dex wrote:I've heard a few are unhappy due to having to pay tax on their bonus and by being bumped into the next tax bracket!! ...
dex wrote:I've heard a few are unhappy due to having to pay tax on their bonus and by being bumped into the next tax bracket!! C'mon, enjoy it!! Every Grenda drive i have dealt with have always spoken highly of their bosses and the company. I believe alot of companies, big or small and not always transport related can learn alot from this!! Well done to Ken Grenda and his family and best wishes in retirement. Just out of interest, just throwing out there.....nar? yeah...
TP 1592 wrote:Grenda is offically sold.
dex wrote:Well say a driver earns $60,000 and gets a bonus of $30,000. But why worry about that.
My boss was saying today that when he was a small boy Ken Grenda bought him his first tie. He could not speak more highly of Ken. He was aslo saying that Ken involves himself in the community at many levels and not just financially either. OAM next year? Australian of the year??
BluDART wrote:Well I guess this is why this man and his family were such pioneers and leaders in the industry we see today, it is also great to see what underpinned the core of the operation, valuing those who contributed to the success of Grendas through loyalty and respect where everyone is seen as 'family'. An innovative pioneer, one of a dwindling generation.
I am amazed that he is more generous to his employees than those big corporation who have an even larger profit. The man has a lot of respect for his employees.
B7RLE wrote:The story has gone around the world with it being reported in the UK
712M wrote:Was very surprised to see Ventura #882 (Scania L94UB, Custom Coaches "CB60 C-Max") and an unidentified 903 SmartBus at Dandenong station this afternoon running rail replacement duties. This line is usually run by Grendas and Nuline buses in emergencies.
Peter1805 wrote:712M wrote:Was very surprised to see Ventura #882 (Scania L94UB, Custom Coaches "CB60 C-Max") and an unidentified 903 SmartBus at Dandenong station this afternoon running rail replacement duties. This line is usually run by Grendas and Nuline buses in emergencies.
That is bizarre... They must have been running short of drivers and enlisted help from South Oakleigh... I presume one of our 903 drivers must have headed over in the smartbus after finishing his shift at Mentone, perhaps..?
It is certainly a first. Quite a photographic coup!
Desto Dave wrote:Keep your eye out for an article on Grenda's in the Weekend Australian magazine, probably the 25/26 Feb weekend too for those who are interested.
scott wrote:Just a reminder to check out your newsagent tomorrow to see if the Grenda article appears, will be well worth a read.
There is also an article in the February ABC magazine the postman kindly brought me today, have not read it fully yet, but it looks like a good one.
Weekend Australian wrote:The man with the golden handshake
by: Kate Legge
March 10, 201212:00AM
SILVER-haired Ken Grenda is being crushed by a love-in of burly bus drivers and mechanics, Aussie blokes with tattoos and buzz cuts and svelte Asian men, some of them misty-eyed, their phones held high over the throng to photograph this legend of a boss who teeters on the verge of crying himself.
They've feasted on a farewell dinner of roast turkey and beef in the cavernous Dandenong bus depot, and now they swamp the 79-year-old head of the Grenda Corporation with bear hugs and the fruits of their hidden talents. One employee with a hefty beer
gut has painted a fine portrait that captures his boss's twinkling eyes and gentle face creased into a smile. Another has baked a cake that's perfectly iced in wedding white and decorated with the company's red logo. There's even a handwritten poetic tribute to this rock star of a leader who won headlines worldwide when he sold his family business and splashed $15 million of the proceeds into the pockets of around 1750 employees.
He hadn't dreamed of creating a fuss. There was no announcement or press release - it would never have occurred to Grenda to milk such a gesture for personal glory. A worker blew the whistle after discovering that the mysterious bounce in his account was not a bank error but a thank-you from the boss. Paid on a sliding scale according to years of service, some staff were staggered to receive as much as $30,000 plus a superannuation bonus.
News of his largesse was deemed so unusual in the thick of company closures, redundancies and economic belt-tightening that it was picked up by the BBC, CNN, and newspapers in 61 nations. Grenda received emails of praise from people in Sweden, Tanzania, Belgium, Singapore, Mexico, Indonesia, Switzerland, Greece, Austria, the UK, the Czech Republic, Peru, Holland and Germany.
Grenda mechanic Neven Jelaca was contacted by his brothers in Croatia, who told him: "Six hundred people lost their lives this winter in Europe's freeze but the big news was Ken Grenda's bonus."
Indian-born driver Vernon Franklin got his mug on TV footage that ran overseas. "I got phone calls from Portugal, Canada, India, Malaysia and London telling me that I was a celebrity and I replied, 'Yes I am a celebrity bus driver working for the great Ken Grenda.'?"
Long before the news went viral, staff had lionised this man for the smaller, quieter courtesies he'd bestowed on them: for the handshakes, the "good mornings" as he came to work through the drivers' entrance instead of the corporate foyer, for his interest in their welfare, their personal stories. Grenda has always held his employees in high regard as "decent people trying to make a bob and look after their families".
The idea you are only as good as the people who toil by your side attracts lip service in many fancy corporate mission statements, but financial rewards rarely trickle down below the executive floor. There have been rare exceptions: billionaire mining boss Clive Palmer handed out $10 million worth of gifts to 800 staff at his Townsville nickel refinery in 2010; Melbourne businessman Roger Riordan dispensed half of the $US30 million raised from the 1999 sale of his anti-viral software business to 90 staff, and most of what was left bankrolls a foundation that has sponsored 200 students. But city lawyers and bankers who handled the Grenda company sale swear they've never encountered anyone quite like Ken Grenda inside Australia's boardrooms.
PERTH mining colossus Gina Rinehart is terrorising financial markets and family members the day Ken Grenda welcomes me to his company's Melbourne headquarters in the multicultural hub of Dandenong. He sits so quietly while we talk that the smart light overhead switches off to save energy because its sensors cannot pick up our presence in the room. Only then does he flap his arms frantically to illuminate us again. Dressed in tan slacks, a sports coat and soft-soled shoes, his hands have the leathered look of a man who's known hard physical labour.
Whip smart, he beat his classmate, the quiz genius and former federal Labor minister Barry Jones, to a spot on the Melbourne High School honours board before graduating in commerce from Melbourne University. He might have spent decades indoors behind a desk but he grew up greasing chassis, counting money floats, driving buses and doing whatever jobs his parents George and Elsie wanted done.
Ludicrous corporate payouts rile a man who paid himself the equivalent of a bus driver's salary for years after taking over George's fledgling bus fleet in order to pour more money into its growth. "Salaries for jobs are fine but excessive bonuses on top of salaries are not fine in my opinion," says Grenda. "That's where it goes haywire. There are lots of people on the breadline who are putting in to the best of their ability. That's why we did what we did here. It's fine to look after yourselves but you don't do the obscene stuff."
Yes, he's profited from selling his bus transport operations to rival Australian company Ventura and his bus-building division, Volgren, to a Brazilian firm for a cool $440 million. There's $100 million worth of debt to clear, tax to pay, and a bundle to be distributed to family members. Even so, Grenda and his family will be cashed up and on the scout for investments. But they've looked after staff, and they've lived modestly, shoring up the business before enriching themselves. "I don't think I've screwed anybody to achieve my own ends," Grenda says. How many bosses can make that boast?
Grenda's values were learnt young. His mother, Elsie, often fed drivers who'd gone without lunch or tea for an emergency bus charter. At Christmas she'd deliver slabs of cake to every employee. His father, George, gave each of his staff a silver dollar on his return from his only overseas vacation in 1961.
His wife, Margaret, recalls the day they returned home from their Lindeman Island honeymoon. "He sat me down at the new kitchen setting that his mum and dad had given us for a wedding present and he said, 'I want to tell you something.' I thought, 'Uh oh ... ' He said, 'I want you to treat our employees as one of the family. They are as good as us. They are our equals. Without them we couldn't have a business. Without them we wouldn't have bread and butter on our table. I want you to learn their names. Every time you see them I want you to be nice.' It wasn't very hard."
Easy enough in a small family business but Ken Grenda never strayed from this simple philosophy as the venture expanded from six "chuggers" to a bus service 1300 strong, and diversified into manufacturing a new generation of buses at factories around Australia. Courtesy and grace seem like quaint throwbacks to an earlier era yet it's clear from listening to the rank and file that common kindnesses are as much a part of their workplace culture as rest rooms and rostered days off.
Mechanic Branislav Jovanvic, 71, got a "temporary" job at Grenda's 40 years ago shortly after arriving in Australia from the then Yugoslavia, where he'd served as an officer in the navy. "Big man with white gloves," he tells me, in broken English. He'll never forget Grenda coming over to him in the repair workshop to shake his oil-stained mitt. "My hand was dirty. I was a bit ashamed. He insisted. I couldn't believe it. He helped me a lot. Always... his door was open, any time you wanted to get help. This was like my second home. I love this joint. Not many people get respect like Ken. He's a great man."
Jovanvic has never taken a sickie. "Not one day," he says proudly. Allegiance and productivity are priceless returns for a handshake. Grenda says he's always worked hard to relate to his staff; to get to know them. "I made sure I talked to people. If they've got an issue, I fix it. I got to know their names, their wives' names, their kids' names. It's important."
In the 1960s, Grenda became one of the first bosses in Australia to pay superannuation benefits. "We had a guy called Russell Cox. He was our union rep at the time and he died of a heart condition leaving a whole heap of kids and he had virtually nothing," Grenda recalls. "I thought this was all a bit crazy. We looked after the wife as best we could then we brought in a super fund thing." It took 20 years for the rest of the country to catch up.
Not content with this safety net, Grenda has an enviable habit of personally attending to families who lose a breadwinner. Last August one of Volgren's leading hands, Craig Ryan, took his own life after a long battle with depression. His widow, Melanie, tells me she's strong enough now to publicise a problem men prefer to conceal. Her husband had been at Grenda's for 18 years. "Ken set up a trust fund for my daughter's secondary schooling. It covers everything from her socks to the Year 10 excursion to Japan. Her deb dress, her laptop, anything. Without a second income I couldn't have afforded to give her these opportunities." Her elder daughter received a Toyota Yaris from the company's run-around fleet. "Ken's an amazing man," she says. "He rang me yesterday to check how I was going. He's just such a generous, loving person."
By now you're possibly thinking this joker's too good to be true, but for every one of these anecdotes there's another 10 that could be told. When chief financial officer Alain Crouch died suddenly from meningococcal the company paid for his children's private schooling. His widow, Suzanne, says it was Grenda's pastoral care that saved her. "It was the emotional support he gave me. My family was very young. If not for Ken I would have given up. He's been like a father figure to my girls." When the youngest finished school and wanted career advice, Grenda took the call and steered her into a job. He concedes in his understated way that "we kept tags on them".
Monika Fox also lost her husband, a bus driver who'd been with the company for 22 years. Grenda sponsored her teenage daughter's gymnastic competitions for six years; he arrived on her doorstep with an esky full of food and champagne at Christmas; he offered her the use of his family's holiday home at Rye; then, when she lost her part-pension, he suggested she apply for an admin job at Grenda's and was there to greet her on day one. "You couldn't ask for a better boss," Fox says. "He's been fantastic to me. Without him it would have been really hard. You feel like part of the family." Last November she married another bus driver she met at work in a happy accident Grenda takes no credit for orchestrating.
"Dad is the most generous, caring person you'll meet," says Scott Grenda, 45, the youngest of three sons, who rose to become managing director. "You do worry some people take advantage of that. We've counselled him," he jokes. "He's always taught us to trust people as you'd trust your mother."
THE biblical notion of treating people as you would have them treat you is hardly revolutionary but decency at the top has been drowned out by the scarier tales of skullduggery. Occupy Wall Street confirms public unrest over asset-stripping, leveraged buy-outs and excessive corporate behaviour. There's an axiom that nice people don't have the ticker for making a buck.
Former managing director of Grenda Transit Management, Kevin Norris, first heard of Ken Grenda as an MBA student at Deakin University. "He came up in our industrial relations unit because he was so ahead of his time." I ask him whether Grenda has an Achilles heel. Norris pauses. "Well... he trusts everyone. I can usually smell a rat. He wouldn't be smelling the rat," he offers. So he's a soft touch? "He doesn't get taken for a ride on the big things, but occasionally I had to sack a few people and if they'd been there a while they'd go and talk to Ken." But the boss didn't tolerate serious breaches and both men shared a belief in a fair go. "You don't want to sack anybody," Norris insists. "You get more satisfaction turning someone around."
He lists some of the benefits that recognise the importance of staff. Annual bonus incentives, movie tickets, Christmas presents, holidays, lifestyle programs for healthy eating and weight reduction, refurbished depots, air-conditioned buses, all aimed at happier drivers delivering satisfied passengers on well-oiled machines that cop fewer public complaints.
Transport Workers Union organiser John Picone confirms Grenda's harmonious industrial relations record. "They care greatly about their employees and they've got good depots and facilities," he says.
But what seems like common sense is not so common, according to Norris, who says he's worked closely during his long career with "some very high-powered people in Australian business", senior executives with great commercial ability. "Ken is the person I respect most because not only is he outstanding in a business sense but he is a man of unquestioned integrity who has built a culture based on family values. In a lot of large corporations the growth of the balance sheet is the only thing that matters - they are so tied up in making a quid they forget how it all happens. And his children have the same values."
So how did the company dodge the bullet that dooms family businesses to self-destruct once diligence leads to affluence and decadence corrodes the hard grind that fuels success? Of the Grendas' five children the eldest son Geoff, an engineer, 55, is known as the "Mr Fix-it" who designed from scratch double-decker buses that were exported to Asia. Due to retire after eight years as CEO, he helped develop Volgren, which built 750 buses last year. Scott, 45, was tracking to take over as CEO before deciding last year not to fill the role, with its marathon hours and disruption to family life. This intensely personal decision was one that Ken Grenda understood. There wasn't a grandchild in line who was old enough and handing it to an outsider was unthinkable. "For 65 years there's been a Grenda running the thing. It was a pretty tough decision. I was sadder than everybody else. I'm fairly emotional," he said in the lead-up to his last day.
SUE Prestney, a principal of tax and accounting firm MGI Melbourne, who has advised the Grenda Corporation for 28 years, says long-term succession planning kept this family business from the dysfunction that cruels so many others. When the Grenda sons became heavily involved the patriarch took his entire family and hers to Fiji, where they'd spend half of each day drafting a constitution to cover every future commercial scenario and the other half snorkelling and sunbaking. "Their values are absolutely tight," Prestney says. "While you should see it all the time, you don't. They are grateful, courteous and gracious. They're not greedy people. They would never go after a dollar if it meant they compromised their principles." Prestney has known other companies to stroke management and staff with the fruits of their enterprise but in 38 years of chartered accounting she's not seen or heard of bonuses being distributed right down the food chain.
A minimum of three months' employment was the only condition for eligibility for Grenda's goodbye bonus, which averaged about $8500, and the longer the service the bigger the bounty. "Once we'd cleared our debt and looked after Dad's siblings we looked at what was left," says Geoff, explaining how the bonus idea was born. "Dad said, 'I'd like to help the staff.' He wanted to do something reasonable that would make a difference."
Splurging a share of the profit on staff was the most spectacular part of the process, which was unusual in other respects too. Paramount was finding like-minded buyers. For the bus service, they wanted an outfit preferably Victorian-based, Australian-owned and a family-run concern. Ventura, a local competitor that Grenda workers had been reared to rival at every turn, was a perfect fit.
Michelle Jablko, managing director of banking and financial services group UBS, worked on the transaction for a year. She was struck by the Grendas' custody of the company they'd built. They sold it with the same guiding principles that informed their daily modus operandi. "They were interested in long-term sustainability of the business rather than short-term rewards for themselves as owners. They really care about people," she says, describing Grenda's culture as "one of the best I've seen".
Lawyer Jeremy Leibler of Arnold Bloch Leibler was also part of the negotiating team. "We act for a lot of wealthy families and I've witnessed many of these businesses change hands. It's no secret that wealth often leads to massive dysfunction where you couldn't have members of the same family in the one room," Leibler says. "The first word to describe Ken Grenda and his children is 'unique'. You see it the minute they shake your hand and look you in the eye. They addressed every person in the team with the same level of respect whether they were first-year graduates or senior partners."
He doesn't blame hyper-capitalism for the dearth of these values. "I'm not a big believer in the idea that greed and growth is terrible. It all comes down to values. What Grenda proves is that you can achieve growth by treating the people who work for you well. It's not about money but how you behave towards people."
At Grenda's there are men who've worked for the same boss for more than 30 years. They knew his mother Elsie, they know his wife Margaret, and they've watched his sons develop into managers.
Driver Michael Wall retired in December after 34 years with the company. He met his wife, Mary, when she supervised the "special needs kids" school bus that he drove and he took part in the bus convoys that Grenda organised in the 1980s to protest state government curbs on private operators. Wall remembers Elsie Grenda's homemade cake and not long before her death in 2002 she tapped him on the shoulder at an Oakleigh milk bar to ask: "Are you one of my boys?"
When Ken Grenda arrived at the drivers' lunch room with a few sponge cakes late last year to inform staff that the sale was almost complete, Wall recalls feeling very emotional. "I had a tear in my eye. I couldn't speak to him. I had to walk out." Wall took himself off to the "quiet room" where drivers on late shift can settle in comfortable chairs for a nap. "I didn't lose it but I was very upset and I rang my wife to tell her." When his bank balance registered a mysterious deposit worth $12,000 after tax he said to Mary, "I think they've made a mistake." His 14-year-old Falcon broke down the same week. Valued at only $1500, the repairs would have sunk $1300 so he traded in the old bomb and bought a little Ford Focus for his wife.
New cars, overseas holidays to visit families in faraway countries, electric golf buggies, mortgage payments, treats for a couple of teenage daughters ... the wish list of small luxuries these blue-collar workers can acquire without going into debt was like a Mexican smile that spread from household to household in outer Melbourne suburbs before the excitement leapt across borders via the media.
DAYS after he'd left the Dandenong office for good, I track Grenda down. He's on the road, personally delivering cheques to the widows of four men, long dead, who were there for him when he first took over his father's venture. One was a supervisor "who did whatever was asked of him. He made things happen. If there was a rail breakdown at 3am he'd get out of bed to organise replacement buses." Ken Grenda has never forgotten. "There's been a few more tears," he says midway through his house calls. Why wouldn't there be? His humility stirs the heart.
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