Two 'young fellas' defy Gippsland gloom

Two 'young fellas having a go' open their own agency

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UP AND COMERS: Aaron Ralph and Jarryd Sutton are setting up their own livestock and real estate agency in Sale.

UP AND COMERS: Aaron Ralph and Jarryd Sutton are setting up their own livestock and real estate agency in Sale.

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Jarryd Sutton and Aaron Ralph might not have hit 30 yet but the duo is opening its own livestock and real estate agency in Sale.

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Neither of them has quite reached 30 but, together, Aaron Ralph and Jarryd Sutton have had skin in the livestock game for three decades.

And now, as east Gippsland enters its fourth season of drought shrouded in bushfire smoke, they've made the biggest move of all: trading secure corporate jobs to open their own livestock agency business.

Mr Sutton was the Gippsland Regional Livestock Exchange's manager and Mr Ralph a senior livestock agent with Elders Maffra.

Both appreciated the risks they were taking.

"The fact of the matter is that we're risking everything to do this and we're in a drought with a third of the number of cattle around that are normally in the area," Mr Sutton said.

"If we didn't have doubt, we would be overly cocky and confident and that wouldn't do us any good.

"You need to have a sense of doubt and fear because that's what drives you to make it work.

"Otherwise, you get lazy and complacent."

The two young men are anything but lazy.

Such was his love of the cattle business, the teenage Mr Sutton was a regular at the Traralgon saleyards, weighing cattle before school.

Around the same time, a 14-year-old Aaron Ralph had built a mob of 42 cattle after starting off with one calf he'd convinced his mother to gift him and trading up at the markets.

"I bought one calf, sold it for two, sold them for four," Mr Ralph said.

It seemed certain he would follow his father into the family logging business but after Peter Ralph was killed when Aaron was still at school, everything changed.

"I always said I was going to go up the bush logging but, when Dad died, I stayed in school a bit longer and had to think about what I wanted to do," Mr Ralph said.

"I ended up doing work experience with Landmark and decided I wanted to be an auctioneer."

There was plenty of moral support at home.

"I told my mum that I wanted to own my own agency business," Mr Ralph said.

"She convinced me at the time to register a business name and have it there to remind me what I was working towards."

Mr Sutton moved to Romsey to break in horses while Mr Ralph spent time in northern Australia on cattle stations and, later, as a livestock agent.

Both had bought real estate with their savings by their early twenties.

Mr Sutton spends his spare time campdrafting and Mr Ralph pulls beers in the Farmers Arms Hotel, Newry, which he bought with two friends last year.

The two complemented each other well, both professionally and personally.

Mr Sutton's experience brought the necessary business management skills and Mr Ralph would continue to be the auctioneer and primary client liaison.

And as to how they will get along?

"If Aaron does what he's told, he'll be alright," Mr Sutton said drily.

"I've already had to put my foot in his collar a few times," Mr Ralph returned.

Their good humour reflects a palpable enthusiasm, which only grew when the pair debuted at the Gippsland Regional Livestock Exchange (GRLE) in Sale last Tuesday, operating under the Alex Scott & Staff banner.

It was a small start, with only 15 head penned but it's early, both in the selling season and in the business' life.

There's a brand new office at GRLE and a freshly signwritten yet still empty shop front in the main street.

The licensing arrangement with Alex Scott & Staff will expedite the back office set up, helping the business hit the ground running and taking advantage of its Gippsland network but, long term, the benefits were all about history.

Mr Sutton and Mr Ralph wanted to do business the 'old fashioned' way and Alex Scott and Staff's reputation was built over 130 years.

"A lot of farmers who have traded with an agent for a long while say they haven't even sighted their agent for 18 months," Mr Sutton said.

That didn't mean doing things the same way they've always been done.

"There are 101 opportunities out there now," Mr Sutton said.

"Gone are the days of just sending the calves every year to the same sale yards."

Social media, online sales, private sales and pre-sale promotion were examples of the tools Mr Ralph said agents and farmers could use.

Not surprisingly, the two driven young men have clear vision for the business and it's not simply about selling livestock.

"In five years, we envisage having a having a solid share of the rural real estate market," Mr Sutton said.

"We envisage having some other agents on board, whether they be new recruits and trainees or existing ones that are looking for a change.

"Most importantly, we're working hard towards supporting locals."

Even before making its first sale, Alex Scott and Staff, Sale, had made a donation towards bushfire relief.

"We'd like to think that, in five years' time, people know Alex Scott and Staff, Sale, as being that true, traditional fair dinkum country-based business that is really putting back into the community," Mr Sutton said.

"That's something you don't necessarily see a lot of at the moment in the livestock game."

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