Darryl Mincham – Starting my own business

As an Air Force veteran and business owner, Darryl Mincham has over the years developed a real passion for employing veterans. 

20 December 2019

As an Air Force veteran and business owner, Darryl Mincham has over the years developed a real passion for employing veterans. Darryl believes the unique skills acquired while serving in the Australian Defence Force are a real asset for potential employers, so much so that around 50 per cent of his workforce are veterans. With 23 years successfully owning and operating a business, we think Darryl is onto something!

Darryl MinchamMy passion for working with technology

During my time in the Royal Australian Air Force, I worked as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, a role that required me to repair aircraft. My role in the Aircraft Research and Development unit was very rewarding. I’m a proud and passionate person, who has always had an interest in the military, so my time serving Australia was rewarding, and I particularly enjoyed working with technology.

Starting my own business – Mincham Aviation

After I left the Air Force, I started my own business in 1996. Mincham Aviation specialises in the manufacture and repair of advanced composite and sheet metal components for the aircraft and defence engineering industries. We support aerospace, maritime and land-based communities with the highest accredited specialist competencies and skills. We provide innovative engineering design, approvals, testing and evaluation in a broad range of materials.

My skills from my time in the Air Force helped me start the business. We design products like Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems for Defence, aero medical equipment for the Royal Flying Doctors, suppressor systems for rifles and lots of other specialist niche products.

Our major clients are Defence – whether it be Navy, Army or Air Force. We’ve done a lot of work for Defence, Science and Technology (DST), and we have great relationships with many Australian companies, such as CEA Technologies, which specialises in the design, development and manufacture of advanced radar and communications solutions for military applications. Mincham Aviation has remained one of their suppliers now for more than 20 years. We’ve been on international aerospace programs with Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, global primes specialising in military aircraft, autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics.

You can always leave the uniform, but the uniform doesn’t leave you

For me, running a business that predominantly services the Defence industries, having ex-defence people working for me who understand the customer is critical. Being able to provide opportunities to veterans who would normally not get that opportunity is also very important too. It's nice seeing people that have gone through a hard time come in and be given the opportunity to work for a company like ours.

I’ve been employing veterans for more than 20 years. We’ve had a dedicated veterans' program now for about five years and that's where we've been working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs

(DVA) to make this happen. Bringing people into the company that need retraining and working with the DVA return to work program has been good.

The longest time a veteran has been working for us is 17-18 years. Apparently, I’m a good boss!

Around half of my workforce are veterans

Of those, about 25 per cent have had retraining through a DVA program or similar. The veterans are predominantly employed as advanced composite technicians or other roles that can be undertaken with re-training. I’ve been trying to integrate veterans into our business, where they don’t need a six-year university degree. The least training is what we’ve been aiming for, however, once they’re in the company, we provide further training to do a range of jobs.

I like employing veterans because they bring a code of ethics that I like and it’s something I didn’t really understand or appreciate until I left the military. There’s something that the Defence instils within its people. It’s a very high standard and that's very valuable. One thing that's really important is that they bring an understanding of our client’s needs and requirements. By continuing to employ people from Defence, we’re able to keep up-to-date with the latest innovations and changes within Defence, which is critical to our business.

Veterans also bring other unique skills to our company. If we’re working on a project, like a ground radar system, the skill-set of someone who was in the Army is really valuable, because you can sit down and ask what were the issues you faced when you were out in the field using this equipment. That sort of information is invaluable.

Open-door policy

As managing director, staff can come knock on my door whenever they need. We believe in working closely with the veterans, especially the guys that have come through DVA employment programs. I believe that having that open relationship and understanding is really important.

Each veteran is different. We've got some veterans that have had post-traumatic stress and we don't hold that against them. That's just what it is. As an employer, you just need to understand that there will be times in their working career where they're going to go through some hard times. You just have to be there and work with DVA to make sure the veteran gets the support they need, so they can be the best they can be.

DVA’s Work Trials and Employer Incentive Scheme have been sensational

To be able to take on a veteran for the three month trial period is quite advantageous. Most of the veterans that have been part of the work trial have said, they want to work here, which is good, but there's been some veterans who have come and they're not ready, and that's fine too. It's given them the opportunity without having to make a commitment, which is very important, for them and us as well.

Employing veterans is a good game. I always find employing veterans less risky than employing people off the street. The DVA program reduces a lot of the issues because you’re given the opportunity to go through and assess one another to make sure you're a good match. I think also having that financial assistance from DVA over the first 12 months really makes it viable for the employer, because through that period and the retraining, you do incur losses. The way the system is set up at the moment is fair for both parties.

At the end of the day, you only live once

This message is for veterans who are medically fit to work, but unsure if a work trial placement is for them, my advice is, there’s no harm in trying. I mean, we've had veterans that have come along here that have done the trial and they've loved it. To be honest, I was also scared at the beginning.

Once they've done the work trial, most of them say it was the best thing they’ve done, but there's been other veterans that have come along and done trials and said, I'm not ready, and that's okay. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. For those people, they need to spend more time getting ready, and that's fine too.

There are definitely rewards and stress in running your own business

Make sure that's what you really want to do. It's very easy to look at business owners and go, wow, wouldn't that be great to be your own boss, but, you're never your own boss, you're always answerable to someone.

For me, I love coming to work and working on fast evolving technologies because I get a lot of enjoyment solving problems. I also get a lot of enjoyment out of employing people and watching people live happy lives. That means a lot to me.

Never give up

One more thing I'd say is the transition from being in the military and moving into the commercial world can be quite stressful at times. It's a huge leap for all veterans, because there’s a lack of a sense of employment security.

Throughout my 23 years running the business, there have been tough times, but there's one thing I learned from the military, which is to never give up. I found this little picture and I have it on my wall and every time things get tough I look at this, never give up.

Ten men sitting on, or leaning against a long, custom-built blue car. All the men are dressed in blue working clothing.