Cheers as trophies and triumphs go to the top players at the Geelong Business of the Year Awards

Julie Hunter with Robert & Bernadette Uzelac (Geelong Chamber of Commerce CEO) at the Geelong Business Awards. Photo: Michelle Kelcey.

Julie Hunter with Robert & Bernadette Uzelac (Geelong Chamber of Commerce CEO) at the Geelong Business Awards. Photo: Michelle Kelcey.

Adroit Insurance Group took out this year’s Business of the Year award, with managing director Andrew Locke addressing the crowd at last week’s awards night.

“Insurance is not sexy, it’s not pretty, you can’t touch or feel it, and it’s nothing more than a promise,” Andrew said. “However, we all need to be able to rely on and trust your insurance partner when your moment of truth arrives.”

He says it was a huge surprise to win Business of the Year. “We were hopeful more than anything else that we might compete OK in our category but to be recognised for Business of the Year was overwhelming,” he says.

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“The Geelong Business Excellence Awards process is challenging but one with great integrity. Firstly, you have judges of high calibre who run their own business or are key business people in Geelong. Secondly the process includes a submission backed up by an hour-and-a-half interview/visit by two judges. They really test and challenge what you have included. It’s a real audit of your business based around the five key criteria.”

Andrew says they are also proud Adroit has raised more than $1 million for the community, has completed more than 1000 hours of community volunteer work and donates more than $100,000 a year to community and sporting clubs.

Adroit has a team of 110 people working across 10 businesses in eight locations, administered and led out of Geelong.

Andrew works alongside immediate business partner Brendan Peck and Geelong partners Darrell Fenton, Andrew Gribble, Danny O’Leary, Robyn Nisbet, Stephen Sells, Leanne Welsh and Wayne Waterhouse.

“I want to acknowledge the wider Adroit team. We are fortunate to have a super bunch of people who like coming to work, like our culture, like helping people, who want to make things better – a team of people who like getting the job done,” Andrew says.

Adroit was declared the winner from 20 category winners.

The Geelong Business Excellence Awards dinner, hosted by Denis Walter at the Geelong Arena, was attended by 500 business and community leaders.

The awards are in their 31st year and are the oldest continuous business awards in Australia.

Geelong Chamber of Commerce president Kylie Warne and chief executive officer Bernadette Uzelac say the awards recognise entrepreneurs, innovation and business excellence in the Geelong region.

They praised the efforts of the 14 judges, led by Simon Flowers, who analysed the business entries over several months.

Adroit is also a finalist in the Australian Insurance Industry Awards, to be held in Sydney next week.




Team effort: The award-winning Harcourts North Geelong team, which took out the medium commercial services business award. Photo: Supplied.

Team effort: The award-winning Harcourts North Geelong team, which took out the medium commercial services business award. Photo: Supplied.

A commitment to community and continued growth has landed Harcourts North Geelong a prestigious award at the annual Geelong Business Excellence Awards.

The real estate agency took out the medium commercial services category. Director Joe Grgic was thrilled with the win and says it has inspired the group to continue its growth in the real estate industry.

“To be recognised among such esteemed local businesses is extraordinary,” Joe says. “It’s further motivation to grow and improve our business so we can continue to contribute to our community.

“We’re not afraid to change and grow as we need to and we’re continually looking at ways to evolve and ultimately better the service we provide to our clients and the local community.”

Joe’s dad Mario, who migrated to Australia in 1965, started the business 25 years ago – in 1991 during the recession. He bought a closing real estate office and renamed it North Geelong Real Estate. His wife Marie helped with bookkeeping and daughter Helena – Joe’s sister – started on reception. Joe also helped out on reception before moving into sales while Helena built the rental department from the ground up. The company now employs 24 staff.

“This year, we had the excitement of becoming a third-generation family business, with Helena’s daughter starting on reception,” Joe says.

“Most of the team is not related but everyone is considered family.”

Joe says his company prides itself on family values and creating success for both employees and clients. What he enjoys most about his job is fostering the relationships with colleagues and clients. It’s something he learnt from his dad.

“Real estate is all about people. As tough as it can be sometimes, it can be incredibly rewarding and extraordinary because we are often present during some of the most memorable moments in a person’s life. Helping someone achieve their goals is absolutely the best part of this job,” Joe says.

“Dad has taught me to always be honest, work hard and do the right thing by people. I think that is key when you’re taking care of what can often be someone’s greatest and most-cherished asset.”


Release Property Management was among the award winners, collecting the Geelong Business Excellence award in the medium business category. Director Renee Reynolds says it’s confirmation her company’s progressive approach to the business is paying off.

“It’s great for the staff to receive recognition and also for myself – it’s a pat on my back,” Renee says.

“It shows that the business is continually improving and growing; that we are innovative and very customer-service-focused.”

Renee started the business nine years ago. It now has a Lara branch as well as its Geelong branch.

“Growing the business has always been important to me. Being able to provide opportunities for my staff to own their own Release Property Management branch is also now a focus.” ● SARAH BIESKE


Robbie Lecchino, owner of King of the Castle cafe in Pakington Street, Geelong West, has proudly placed his big glass trophy right out the front on his counter. “It’s getting so much attention,” the purveyor of Padre coffee says cheerfully.

His business celebrates its third birthday next month and Robbie says winning the Hospitality and Tourism section of the Business Excellence Awards is recognition for the success of his operation.

“It’s great to be recognised,” he says. “It certainly helps us to build our reputation, which is developing now far beyond Geelong. We’re attracting a ton of attention from interstate and Melbourne, mainly through social media. The whole competition process has helped us to develop our business. From the minute we had the induction, we were implementing new things. It has helped to fine-tune and develop our operation. It certainly has helped me realise all that we’ve done during the last three years.” ● BOB OSBURN


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