Harris sets a retirement date

While he may well now be able to see the roses, Ron Harris, managing director of Coles Myer-owned Harris Technology has a lot of work to do before he actually stops to smell them in June next year.

Harris said he is "retiring" from the company he founded in 1991 on June 30, when he will have completed his commitments to Coles Myer under the terms of the sale, which was completed in March 1999.

"When I sold to Coles Myer I signed a 3.4 year contract to be managing director and that finishes in June," Harris said. "I am retiring and stopping full time work. I'll be 59 then. My hair's all gone grey and some of it has gone altogether. I'll be keeping busy but I won't be working full time at anything."

Harris currently holds a board position with the Health Insurance Commission and said he would consider taking up one or two similar roles if the right offers come along.

In the meantime, there is "lots of work to do" at Harris Technology. He said Coles Myer has aggressive growth plans for the group and he is currently on a sales staff recruitment drive with plans to employ 18 more people before Christmas and a total of 74 before the end of the financial year.

"We need corporate salespeople, government salespeople and even some retail salespeople," Harris said. "We are opening soon in Canberra, so we will need some people for that as well. We have a lot of plans and there is lots of work to do before I leave, so until then I will be firing on all cylinders."

Harris said a succession plan has been in place since March this year with long-time Coles Myer employee David Foster being groomed for the job. Foster has managed Coles Myer's Liquorland operations and was involved in the Vintage Cellars online division, Harris said.

"David has had lots of retail experience and Vintage Cellars runs the same software online as we do, so he fully understands that side of the business as well."

Meanwhile, Harris insists Harris Technology is "still trading very strongly" through all areas of the business, with most key performance indicators still looking good despite the general industry malaise.

"We are finding business consistent," he said. "Our year-to-date revenues are up 10 per cent on last year, where the industry as a whole is down 15-20 per cent.

"Our Web site is the number-one revenue earner in the IT industry and number two overall behind the Sanity Music site. The numbers of orders are up, the numbers of calls to the call centres are up, the numbers of hits to the Web site are up and the numbers of e mail enquiries to the sales team are up."

The only performance indicator that is down is the average value of each order, Harris said.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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