Tracey McFarlane | In the business of people
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In the business of people

Category Our People

Tracey McFarlane

It’s a unique spirit that often defines Australian rural communities, underpinned by a collective crusade to see local towns flourish.

And Rabobank’s very own Tracey McFarlane epitomises the ‘can-do’ attitude that drives vibrant communities.

With the lack of services and retail options remaining a bugbear of many small towns, Tracey has singlehandedly taken this challenge into her own hands, establishing six small businesses in her local community, Merredin, Western Australia.

A cinema, hairdressing studio, cafe and franchised food outlets are just some of her main street businesses, all established with the community at heart.

“I don’t think our town would have these opportunities otherwise, but throughout my whole life my priority has been people – I love people, I love talking to them, meeting them and seeing them succeed – so all my business decisions have been based on how I can add value to the people, and community, of Merredin.”

With 42 employees, 40 of whom are women, Tracey is rightly proud of the opportunities her businesses are providing within Merredin, which has a population of just 3,500.

“Of the women I employ with children, half are single mothers, and half of did not complete high school. I provide opportunities for traineeships, apprenticeships or online university courses and a flexible workplace – someone needs to take a punt on these people, and I have.”

And the results have been heartening.

“I mentored one young lady who didn’t complete high school, she now owns her own small business with six employees, is half way through completing a business degree and is now looking into adding a new franchise into the Merredin area. This is a perfect example of what can be achieved with a little support and guidance over many years and I’m am so proud to have been a little part of this success story.”

Having built her businesses over the past 15 years, she now has an operations manager and individual business managers to oversee the day-to-day running of her enterprises, yet with three children and a mixed grazing property, downtime is minimal – which is just the way she likes it.

So when Rabobank’s Nat Purdy contacted her just over two years ago with a job opportunity, true to nature, she jumped straight in.

“I have an accounting and banking background, so Rabobank was a great fit for my skills, and considering my workload I initially took on a 12 month contract to see if I could make it work – within the first three months I knew that Rabobank was the one for me.”

With her employment coinciding with the onset of Covid lockdowns, Tracey credits the Rabobank culture and people as one of its greatest strengths.

“I started initially as a rural analyst on my own, unable to have any face-to-face support, but not once did I feel alone, everyone was always eager to help. At every level the people are so personable and generous.”

She credits her Merredin branch colleague, Murray Carlson, as being particularly supportive and encouraging.

“To this day, I am very thankful to have Murray as a colleague and teammate in our dynamic branch.”

After what began as a 12 month contract she laughs that now “they won’t get rid of me until retirement.”

The bank’s culture also aligns closely with her own community values.

“Rabobank’s focus is on people, and seeing them succeed – I haven’t come across anyone in the bank who doesn’t have that attitude, and it’s extremely empowering.”

Recently promoted to an Area Manager, the role affords Tracey the opportunity to build relationships and work with farmers to achieve their goals, and she describes the satisfaction gained from seeing her rural clients succeed akin to seeing her own staff reach their goals.

“I love providing people with the tools, empowerment and skills they need to flourish, whether that’s in my own business or for my clients.”

Certainly, she said, her business skills coupled with her banking background have proven a valuable asset.

“Modern farms are a business, not a lifestyle, and I have many discussions with my clients about general business issues, particularly around retaining and growing staff, that I can draw from my own experience,” she said. “I see clients who are at their wits end, then after an hour nutting it out they leave with an ‘I’ve got this’ mentality – you can’t put a price on that feeling.”    

Together with her husband, Neil, Tracey also runs a mixed grain and livestock operation, providing her an even greater affinity with her clients.

“We are on the same journey as many of my clients – managing input costs, exploring carbon technology and farming efficiencies – and I think that rounds out my relationship with my clients, because they know I am a farmer also.”

Despite her selfless dedication to agriculture and her community, for this Melbourne-born and raised dynamo, rural Western Australia is the last place she expected to settle.

“I moved to Western Australia working in operations for McDonalds, and like every good bush love story I met my husband at a B&S,” she smiles.

“We laugh that he had a win, gaining an on-farm accountant, but the lifestyle win for me over the past 26 years has been invaluable.”

“We have been able to provide our three daughters a great life, they are wonderful, well-rounded human beings with respect for family, and the community.”

Whilst many would shudder at the amount of hats Tracey wears, she admits this is how she thrives.

“I love to be challenged, I love to be busy – it’s not for everyone and I know it may appear overwhelming, but it’s how I work best, and I am extremely grateful to Rabobank for giving me an opportunity, and being open to diversity in its workplace.”

“My managers, Steve Kelly and Geoff Adams keep me challenged and have never held me back. I’m a risky person to employ, I have a lot on my plate, but I’ve always had their full support, and as a woman I haven’t always had that in the previous banks that I’ve worked in.”

“My motto has always been ‘why hold someone back’, it’s how I run my businesses, and I’m so grateful Rabobank has extended that same generosity, and allowed me to fly.”     

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