Successful Migrants – Michael Goonan

Growing up in the freezing Scottish highland town of Edinburgh, Michael Goonan certainly didn’t think he’d be selling ice for a living one day.

‘It’s an odd business for a Scotsman, it falls on the ground for free over there,’ he admits.

But through a combination of factors, including a decision to migrate to Australia back in 2000, and a highly developed level of business acumen, selling ice is exactly what he has found himself doing.

And he’s doing it very, very well.

Michael is the owner and Director of Adelaide Ice, South Australia’s largest ice manufacturing and packaging business, after having purchased a local company a couple of years after his arrival in Australia.

However Michael didn’t simply inherit the small empire that Adelaide Ice has become. Acquiring the business with a modest 11% share of the South Australian market, Michael transformed the company into a major player that now caters to 80% of commercial businesses across the state, achieving massive growth through a combination of sound business techniques, including marketing, equipment investment, and customer acquisition.

But according to Michael, his path to success was far from pre-meditated.

‘Coming to Australia – ice certainly wasn’t our first interest,’ he admits.

‘Initially in 2000 we opened an online grocery shopping company – and whilst it was initially successful, a combination of the decline in 2000, and possibly being too early in the marketplace, meant that it didn’t end up playing out as a long-term proposition for us.’

Rather than allow himself to be discouraged, Michael instead drew on his substantial bank of experience garnered from 13 years of running a small chain of nursing homes back in Scotland and kept his eyes peeled for an opportunity. However, even he admits he wasn’t looking for something quite as far removed from his comfort zone as what he found.

‘To be honest, I stumbled into the ice business,’ he said.

‘My background in the UK was nursing homes for the elderly, so coming from nursing homes to ice packaging there’s not too many similarities.

‘It wasn’t my skillset, manufacturing, or the food industry – but I had a look at this business and thought ‘I could buy that, I could make that work.

‘That was in 2002, and I ended up just deciding to take a chance and buy it.’

Whilst he may have been a little nervous about the sudden career change, Michael needn’t have worried. It wasn’t long before his natural business instincts took over and the company was dominating the local market, so much so that Michael made the decision to expand into Victoria in 2009, and the Northern Territory in 2011.

For many, the decision for an international businessman to overlook the more frequently sought-after migrant destinations and commercial hubs such as Perth, Sydney and Melbourne sounds quite perplexing. However as Michael explains, the decision was just as much about lifestyle as it was business, and as his experience had showed him, bigger doesn’t always mean better.

‘The reason for picking South Australia in particular was for its Mediterranean climate, very similar to the places we would go on holiday… and I also liked Adelaide because its size was manageable – noble if you like.’

‘As for business, people said there would be more opportunity in other states, but I said “Yes, but there will be more competition there as well.”

‘For the business I’m in, South Australia is absolutely ideal.’

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