After completing a degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Robert Wilson started his career as an engineer with ACI Plastics – now owned by Visy. Coincidentally, it is still located only a few hundred meters from Palm's facility. After a few years, he moved to the UK to study a Master of Business Administration at the Manchester Business School before returning to Melbourne to pursue a corporate career in sales and marketing.
During his childhood, Robert was introduced to distance running, skiing, and sailing, sports with which he is passionate about to this day. His earliest skiing experiences were via rope tows on Mt Kosciuszko, and in the summer he sailed at Daveys Bay in Mt Eliza. He now skis at Mt Hotham and in Europe, has ski-toured from Hotham to Falls Creek and back, and has competed the famous 5 day “Haute Route” from Chamonix to Zermatt. He still sails and can be seen on Port Philip Bay in the summer sailing his Sabre dingy or his iconic wooden Couta boat. It’s a sense of adventure, pitting himself against the physical and mental challenges of nature, and the ability to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles that, in part, drives his commitment to life. In his youth, Robert was a sub-elite distance runner where his favorite distance was the 1500 metres - his PB was in the low 3.50. He still enjoys running, competing in a cross country competition on Saturdays during the winter – where he is now “running to be fit for life”.
After 14 years working in sales and marketing roles for some of the most recognizable brands in Australia, Robert decided to go out on his own. At Cadbury-Schweppes, he was Victorian Sales Manager for Schweppes and a Product Manager for Cadbury. At Herbert Adams, makers of pastry and cake products, he was initially Marketing Manager and then General Manager. During his time there he drove a new strategy based on product quality and innovation, which resulted in a doubling of market share and category leadership, and from a business where consumers had deserted the brand to one that they again embraced it. At Cussons, marketers of the Imperial Leather, Morning Fresh and Radiant brands, he was Sales and Marketing Director. Whilst there, decisive category leadership was achieved for Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid after a long battle with Colgate's Palmolive.
Each role Robert held in business imparted valuable lessons is understanding and identifying with the consumer.
As an undergraduate engineer, Robert developed a fascination for Human Engineering, the science of designing for people. This led to a life-long interest and an understanding that utility and ergonomics precede form and that products must fulfil a need that is essentially personal.
He has also has an interest in organization structure and how to cultivate productive relationships. During his MBA at Manchester Business School, he wrote his dissertation on the different approaches to the organization of work, ranging from the Swedish experiments at Volvo and Saab to the self-management of the then Yugoslavia. His conclusions were that productive relationships were not so dependent on how work was organized, but on the value system. The most productive being based on the values of mutual trust and congruence of goals - values that are alive at Palm Products. Most employees have been with him for more than 20 years.
Robert is, however, an engineer at heart and derives great satisfaction from seeing his machinery make things and from tackling the many small and large engineering challenges.
He believes that we all have a responsibility to give back to our community. He has had a continuous involvement since his early 30’s. He is a Past-President and Life Member of the Old Scotch Athletics Club, a past Treasurer of the Federation Automotive Parts Manufacturers, a Past President and Life Member of the Ormond Ski Club and a Past-President of the Old Scotch Collegians Association.
The result, a little like Robert himself, is a business that is unique, where products are made to much higher standards with a timelessness that only intuition through experience can create.