Dean regards himself as academically unremarkable; in fact, it took him 40 years to graduate from the “school of hard knocks”. He does, however, credit Jana Matthews with teaching him the importance of applying rigour to running a business.
Dean’s teenage years were spent juggling homework, playing pool and tending the bar at his father’s hotel in Carlton. The pub was opposite the Trades Hall and hosted some notorious figures from trade unions and politics. Dean’s first business was a lawnmowing round in Melbourne, which supported his Journalism studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Dean wrote for Leader newspapers, before embarking on travels through Asia, Europe, Scandinavia and Russia. During five years of travelling, he worked as a tour guide through Europe, a chef in the Scottish Highlands, a lifeguard in London and managed a ski lodge in Austria. He believes these experiences created the catalyst for an entrepreneurial future. Dean married Moira McLean in Glasgow and returned to Australia in 1982. Dean’s travels gave him a feel for adventure and thriving under pressure.
Dean and Moira set up a Bendigo delicatessen in 1983; the shop spawned a national food processing operation, employing 150 staff and producing 80,000kg of cooked poultry each week. Moira Mac’s was a major supplier to Australian supermarkets. The business became known for innovation and was the first Australian meat processor to utilise cold pasteurisation technology. It encountered severe turbulence in 2013 when a large contract failed and led to litigation in the Federal Court; consequent pressure on cashflow nearly broke the business. Dean feels that surviving this hurdle, along with the creation of a fantastic management team, are Moira Mac’s greatest achievements.
Moira Mac’s sold to Hellers, New Zealand’s biggest smallgoods processor, in July 2018.
One of Dean’s greatest joys in running a manufacturing business was seeing the development of hundreds of staff over the span of 35 years. Most of Moira Mac’s middle and senior management were promoted from the factory floor and this helped produce Moira Mac’s unique culture.
Dean has a passion for business leadership and self-development. He enjoys surfing, cycling, comedy, cooking and travel. He has two daughters, two grandsons and has recently built his dream home at Aireys’s Inlet on Victoria’s surf coast.
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