Matt Leov of Total Harvesting
This month Robert Prior donned a hard hat and hi-vis shirt to meet up with Matt Leov from Total Harvesting on site in Rocky Gully and asked him about his business and his journey so far…
You moved with your family from New Zealand to Albany 13 years ago to start up a new business. Not only that, but you also brought over your entire harvest crew and their families with you. Tell me about that...
My business partner, Chris Jensen, and I were invited over to Australia by APEC to look at harvesting their local blue gum plantations. The work over here had better contract terms than in New Zealand with continuity, better rates and security. We were also offered CPI increases as well - although I had no idea what CPI even meant at that stage!
So what does Total Harvesting do?
Basically, we cut down trees! However, apart from logging, we have also diversified into land preparation to establish tree crops, converting land back into farms from tree plantations and we have trucks for the haulage of cut logs. In addition we do our own mechanical, fabrication and engineering work.
How/why did you initially get into the industry?
I studied forest science at university and from high school through to finishing Uni I worked every holiday with a logging contractor, which paid my way through. By the time I finished, I had my degree, some cash in the bank as well as experience, which enabled me to get my first full-time job starting as a supervisor - even though most people under my supervision were much older than me.
Have you found any major similarities and/or differences between business in Australia vs New Zealand?
At the time of coming over to Australia the work here was more secure, we were closer to export markets, local markets were bigger and there were more opportunities. However, everything in Australia was more expensive than in NZ, especially wages.
As a single business owner with 45 employees to manage, and operating in multiple and changing locations, how do you manage everything - just by yourself!?
I have a good team, both in the office and in the field, so I can delegate and have less personal involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business. This allows me more time to ensure that the business is sustainable – working on the business rather than working in the business. Though, it is at times difficult not to be involved in the operations and small issues. I do enjoy being involved “at the coal face” on occasion.
Aside from business, you also have a young family. How do you manage to “switch off” and get your own and family time amongst all of your work and life pressures?
I try to take time out but it is hard to get completely away from work. I have never been on a holiday without my phone on and always have had to do some work while away. Total Harvesting is my life’s work and I still enjoy being involved, even though it does get a bit taxing at times. However I also enjoy fishing, holidays and spending time with my family – which is probably easier now that I have more people I can rely on within my business.
What was some of the best advice you’ve had?
My dad was a farmer and he told me not to get into farming….so I got into forestry instead.