Back in 1986 Graeme Tuder saw an opportunity to develop software by applying offshore oilfield technology ideas to mineral exploration techniques.
This concept helped Micromine grow from a small company with one product and only two staff, to a global mining software solutions provider with sales and support centres at 16 locations around the world.
Graeme was raised in a small town in northern Victoria and left home at 17. His rural upbringing from liberal minded parents, who encouraged independent thinking, prepared him for a life of risk and decision-making.
At the age of 21, Graeme became the then-youngest licensed surveyor in Australia. He embarked on a career in seabed mapping, geophysical and hydrographical studies, and bathymetric surveys for the offshore oil industry in the Middle East, North Sea, West Africa, New Zealand and South East Asia.
Graeme left Australia to travel the world and, aged 22, he worked as a surveyor on seabed mapping in the Persian Gulf and lived on a pipeline-laying barge.
Through his tireless travel, relationship and business development, Micromine has grown year-on-year. By 2005 the company was exporting to more than 90 countries with distribution channels in Brazil, Canada, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uzbekistan. Micromine now has 22 offices based in all mining capitals of the world.
Family comes first
Graeme’s daughter Claire describes him as an inspiring and innovative, but still down-to-earth man.
“His vision and ability to accurately predict global trends have driven the company to the forefront of mining software innovation, which is ironic given he sometimes has difficulty operating his mobile phone,” she said.
“Pursuing export opportunities meant Dad was regularly away. He was always home for milestone events, but often overseas more than he was in Australia.”
Both Claire and her brother Tim now work for the company. Tim has worked for Micromine since 2007 in the Beijing, Perth and London offices. Claire started working at the Perth office in 2012.
Breaking down barriers
In the early years Graeme made a commitment to study the countries he visited to learn more about their society and economy.
“One of the greatest attributes of successful exporters is their ability to talk intelligently to their international colleagues,” he says.
“People are very pleased when a foreigner is knowledgeable about the country they are visiting and is culturally aware.”
In the early days of building export sales, travel and accommodation were expensive and even three-star hotels were out of the question. Graeme regularly stayed at the kind of premises that even junior staff in the company would not be asked to stay at nowadays.
His trick was to arrange to meet a prospective client in the foyer or coffee shop of a five-star hotel. It is important, particularly in Asia, to be seen to be successful when engaging with prospects.
Building an export culture
Micromine is a culturally diverse organisation. Graeme has always employed the best applicant for a job irrespective of their background, race or language.
At the Perth headquarters, more than 75 per cent of staff are not Australian-born. This cultural diversity assists the company’s export drive.
If Graeme needs advice on a country, there is likely to be someone on staff who can assist and provide an overseas contact in that country.
Micromine's success lies in its ability to predict requirements of the marketplace and develop innovative software solutions.
Its decision to develop an exploration package for geologists in the mid-1980s when others were concentrating on mining or surveying products quickly established it as an innovative and market-driven company.
It was one of the first to embrace modern flexible programming languages, it was with a totally Windows-based product and has won an Australian Design Award for technical excellence.
Slowly but surely, the company has developed its own representation internationally. The guiding theory was it is far better to sell and support the product in a local language. To complement its regional offices, Micromine also has a network of resellers and channel partners.
Products are translated into several languages including Turkish, Mongolian, Indonesian and Spanish. They are also translated to languages with different alphabets including Russian, Mandarin and Mongolian.
Additionally, the products are modified to suit local cultural issues and regulatory requirements.
Micromine has found one of the best ways to promote itself is through hosting a dinner and seminar in a region, often in conjunction with the local geological society or mines department, where staff present products and openly talk with guests.
This breaks down barriers and provides a forum for dialogue. This approach has been particularly successful in areas such as Russia and Central Asia, where English is rarely spoken and regional issues are paramount.
Strong benefit to Australian trade
Micromine has actively contributed to the positive image of Australian exporters through the provision of industry-leading solutions and services.
It is proud to represent Australia within the global mining community and present itself as a quality provider of Australian goods and services.
In 2014 Graeme celebrated 51 years in the workforce. He has confidently delegated to staff and provided them with the freedom to do things in their own way.
He has shown great trust in appointing young and often relatively inexperienced – yet enthusiastic – local staff to run regional offices.
Graeme calls his staff the ‘Micromine Family’ and it is this personal approach to global business that – above all other skills, experience and traits – makes people want to work for and with him.
A testament to the successful approach he has to his talented staff is the very first Micromine employee hired more than 27 years ago is still working for the company. Many staff have been with the business for more than 15 years.
Published in the winter edition of International Business Today.
Kristina Koprivica- Export Council of Australia