thrive in the business because of the strong values that had been instilled into its members from their parents.

It has also meant that business concerns are kept separate from any family issues, although talk around the kitchen table still tends to stray toward the business.


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