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Perth firm sets standard

PERTH-based safety special-ists, the Marine & Offshore Group (M&OG), is trading proof that altruism can be used to sow the seeds for a rapidly expanding global business.

Back up this “feel good sentiment” with a business strategy that draws on military battle tactics, the survival savoir faire of a feline and a large dose of entrepreneurial nous and within a matter of years you’ve got a company that is notching up multi-million dollar export sales.

“Well I wish it was as easy as following a simple recipe,” says company founder and managing director Rick Parish.

“I can tell you there have been moments when I’ve felt that I’ve been hanging on by the skin of my teeth.”

Parish, a former Special Air Services officer and National Safety Council para rescue worker, is reflecting on a journey that began just three years ago when he used $10,000 in start up capital to set up a safety business dedicated to saving the lives of people working in the oil, gas and shipping industries.

Today, the business turns over $7 million annually and is regarded as the Asia-Pacific’s leading provider of safety services, with export sales comprising 92 per cent of business.

A range of strategic alliances, joint ventures and agency arrangements has given M&OG a presence in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Thai-land, the Philippines, the US, New Zealand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Qatar, Mexico, new Plymouth, New Zealand, Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

The group employs 70 people.

Exponential growth is imminent following this year’s opening of an office in Houston, US, and the August signing of a $40 million contract to provide safety training to Brazilian mining company, Petrobras.

“There have been moments when I’ve felt that I’ve been hanging on by the skin of my teeth.”

– Rick Parish

Parish realised when devising his business plan that Australia’s safety training market was reasonably mature, but identified opportunities throughout West Africa, South America, the Middle East, Russia and Asia.

He says until recently, safety training has not been a major priority in many parts of the developing world and some oil companies are not willing to send their staff to overseas training centres.

But rising concern about legal liability for accidents and more stringent regulations demanded by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will generate enormous business.

The IMO’s STCW 95 code requires those working in the maritime and offshore industries to be trained in first aid, basic fire fighting, personal safety and social responsi-bilities, operating fast rescue craft and lifeboat training.

“We knew that exporting was the key to our success. Our initial turnover exceeded our estimate by over 800 per cent and we achieved a profit of $85,000 in our first full financial year 1997/1998.”

The quietly-spoken 41-year-old gained the initial psychological momentum to start his business after thinking about how lack of safety training contributes to unnecessary tragedy in the maritime, offshore and mining industries.

A survivor of three helicopter crashes and 1,000 parachute jumps and witness to many tragedies, he is well qualified to assert that safety training can make the difference between “sinking or swimming.”

Despite his close shaves with death, Parish lists surviving his first few years in business as one of his greatest feats.

M&OG gained a healthy kick start to its coffers with an initial six-figure contract, producing a healthy profit, for a drilling company in Irian Jaya.

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