Jon has held the CEO role for 11 years; he commenced as a mill engineer at Hyne’s softwood mill at Tuan in Queensland’s Fraser Coast region in 1994.
Throughout nearly three decades with the Hyne Group, Jon has held many roles from mill engineer to division engineer, operations manager to divisional manager and general manager, development and technical services, before being asked by the then heir to take on the role of general manager finance and administration to fill the role with “someone who knew the business”.
From there, Jon became joint CEO for about 12 months before being solely appointed to the CEO role.
Mentorship from the Hyne Family
Jon attributes much of his success to the many mentors, exceptional team members, experiences, and, of course, the focus and support from the Hyne family.
“The fact that Hyne is a family business is what attracted me in the first place,” Jon said.
“The late Warren Hyne was managing director at that time, a legendary industry and business leader.
“Innovation was key and the word ‘can’t’ didn’t exist in the Hyne vocabulary. The ‘let’s have a go’ attitude was typified by the Hyne family. As a young, inquisitive engineer, I was inspired and encouraged from the onset.
“’They said you can’t ‘ultra-high temperature’ dry radiata wood. We did. You can’t convert the market to termite-treated timber. We did.”
“Years later, we established the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) plant in Australia. I am proud of the men and women in our business who continue to drive innovation with creativity and passion.”
Jon, in his role as General Manager, Development and Technical Services, managed both the Tuan and Tumbarumba mill redevelopments where the company’s processing capacity was increased more than eight-fold to meet the increasing demand for softwood timber to build the Australian family dream home.
Technical Development and Innovation
Throughout Jon’s tenure, there has been rapid and exponential growth in the use and application of technology in the business. A critical development has been the change from visual grading to automated machine grading of the structural framing products produced at both mills.
There have been highs and lows, challenges and wins over the years and an epic ‘win’ for Jon was being part of the leadership team that successfully steered the Hyne ship through the Global Financial Crisis.
“Despite the stress and challenge, I look back on the GFC as a high point for me,” Jon recalled.
“There were many who thought that the company couldn’t survive. I made it my mission to ensure that wasn’t the case. Never accept the word ‘can’t’. Let’s have a go!
“We had to completely restructure, sell assets, strip the business back. It wasn’t easy but we came out the other side. Last year, we celebrated our 140th year with exciting announcements of growth and expansion with new partner James Jones and Sons. And with the further expansion announcement this year with Rocky Point.”
Although residing on the Fraser Coast, another Hyne region close to Jon’s heart is Tumbarumba on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains.
Tumbarumba, the bushfires and never accepting ‘can’t’
In 2001, Hyne Timber bought the old mill and with Jon managing the redevelopment, he was ‘flying in and out’.
By this point, Jon had got his pilot’s license and was able to charter a plane to fly himself from Maryborough to Tumbarumba at a lower cost than it was for commercial airfare.
So, we can imagine receiving the phone call on that fateful New Year’s Eve 2019 from the then-CEO of Forest Corporation NSW: “Jon, I think we might lose it all”. Of course, the then CEO Nick Roberts was referring to the plantation estate, being ravaged by uncontrolled bushfires.
At that time, Jon was on recreation leave with his family, having been outside of news coverage until he received the call. As soon as it was safe and possible to do so, Jon was on the ground, to an eerie, empty sawmill, met only by the Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue crews who were tirelessly battling to protect the mill and town.
Jon recalls: “That visit to Tumbarumba will stay with me forever albeit not as a negative, but as a positive; an incredible show of community fight, resilience and what humanity can achieve when working together.
“I was asked to speak and provide reassurance at the community hall where residents could collect donated emergency supplies. Residents, including some of our own team members, had lost a great deal including property and livestock and we were there with them, helping where we could.
“Thanks to the bravery, huge effort, and collaboration of many, we didn’t ‘lose it all, but we lost 40% of our plantation log resource for the mill.
But we didn’t accept ‘can’t’.
We found a way to secure feedstock, most recently seeing the first trainload in history bringing logs for the mill. Now that is the ‘let’s have a go’ attitude of our suppliers, supported by the NSW government who arguably, now more than ever, recognise the importance of our industry.
“I have spent many hours touring with politicians, decision makers and influencers through our operations, and without naming all names, I thank all of them for their support over the years and ongoing into the future.
“I thank the Hyne family for its support, the opportunities they have given me and faith they have instilled in me to steer their 141-year-old business for the last 11 years. It has been a privilege.
“I wanted to retire, leaving the business in a better position than when I took on the CEO role and that is something I can confidently take with me.
“I thank our many customers and key stakeholders who appreciate the quality of products and services we pride ourselves in and work with us to ensure this is continuously improved, working as partners. Thank you for your ongoing support and custom.
“Our industry is benefiting from the renaissance of timber, and rightly so. The sustainable benefits of our certified plantations are like no other building material, and I look forward to reading all about further progress in the years to come – from my boat … or caravan!
“Finally, and most of all, there are not enough words to thank and recognise the incredible team members I have been mentored by, worked alongside, supported by, inspired by and had my ‘batteries recharged by’ over the years.
“A tough week is always made good by a visit to a site and seeing the incredible, creative ‘wins’ being achieved all around me. Keep up the incredible work you do. Always have a go!
“I wish incoming CEO, Jim Bindon, all the best as I officially hand over and sign off for the last time.
For all those wondering next week, I will be fishing off the shores of Hervey Bay, the paradise my family and I call home.