Graeme Beaumont lives and breathes flooring, he’s worked in the industry since he left school. A ‘young’ 62-year old, Graeme isn’t going anywhere soon, planning to stay around for at least another ten years with his friend Jarod Hainey.
Graeme Beaumont was born in Launceston, Tasmania to parents of British descent. Graeme hasn’t done the genealogy thing yet, but he reckons second or third generation. In 1965 and only eight years of age, Graeme moved with his parents and two younger sisters to sunny Queensland, arriving when he was nine in 1966, the result of an extended stop at Stanwell Park just South of Sydney. They bought a business that included a petrol station; hardware store; newsagency and grocery store in Oxenford just north of the Gold Coast. In those days it was a rural area, mostly dairy farms. But after only five years his parents grew homesick and returned to Tasmania, settling in Devonport on the North Coast.
Graeme attended Reece High School, finishing in 1973 when he did what most young people did at the time. He went out and got a job. There was a lot of industry in Tasmania, especially around the Northern end including some large pulp mills and a large carpet manufacturer in Devonport. Graeme’s father was an electrician and would have liked Graeme to have followed in his footsteps, but it wasn’t what Graeme wanted. He decided to get a job at the Tascot Carpet Mill in Devonport, and this was to set him off on a career, still unfinished, that he was to live and breathe for the next 45 years.
He says, “In those days everyone who wanted a job got one in a few weeks, there was so much work around. I had ten years at Tascot, starting as a junior cleaning clerk.”
One of Graeme’s jobs was to make sure the raw materials were available to the winding and spooling machines. After a few years he transferred to the shipping and despatch department. It was there that the young Graeme started to learn about the carpet business. He was the go-between the factory and the customers all round Australia.
He’d get phone calls, “When is my carpet coming off the machines?” and “How long until my delivery arrives in Brisbane?” What he was really learning was dealing with people, dealing with the industry.
Along the way Graeme learnt to enjoy a beer and chase young women. He played basketball starting out in high school, but at five foot eight decided it probably wasn’t going to be the best move he was going to make. Instead he took up refereeing, traveling around the country to officiate at mostly junior basketball tournaments. In one memorable match around 1980 he was to ref a young Andrew Gaze who he said, “Was pretty good even at sixteen.”
Graeme has fond memories of Tascot and every time he flies into either Alice Springs or Darwin airports, he still admires the expanses of Tascot carpets still there to this day. He said, “I’m not sure modern carpet would fare that well.” One distinct memory Graeme had was when the then-Premier of Tasmania Robin Gray walked unannounced into the showroom one day to look at carpet for his ministerial offices. Graeme said, “Quite an experience for a young man.”
Readers will remember Gray’s campaign to build the Franklin Dam that aroused protests from environmentalists, led by Dr Bob Brown. The company closed several years ago but the building remains. The local council has re-zoned the land to residential, but someone wants to convert it to a potato processing factory.
In 1984 and after ten good years learning the ropes, Graeme moved to Queensland to take up a position with Carpets Galore, but they folded only a few months after he started. Graeme found himself without a job, so he called in a favour from David Thom, a Tascot agent. David got Graeme a job with Kelwin Carpets and Graeme found himself back on the Gold Coast. He said, “As a young man where else would you want to be?” It was his first full-time job in sales where he started out in retail residential before moving to commercial, Kelwin’s main business. Some fine people Graeme met at Kelwin were Jeff Cameron and Bill Markham who both helped shape Graeme’s career.
In 1994 and after another ten-year stint with a good company, Graeme found himself married with two boys and looking for a change. After eighteen months in Brisbane contracting, buying and selling commercial floor coverings he took on a role with Karndean where he worked with Flooring magazine’s very first ICON, Graham Caldwell.
One of Karndean’s products was Flotex and Graeme recalls putting 15,000 square metres of this into the Logan Hospital in Brisbane; 12,000 square metres into the Ipswich hospital and 10,000 square metres into Queensland Rail passenger carriages. He was awarded the ‘Chairman’s Award’ two years in a row and was actually the first salesperson ever to receive it.
Thirteen years at Karndean holds many fond memories for Graeme. He remembers the sales conferences and the ‘fine dining’ on the front steps of the venues. He recalls many moments with great people such as Graham Caldwell; Peter Wood, now based in USA; Ivan Pannone and Mike Walker, the founder of Karndean. Mike was based in the UK and Graeme recalls, “He liked me for some reason, probably because of my sales figures. Anyway, Mike presented me with the Chairman’s Award. He said to me once, ‘When nothing else matters, only the numbers matter.’ Think about it.”
Graeme also recalls some of the more solemn events of his career, like the overseas trip with customers to England where they arrived on the day of Lady Diana’s funeral, “A sobering experience” said Graeme. Another trip in 2001 found them in Cairo “The day people started flying aircraft into skyscrapers.” You can imagine the affect this had on all of the group when they had to return home by air. Even ‘characters’ like Ken Sparks and Ray Knight, both now deceased, were far less than their normal effervescent selves at the time.
Graeme left Karndean in 2008 and took up a position at Gerflor, another learning experience for 18 months before getting a phone call out of the blue from a Karndean colleague Ivan Pannone about going to QEP. Graeme took Ivan up on his offer and spent seven years there as sales manager for NT; QLD; NSW and Tasmania. Recently in August 2016 Graeme took up his current position with Inspired Floor Coverings, a labour of love he says he will do until his friends Claudia and Jarod Hainey, the owners of Inspired, are fully established.
He says, “In all my years of working with and managing people I’ve never met someone quite like Jarod. His work ethic is phenomenal.” Graeme doesn’t see himself so much working for Jarod, rather as working with him and his partner Claudia. “There’s no corporate B.S. here at Inspired, we run on our wits and our experiences that have served us well in the past” he says. Graeme remembers a ‘Product Selection Meeting’ at the back of Jarod’s BT50 Ute in Sydney.
“The samples we asked for on a visit to Domotex Shanghai had arrived and we both wanted to decide which ones we liked. Well as the rain started, we quickly made the decision and that range is now our Best Seller.”
He’s known Jarod for ten years now, since his days with QEP and although Graeme admits he’s a little more conservative than Jarod, he says the decision to come across to Inspired was “A no-brainer, we hit it off right from day-one. At Inspired Floorcoverings, we don’t have a huge range, but what we do have, we deep stock; both our Carpet Tile ranges and LVT ranges. This puts us in a position to supply today, when events like the Floods in Townsville earlier this year occur. We were able to despatch the same day, 6,000m2 Carpet Tiles for urgent replacement of School Classrooms,” he recalls.
Graeme has much respect for many people he’s had the pleasure to work with. These include Bernt Genssen, Tascot’s production manager; Mike Dunn from MK Floors; Jack Andersen, CEO of Andersen’s Carpets and Bob Perrett, founder of of PR Floors. Graeme said, “I never talk down to anyone; not the cleaner at Tascot; or the guy cutting the carpet in the warehouse at Kelwin; I treat everyone as I want to be treated and you get that back in kind.” He admits though, that not everyone in the flooring industry is his friend, “Occasionally you have to say no,” he says.
Graeme still travels a lot for business and remarkedly, he also likes to travel for pleasure. He now has three ‘children’, his two eldest boys, now 31 and 23 years of age, and a daughter age 20 and they’ll often travel together for a holiday. He says, “Salespeople are always time-poor so I try and spend as much time with family as I can.” His other interests are football and cricket. Of himself he said, “I was always prepared to have a go, have some fun along the way and enjoy the company of the people I worked with. This may be a young person’s business but I’m still feeling it.”
Story by Philip Ashley