“Off the Cuff” with Entrepreneur, Greg Nicholls

Greg Nicholls

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—Nicholls Technologies managing director, Greg Nicholls, has a passion for taking new and innovative products & services to market. His insatiable curiosity and entrepreneurial skills have led him to build multiple start-ups in Australia since emigrating in 1997. These include Australian Graphic Supplies, Xanita, Triga Systems, Virtualize and of late, Lifdek— wood-free, corrugated fiberboard pallets which assemble in 30 seconds. JournoNews chats with Greg.

My secret pleasure is … unplugging and going for a kneeboard surf.

My first job was … Emergency Paramedic.

My most annoying habits are … checking email before breakfast.

Sardinia Bay

A clear childhood memory is … fishing in crystal clear gulleys at Sardinia Bay, Port Elizabeth.

What makes me really nervous is … fear of failure.

The best advice my parents gave me was … The Lord is my Shepherd.

If I wasn’t an entrepreneur, I’d be … sailing around the world.

I’m most thankful for … my beautiful wife and two children.

My favourite meal is … Seafood.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … Cauliflower!

A book I love is … What would Google do?: Reverse-Engineering the Fastest Growing Company in the History of the World

A song that resonates is … U2 Beautiful Day

My ‘happy place’ is … anywhere in the ocean.

My most embarrassing memory is … stage fright in an interview with Peter Switzer.

My hidden skill is … African dancing.

If I was a dog, I’d be a … German shepherd.

It’s a bit corny but I love … being corny with my brothers.

I’m most at peace when … in the ocean.

Ocean

Country I’d love to visit … Botswana.

Favourite quote … “Friction-free capitalism” by Bill Gates.

@gregwnicholls

www.nichollstechnologies.com

Nicholls Technologies Logo

Aussie, actually now in Kindle and Audible version

South African born, Lois Nicholls and her daughter Lara, have produced a book on the trials and tribulations of migrating to Australia from South Africa.

Called Aussie, actually, the book is an honest and humorous account of life as new Australians. “My intention was to relay our 12-year sojourn through a series of thoughts and anecdotes to help other migrants realise they are not alone.

People often assume the transition from one country to another is seamless, but there are many difficulties one encounters along the way. There are also many humorous episodes when misunderstanding language or cultural norms.
My Boston-born American sister-in-law lived in Australia for three years before returning to Los Angeles and found some of the Australian quirks very amusing. She couldn’t believe, for example, that people actually froze their chicken carcasses in summer so they didn’t propagate a bin full of maggots!” says Lois.
Lara illustrated each chapter with cartoons after she was given a brief outline of the content.“I’ve always loved drawing so my mum asked me to have a go at sketching some cartoons. It was great fun coming up with different drawings and I really enjoyed seeing my pictures when the book was printed.” says Lara.
Aussie, actually also captures the heartache of leaving familiar surroundings, family and friends to make a new start in a foreign country. Written from Lois’s personal perception as a young migrant wife and mother, it tells the warts and all story of the family’s journey.

“Some may say it’s too honest but from the feedback I’ve received so far, people have found it funny and poignant. Migrants of all nationalities have said they relate to the struggles and triumphs. They say they appreciate the honesty as so many people don’t speak about their tribulations – they put on a brave face.” says Lois.

A NEW updated eBook edition with five extra chapters, is now available on Amazon.

It’s also available on Audible.com

Aussie, actually, was originally published by Impact Unlimited Books in Australia in 2008 – www.loisnicholls.com.au

It’s the season for ticks

 Tarna in her paralyzed state, days after being bitten by an Australian paralysis tickWildlife of Greater Brisbane manual, removal should be with ‘fine forceps’. The idea is to grip hold of the head and ‘ease it out’. Squeezing should be avoided as ‘this causes the tick to inject a large dose of saliva into the host body in its attempt to detach’.

My dog had been wearing a tick collar ever since moving to our acreage property.  It was, the vet assured, merely one of several deterrents including a two-weekly application of costly tick and flea repellent.

I watched anxiously as grumpy Leo became a helpless invalid. Paralysis sets in after several days of the tick feeding on the poor unsuspecting mutt. Our own dog seemed to have survived a tick one week prior—a dose of anti venom tick serum seemed to pull her through.

Then the next week, she failed to rise from her bed. Usually keenly interested in catching our chickens, or barking at the noisy early morning magpies that steal her food, she couldn’t even muster the energy to lift her head. Even breathing seemed difficult.

We headed off to the vet once more and our fears were realised—another tick, this time found large and engorged at the base of her back. I berated myself for not finding it but her thick coat had made my mission near impossible.

Paralysis Tick - Courtesy www.dog-world.com.au/images/Paraly8.jpgTicks can be totally elusive. A previous neighour’s dog became increasingly ill, and the vet couldn’t find the obvious cause—there were symptoms of paralysis but no tick could be found. Blood tests and expensive treatment was administered, all to no avail. The pooch was close to death. Finally, the vet searched one last time for a tick and found the offensive parasite in the gravely ill maltese poodle’s nose. Little Max miraculously survived but he was pretty close to death when the tick was discovered.

So noxious is the poison injected by the tick’s saliva, that it attacks every muscle in the body including the heart, bladder and bowel. On our first trip to the vet, a farm cattle dog—normally a robust breed—was lying immobile, unable to move a muscle.  The vet didn’t hold out much chance at all.

Our own dog continues to slowly recover—it took five days for her to empty her bladder on her own – prior to that she had to be carried and literally manually assisted. We anxiously await her first bowel movement. And there was great excitement when she gave an attempt at a hoarse bark early this morning.

Mostly, she lies inside sleeping on her bed, with the comforting lull of ABC Radio for company.

Dogs of her size are said to take six weeks to become active once more.

I take heart, however, that when I returned to the vet a week after the cattle dog’s admission, it had returned home.

“He survived—I really didn’t think he’d pull through,” admitted the vet, adding, “he surprised us all”.

Promising news—I hold out hope for our beloved pooch.

Just don’t warn the magpies.

Glenda Condon, Pastoral Assistant, Integration, Brisbane

What do you love about your job?

I love meeting new people and hearing their journey in life, where they come from and who they are, their families etc. I find people incredibly interesting.

Dislike?

There is absolutely nothing I dislike about my job – it’s a perfect fit.

You have an accounting background, why the switch?

All my clients were always telling me I was in the wrong business – I was just too much of a people person to be an accountant and I always knew there was something else out there for me.

Where did you grow up and what countries have you lived in?

I’m a country girl and grew up on a big sheep farm in Maldon, Victoria, Australia. I lived in New Zealand for 20 years and managed to pick up a Kiwi husband! I think NZ is as stunning as parts of Europe but a lot cheaper to live. And of course, there are lots of sheep! My favourite part is the South Island – mainly Queenstown. I lived in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty and used to wag school constantly in Grade 12 to go surfing!

You’re a person who loves to laugh. What tickles you?

I love English humour and laugh a lot at myself. I find people hilarious. My animals make me laugh too – we have a whole menagerie – three cats, a dog, a bird and guinea pigs.

What is your favourite spot?

Basically anywhere near a beach! I love Coolangatta and camping on Moreton Island.

Favourite holiday destination?

Camping on Moreton Island – the beaches, dolphins, snorkelling off the wreck – it’s a great place to get away from it all.

The Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island provide good diving in depths from 2-10m.

Favourite restaurant/café

Olive Grove, Kenmore which is basically my second office – I’m always taking people there. The food is fantastic and the prices affordable.

You’re a big fan of travel, if money was no object, what would be your ultimate destination?

Probably Europe – and Greece – I love the idea of sitting in a little taverna, sipping a glass of red wine and listening to the waves lap the shore…

What is your passion?

To connect people with God and with each other.

Leading a Blonde Astray

I took my dog for a walk this morning.

I snuck out the back way, through the bush and along the fire track. I was rather hoping to avoid Slater. Slater is the neighbourhood vagabond.

We live in a picturesque little enclave where most properties ramble into each other without the concern of fences. This is not sensible suburbia, neatly fenced and gated where the neighbourhood dogs are restricted to their allotted area.

In spite of the general lack of confines, however, most local dogs stay on their own turf and have no interest in roaming further than the postbox at the end of a rather long driveway. Slater has changed all that.

He has marked the entire neighbourhood as his own. Slater lifts his leg on everything within a ten mile radius of home. He has lifted his leg on my washing, on the barbeque and on my pot plants – even my husband’s undies on a drying rack out the back have been territorially marked.

He has chewed three pairs of children’s shoes and one of my own. He has been banished several times – his owners have tied him up and severely admonished him, replaced chewed shoes and tied him up for good measure. Slater, I’m afraid simply chomps through the rope and with an ‘up yours’ attitude continues his pursuits unabated.

This dog has no shame. He returns to the scene of past misdemeanours without a smidgen of guilt.

Slater, were he human, would hang his head in shame at the abuse that is hurled at him from far and wide. He would not dare show his face lest he be chased, ordered home again and told in no uncertain terms he was unwelcome.

But Slater is a loveable rogue. He appears to have decided that if looks alone are not going to get him places in life, character surely will.

Slater
Slater

Part wolf-hound, part bull terrier—he was blessed with the unfortunate albino genes of the bull-terrier rather than the more handsome characteristics of the wolfhound.

There is vague evidence of wolfhound in his lanky physique and the pronounced whiskers on his snout, but it ends there. His face has a permanent grin and he has one pink-rimmed eye on the albino side of his face.

There is one redeeming feature – a motley brown patch over one eye that while appealing in an Nguni cow sort of way, simply adds to the general feeling he’s up to no good.

He has no manners at all. When he drinks from my dog’s water bowl he puts his entire snout in, rather like a pig, splashing water all over my freshly mopped veranda.

While I know there is no good in him at all, I can’t help liking him. There’s something appealing—enviable even, in the way he gallops through life. He doesn’t just embrace it, he chews on it.

All this would be good and well if he stayed home. But, I fear he is leading my lady golden retriever Tarna astray.
In the early days, before Slater’s arrival, Tarna was beyond reproach.

Our property isn’t fenced but Tarna kept watch at the front door, occasionally wandering into the bush or up the drive way to bark, in a lady-like fashion, at the postman, plumber or whoever turned up in our cul-de-sac. I prided myself on the fact that my beloved pooch knew her place—home was where her heart was. She was so well behaved and mature.

We went for scenic little walks—just the two of us—me like a smug mother of one who scorns other wayward children.
And then along came Slater and with him, a whiff of scandal.

‘I saw your dog with Slater at the dam the other day,’ commented my neighbour one fine day.

I was aghast, surely not, must have been another dog.

‘No, it was definitely her—having a right old time, they were,’ she said.

Now the dam is not exactly around the corner, it is, quite literally, over the hill and far away. Far too far away for comfort.

I made excuses, as dog owners in denial sometimes do. I’d been away, the children were at school, she certainly wouldn’t do it again. It was so out of character.

And this is where the story took a dark turn. Other comments from other neighbours confirmed my worst fears. Tarna had been led astray by a mutt less than half her age. It was a disgrace and she seemed to be enjoying every deceitful moment.

She became like a puppy again – all panting and playful when he was around. And worse, she appeared to be chasing him!

Sometimes, she wasn’t even at home when I returned. She wasn’t faithfully waiting at the front door like the lady she once was. She was with him!

We have tried counselling. Just this week my daughter sat her down and had a frank discussion. ‘Tarna,’ she said, ‘this is not going to end well, ‘he really is far too young – no more cavorting near the dam with dogs less than half your age, Ok?’

It’s hard to know if she listened—she simply fixed her liquid brown eyes on my daughter’s face and lifted her paw. Was that ‘let’s shake on it’ or ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t give him up?’

I’m afraid I’m at my wit’s end. Where is it all heading? There is one small glimmer of hope: That Slater will grow tired of his blonde, adoring neighbour and seek greener pastures.

I’m hoping those greener pastures will lead to Rosie. Rosie is a friend’s fox terrier who is soon moving up the hill. Like all dogs of his ilk, perhaps Slater will charm some other sweet young thing. Until then, I have to attempt avoidance. I am a dismal failure at it.

I sneak through the long grass and Slater stalks after us. He endures my half-hearted attempt at throwing stones at him, ordering him home, all the while skulking closer until he knows all my resolve has gone and I’ve given up completely. Tarna doesn’t help; she’s all panting flirtatiousness—without an ounce of coyness, her blonde mane blowing in the breeze.

This morning, He came with us on our walk—again. Or should I say, we went with him. He led the way as though he’d lived on this earth all his life. He lifted his leg on every dirt bin, telephone pole and gate post he came across. He chased a brush turkey and sized up a horse, standing far too close to its back leg to have a good old sniff.

‘He’s not my dog,’ I explained to a disdainful passer-by.

She gave a tight little smile that said, ‘yeah right’ as the offender sidled up to me like a doting, well loved pet.

I fear our reputation is in tatters. Come soon, Rosie, come soon!

RosieCopyright © Lois Nicholls

Long Journey Home

FROM A BOYHOOD in WA to a new life and family in London, Julian Leigh has finally brought it all together in the Sunshine Coast hinterland of Queensland, Australia.

The view from Julian and Gillian Leigh’s Maleny home is striking. In the distance lie the Glasshouse Mountains, a smudged charcoal outline that contrasts starkly with the rolling green farmland in the foreground. A stately Morton Bay fig draws the eye to the front garden and a lily pond completes the serene picture.

The tranquillity is momentarily disturbed as Gillian arrives with a horse trailer, spilling children and dogs while apologising for a pony club meeting that lasted a tad too long. Julian emerges with a firm handshake and cheery “G’day!”, looking every bit the farmer.

Shortly afterwards, a friend delivers a chocolate cake for our afternoon tea and the realisation grows that the setting is not the only attraction — it’s the genuine friendships, lack of pretence and sense of community that draws people to Maleny.

The town on the Sunshine Coast hinterland is just over an hour from Brisbane, with great beaches a mere 45 minutes away. It’s not hard to understand how this couple and their three children were happy to trade the hubbub of London for such a tranquil setting.

Children

Julian left Australia with his family as a 13-year-old when work took his dentist dad overseas.

“I’d always had fond memories of my childhood in outback Western Australia and enjoyed the sunshine and freedom,” he says.

“I could ride my BMX bike and have lots of animals … The lack of sunshine in the UK really affected me — I found it quite depressing.”

Julian completed most of his schooling in England and studied dentistry in London.It was here that he met Cambridge-born Gillian, who had studied art and worked as an illustrator. Gillian knew something of the land Julian hailed from, having backpacked in Australia as an 18-year-old; she says she fell in love with the country from the start.The couple eventually settled into the pace of London, but by the time their family had expanded to three children, the lure of space and a sunny climate grew ever stronger.

“I wanted my children to have the same experience I’d had as a child,” explains Julian.

“I worked from 8am to 8pm every day — many people in the UK work hard for the right car and right house.But before you know it, the kids have grown up and you’ve missed out on all the other things in life.”

Gillian was also keen for a lifestyle change and the decision was made to sell up and seek a new life in Australia. They drove around Australia in a campervan for six months, looking for a place to call home. First on their wish list was comfortable, year-round temperatures for outdoor pursuits.

Queenslander

“We also didn’t want stingers or crocs, and it had to be no more than two hours from an international airport,” Julian says.

They initially settled on a waterfront home at Minyama, a 35-minute drive from Maleny, and bought the 16-hectare Maleny property with the idea of creating a weekender.

“We kept a horse here and had to drive an hour every day to ride,” Gillian says. “Then we bought more horses — and it made sense to move here permanently.”

First, they had to find a house. Gillian scouted the countryside for a Queenslander to complement the tropical surroundings. Her search ended in Hervey Bay where she found the perfect historical homestead. Built around 1872, it had originally been a surgeon’s residence. It survived being cut in two and shifted to Maleny. All it needed was a lick of paint and some minor updating — fibro replaced and the roof redone — to bring it up to scratch. A sleek classic country kitchen, with a modern day Aga stove and granite benchtops, was another addition.

One of the joys of their new location is the sense of space.

“I love being able to focus on things in the distance and watch a storm coming in,” Gillian says. The property is a haven for the couple’s three children, Alexander (Alex), 13, Charlotte (Lottie), 12, and Amelia (Mimi), 9.

“It took a while for them to settle but they love it now,” Gillian says.

“Mimi often takes a picnic basket and plays for hours near the stream or in the stables — sometimes she takes her pony, Angel, with her.”

It’s hard to believe the family have been in their home for only two years — roots are already deep and friendships have flourished. Weekends are a happy mix of friends, motorbikes (Julian and Alex are avid trail-bike enthusiasts), horses and polo (the last being a particular favourite of Gillian).

“Our connectedness with Maleny stems from how we spend our leisure time, I suppose, and we enjoy quite a lot of it,” Gillian says.

The couple exude a love of life — perhaps made all the more poignant by a grave health scare that Julian suffered some 18 months ago.

“I simply stopped talking — and it turned out to be a brain tumour,” he says. The tumour was removed but complications forced him to take six months off work. Now Julian works a three-day week at his Minyama dentistry practice. The rest of the week is taken up with looking after his herd of 20 Black Angus Lowlines, and seeing to maintenance on the other properties the couple own in Maleny.

While not raised as a farmer, Julian says he has always been “hands on and prepared to give anything a go” — be it putting up fences or castrating cattle.

“I’ll invite a farmer friend around to teach me and we’ll have a beer and a few good laughs,” he says.

Family photo

Gillian’s life is equally full. Apart from riding daily, she runs a bed-and-breakfast called Half Moon Hideaway on the property. While their life sounds idyllic, Julian points out that it comes with a lot of hard work.

“It’s definitely not an elderly peoples’ property,” he says.

“But I really enjoy the complete opposite to being a dentist, where I’m concentrating on a square centimetre. Here, I’m hopping on a tractor or chopping down trees.”

“And we don’t feel life is passing us by,” concludes Gillian.

Copyright © 2007 Lois Nicholls [Story featured in Country Style Magazine, November 2007]