Beyond Service Awards Finalist Spotlight on Glen Ferrarotto, Founder of Ironside Resources.
Born out of necessity and built on a sense of responsibility to veterans, Ironside Resources is run by former soldier Glen Ferrarotto and his wife Rowena.
The Melbourne-based company began as Ironside Recruitment a decade ago and now helps place veterans and their family members in careers across the resources, health, defence industry and government sectors.
Mr Ferrarotto spent 10 years in the Australian Army as a diesel mechanic before transitioning out in 2008.
He didn’t set out to work in recruitment, in fact he was working in business development when fate intervened in 2011.
Some of Mr Ferrarotto’s mining clients discovered his background and asked if he knew any diesel mechanics looking for work.
“I managed to connect some of my good friends from Army to those companies,” he said.
“Then someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, mate, there's a business in that.”
Soon after Mr and Mrs Ferrarotto began creating a database of Australian Defence Force veterans looking for work and registered Ironside Recruitment as a business.
“Once we switched the database and the business on, we didn't have a choice other than to make it work because it developed its own heartbeat very, very quickly,” Mr Ferrarotto said.
“There were a number of times where my wife and I thought, wow, what have we done?
“We just had to learn really quickly.
“We made a few mistakes, but we didn't make them twice.”
From his own experiences with a large recruitment agency Mr Ferrarotto knew the industry was focused on numbers rather than people, but that wasn’t going to be the case with Ironside.
He said he and his wife had an “overwhelming sense of responsibility” to do right by veterans.
They opted to run Ironside as a for-profit business and stanchly defended that choice despite some naysayers accusing them of profiting of veterans.
“I think that's been something that we've been able to rest out hats on and maintain our credibility through in that we're contracted legally and commercially to deliver something that's sustainable, like any other service, but the sustainability piece is a long-term career,” Mr Ferrarotto said.
“If we jeopardised our trust with the ADF, not just with veterans, and if we were seen to be reaching into defence and pulling people out, we would lose our brand, we would lose our credibility and we wouldn't have a business.
“We had to maintain our integrity, and we've managed to do that.”
Mr Ferrarotto said one of Ironside’s great success stories was the work they did with Fortescue Metals Group.
“We began a recruitment campaign for Fortescue and between 2018 and 2019 we placed 121 diesel mechanics from Army and Navy,” he said.
“We had a success rate at interview of about 98 per cent and we understand that we still have a retention rate of at least 80 per cent of those veterans who are still working either for Fortescue or within the mining sector.
“Fortescue did some mapping and they (found) a 30 per cent productivity gain in their Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek workshops in the Pilbara when defence force veterans had rotated through on a swing.
“So what we were telling them actually happened, that you'll get a high work rate, better productivity, better teamsmanship.
“But any day that we connect a veteran with a new career and they ring us up and say, I'm so happy, that's just as good as the work we did with Fortescue.”
Mr Ferrarotto said along with big successes, there had been some big challenges, from defending the choice to operate Ironside as a for-profit business through to surviving Covid,
And in 2016 the Ferrarottos also sold 51 per cent of Ironside to Aspen Medical.
“It was an opportunity for me to grow as a business director because I had to report to a board and I was mentored by (founder) Glenn Keys, who is an extraordinary human being, and answered to Bruce Armstrong, the CEO of Aspen,” Mr Ferrarotto said.
“But I think we recognised at a point, particularly towards the onset of COVID, that it wasn't going to be sustainable for both our organisations.”
The couple bought back Ironside Recruitment, rebranded as Ironside Resources and battled through the pandemic.
“We maintained all of our staff during those two years and we pivoted the business from the mining sector into the health sector,” Mr Ferrarotto said.
The company placed about 80 veterans and displaced RSL workers in COVID testing roles across New South Wales and Victoria, and placed veterans into the aged care industry.
“We came out of COVID in a relatively strong position, but with a different mindset on business,” Mr Ferrarotto said.
“Instead of scaling up the business at that point, which was the direction we were heading, we made a decision to scale down… and bring the business back to its foundations.”
Mr Ferrarotto said he was thrilled to be a finalist in Prince’s Trust Australia’s Beyond Service Awards.
“We know the reputation the Trust has and the amazing work that it does, particularly around entrepreneurship,” he said.
“To be recognised by an organisation like that, we're really proud.”
Visit Glen's business: https://www.ironsideresources.com.au/
With thanks to freelance copywriter and ADF partner Courtney Snowden. Find Courtney on LinkedIn.
Beyond Service Awards
An initiative of the Prince’s Trust Australia Enterprise programme, the Beyond Service Awards are designed to celebrate the entrepreneurial achievements of Australia’s veteran and family business community.
The Awards are an opportunity to recognise the depth and breadth of skills and experience veterans and Defence Force families bring to Australia’s small business landscape.
The 2022 Beyond Service Awards are proudly sponsored by Gold Sponsor Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Silver Sponsors PwC Australia and BAE Systems Australia.
For a full list of the Beyond Service Awards finalists, visit here.