Hervey Bay on Queensland’s Fraser Coast is the undisputed hub for all the great recreational opportunities the region has to offer. Boasting excellent fishing that draws anglers in from far and wide, as well as a thriving whale watching and boating industry, the region has been touted as ‘Australia’s leading nature-based destination’.
For Peter Mueller, the attraction of the Fraser Coast and the small town of Hervey Bay was tough to resist. Living in Brisbane but lacking inspiration, and determined to get back-to-basics, Peter decided to say goodbye to the big city lights in 2009 and headed north in search of a sea-change.
The result of that sea-change turned out to be much more than a view uncluttered by high-rise office blocks and apartment buildings.
Unable to find work after arriving in Hervey Bay, Peter took a risk and established MTAQ Bay Auto Marine Electrical – a venture which drew on his skills as an auto-electrician and his life-long passion for cars, boating and fishing.
“I moved up from Brisbane but was unable to find a job here,” said Peter. “So I did my own thing and decided to run with what I enjoyed. The marine side of the business came to mind because fishing is a hobby, the same with boating, and I have always been into automotive with performance racing, drag racing and speedway.”
Bay Auto Marine Electrical has come a long way in its seven years and now has six employees, a mobile service unit, is an active sponsor of clubs and societies in the Hervey Bay community and offers services to owners of vehicles ranging from four-wheel drives to caravans, from recreational fishing boats to ROPAX Ferry’s, to commercial fishing trawlers and even super yachts.
Peter and his team also work on restoring classic cars, and are currently re-wiring a classic 1970 Chrysler Valiant.
“We’re doing a custom fit-out,” he said. “The owner restores all his cars from scratch, inside and out, and he has sent the last three our way. This one is a standard rewiring with a few tweaks. We are essentially making it look brand new.”
Peter came a little late to the auto electrical trade. Taking the advice of a friend who tipped that the auto electrical industry was about to lift off, he signed up to an auto-electrical apprenticeship with the MTA Institute (MTAI) at the age of 22 and worked at several shops throughout his training to gain as much experience as he could.
It was a decision that paid off handsomely. Now running his own successful business, Peter says he has gained a thorough understanding of all aspects of his craft.
And training remains crucial to Peter, who acknowledges its importance to the industry, his business and the opportunities it offers to young people. And that philosophy means he takes a very active role in the professional development of his staff and the two mature-age apprentices who work alongside him and his four tradesmen.
“Both apprentices are mature-age,” he said. “One of them focuses on automotive, and helps with the marine side of the business, the other focuses on marine electrics, but also helps in automotive too. I’ve set it up that way to mould them towards their individual strengths, and the strengths of the business.
“Building an apprentice is like building a block of units, and you always get a lot of pride giving these young guys a solid foundation through something that you’ve learnt. In this industry, you’re learning something new everyday and its constantly changing, and that’s why I think the auto industry and marine electrical industry are great to be in!
“All the work we have them conducting is supervised, and every circuit we go through is explained. I get them to nut it out for themselves first, get them to explain it to me, and of course, given them a pat on the back when it’s done right. I also explain the way I’d do it, I direct them, and this is the best way to get them to learn.
“Our training is done through the MTAI because they are the only dedicated training provider up here. I trained through the MTAI, and I really like the whole idea of our trainer, Terry Palfrey, coming out here and conducting workshop assessments. We are really setting these guys up for a career in the industry.”
When asked about changing business conditions and some of the most prominent changes he has witnessed over the course of his career, Peter highlighted the internet, and its status as a resource for quick but not always totally reliable information, as a concern.
“A lot of ‘pop-up’ auto electricians and mechanics have appeared – people who are ‘just ask google’ types,” he said. “Seven times out of ten that information is probably right, but attempting a quick fix found on the net can also lead to digging a bigger hole and it is not going to give you the knowledge to fix it properly. When they get the electrics wrong, it can cost a lot of money to fix, it can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, even be fatal.
“It is just so important to the industry that standards are respected and maintained. There are a lot of backyarders out and they are damaging the reputation of the industry, and it’s definitely something the average consumer lacks the knowledge to avoid.”
Clearly passionate about the industry, proud of both the business he has built over the years and the business and training principles he employs, Peter gets a lot of satisfaction from being a businessman and employer, and is looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
And with an owner who recognises the importance of delivering the very best service, of developing employees to be true craftsmen, and who has a dedicated and skilled team working with him, the future for Bay Auto Marine Electrical looks as good as the views along the Fraser Coast.
“I’d say being confident in owning a business and knowing you have it under control, comes off the back of having good staff,” said Peter. “Having a solid team and two awesome apprentices who take pride in their work and complete it to a high standard is something that makes me very proud.”