Leah Hirst

Leah Hirst, Director JMH Group

Leah Hirst, Founder and Director JMH Group, established her successful Geraldton based business over 10 years ago with her husband Jaydon, providing heavy mobile plant equipment repairs and services to the mining, transport and agricultural industries across Western Australia.

Leah is a proud Yamatji-Badimia woman and committed community leader. She is currently a Board Member of the Mid West Chamber of Commerce & Industry, former Board Member of Desert Blue Connect Crisis Accommodation for Women and Children, and organises regular fundraising and awareness campaigns for Breast Cancer Care WA, and Mowvember men’s health.

What strategies have you implemented to build JMH Group to where it is today?

Building and maintaining strong working relationships with our employees, clients, suppliers and mentors has always been important to myself (and Jaydon) from the very beginning. I have been very fortunate to have some positive mentors and people that have supported me along this journey including other local and national business owners and very successful executives. I have also been involved in networking events and embrace every opportunity to expand my networks.

I think also not being afraid to show vulnerability and share challenges (in an ethical, confidential and professional manner) opens up conversations and deepens relationships and information sharing.

With every decision that is made I always consider all parties involved and try to find the win-win in the situation. I also accept that isn’t always possible. But I am always fair, reasonable and the decision is based on a combination of facts – usually after listening to my gut and heart – and then backing that up with calculated and researched facts as well as aligning with my values and the company’s why, values and vision.

Accepting very early on in business that outsourcing day to day tasks and roles is essential. You cannot be all the things to all the people (business, family and community) without either burning out or missing out on precious family moments. When you trust, empower and provide autonomy to the right people in operational day to day roles within the business (including providing the appropriate training, procedures and clear goals) it creates structure and freedom to focus on the business development, strategy and for me – finding time for my young children, philanthropic and community contributions.

It is important to have people on your Team with the same vision, values and goals as you, particularly on your leadership team.

Having procedures and investing in systems and technology also creates structure for the whole organisation and frees up time to develop and grow the business or other tasks.

Staying ahead of the game where possible. Living in regional areas we are often a little behind concerns and issues, so I find watching trends that are happening overseas or interstate gives us time to prepare and implement strategies how we are going to manage it, for example, the Great Resignation and the COVID-19 Pandemic. In an industry that is usually long days, and the services we provide being so time critical to our clients – we have been able to provide a flexible work environment for our Team, creating different rosters and shifts to suit lifestyle and family commitments.

How does the business create impact in a regional community?

JMH Group creates job opportunities that rival those of the Pilbara or Perth without people having to leave their families or Geraldton. The repairs and maintenance we carry out on the large mining and agriculture machinery (transporting it to our Geraldton workshop instead of Perth) creates opportunities, jobs and experiences for our team, as well as other small businesses in our area to supply their services, increasing the capabilities and facilities of our region.

I have always had a passion and my purpose is to give back to the community. With the success of JMH Group I have been able to do that either by financial support to several community or sporting groups such as our local Women Inspiring Better Business and trekking the Great Wall of China in 2019 to raise $15,000 for Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and several fundraising lunch events held regularly at JMH Group.

Jaydon and I are very passionate about creating opportunities and experiences for youth and hold Apprentice Open Days and regularly speak to school groups and youth employment agencies to inspire and engage youth, discussing resilience and sharing our stories.

How do you manage the dynamics of building a business and family with your husband Jaydon?

To be honest and remain true to myself it is very tricky still even after 11 years. We are both so driven and passionate about what we do and find it hard to switch off. Constant reminders to each other. Good communication and understanding when we each have a lot to share, either positive or a challenge. Before meetings we have learnt to have a brief to make sure we are on the same page about the topic and discuss who will announce or discuss what topics.

We were very fortunate to have travelled around Australia for 6 months with our 2 sons in 2018 while we ran the business remotely. This was thanks to having procedures, systems and people that were empowered to do their roles. As well as being available via phone and email I checked in every Wednesday to conduct payroll, pay suppliers and finalise end of month accounting tasks and reporting.

Planning the week ahead is essential – who will be doing the school runs on what days, based on what we each have planned and making time for fun and lunch or breakfast dates.

What are some of the tools and strategies you have used to foster a growth mindset in business and personally?

There are a few quotes that I always turn to, and stay true to my values and always conduct myself professionally, ethically and with integrity.

Every challenge, every adversity is an opportunity for growth and development. Instead of asking why is this happening, ask what is this teaching me? Trust in the process.

Show respect to people even when they don’t necessarily deserve it, not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.

Success does not happen alone; a massive contributor is having a great team alongside.

Set goals and review them regularly. Accepting and understanding that a successful leader and business owner needs to adapt and pivot as there are many things that influence your business that are outside your circle of control or influence.

Surround yourself with mentors and people that challenge your thinking and are therefore providing opportunities for growth and development.

Journaling and finding time to process matters or the day’s events helps to remain clear headed, focused on problem solving and remaining in a positive mindset.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.