From Marketing trainee to Managing Director, 1964-2009.
Greg Mc Kibbin joined Kodak Australasia as a marketing trainee a week after he left school in 1964. He worked his way up through the company, building a career in sales and marketing, learning on the job.
Marketing trainee and sales 'rep'
Greg commenced working in Kodak's headquarters for Victoria and Tasmania in La Trobe Street Melbourne, where he was introduced to the retail and wholesale trade. After about three of years of on-the-job training, Greg became a sales rep in the Drawing Reproduction Department. He subsequently moved to selling materials for graphics, then motion pictures. During the 1970s Greg's territory was the Riverina in New South Wales. He recalls the sorts of customers he supplied:
Every town like Wagga, Griffith, Finley, Albury, Deniliquin, they all had little newspapers. So they'd buy our products to print the newspaper. Not the paper itself, but they'd buy the film and so on to put that together. And there'd be small printers. There was a wine label company in Griffith who we used to supply product to.
When I moved into motion pictures, we supplied films for television. There was a channel in Albury, a channel in Griffith, Wagga Wagga, so the TV stations, they'd buy film from us for shooting the news. Back in those days the only news that went to air was on film. And so all those small channels had their own cameras and cameramen and they had a small processing facility. So they processed the film on site to get it to air for the news that night.
While building his career in sales and marketing, Greg studied photography at RMIT and undertook diploma courses in sales and marketing, and business. Later in his career he did a live-in executive course at Mt Eliza Business School. Kodak encouraged such study and also provided in-house training.
In the late 1970s Greg became manager of the Tasmanian branch, moving his family to Hobart where they enjoyed their stay until 1982. Greg was then appointed to the job of Eastman Kodak Marketing Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East, which meant moving to Eastman Kodak's headquarters in Rochester USA. Greg and his family found it 'a bit of a change' from Hobart and a 'wonderful experience'.
After three years Greg returned to Melbourne to help launch a new Kodak videotape for the professional industry, before taking charge of the graphics business. Graphics and motion picture sales remained Greg's responsibility throughout the 1990s and into the new century. He worked in regional sales management roles in Hong Kong, Melbourne, London and Geneva. Greg was also a director on the Board of Kodak Australasia and was involved in the discussions with Rochester regarding the closure of Kodak's Coburg plant, which was an inevitable result of the digital revolution in photography. Greg remembers:
We tried as a board to delay and put off the decision, but at the end of the day it was a decision taken by Eastman Kodak.
He has strong memories of that 'tough day' in September 2004 when the closure was announced to all of Kodak Australia's staff simultaneously. Greg was one of four directors who had to break the news:
We had them all in one area at Coburg, and we had phones hooked up all around Australia. We closed down one shift, brought everybody in and they were addressed in the canteen at Coburg, so that we told everybody at the one time. It wasn't a very pleasant message.
My role, as far as telling the sales and marketing people, was a lot easier, because I wasn't telling them they were out of a job. But I was telling people whose brothers, sisters, husbands and wives worked in manufacturing. Because at Coburg there was a lot of family interplay. So you might be talking to somebody in sales admin, but her husband works in the factory and he's being told he doesn't have a job.
The factory closed at the end of 2004 and Greg was appointed Managing Director in January 2005. His task was to oversee the dismantling of the Coburg factory and the cleaning up of the site to satisfactory environmental standards for sale and redevelopment. He organised new premises in Victoria Parade for the remaining 500 sales and administrative staff still required to handle imported Kodak products. In 2007 Greg moved to another regional job for the Asia Pacific, based in Melbourne. He resigned in 2009, forty five years to the day after he commenced employment at Kodak.
Greg has good memories of his career at Kodak:
I didn't have another job, I spent all my time at Kodak. And I know when I met people out in the business world there was a very strong reputation in the '90s and 2000s of what Kodak did for their staff and the culture of the company. ... It was a fantastic company. I really can't think of one morning I didn't want to get up and go to work.
Beale, Nigel, 'The History of Kodak in Australia', 1983.
Greg McKibbin, interviewed by Lesley Alves 15 January 2014.