FAMILY has been key to the success of Michell Wool and Leather Industries and the group's other business activities, with five generations of Michells working in and running the historic South Australian-based wool processing business.
One among the family members is John Michell, 78, who despite having "retired eight times and waiting till the next one", still works from 8am to 3pm, five days a week, as a director in the company office, and finds time to travel overseas.
His sons Peter and David now run the company as managing director and chairman.
With more than 60 years of experience in the industry, John has witnessed many changes within the company, including his own job.
His career started after he finished school at 16 in his first job he picked smelly skin pieces from pied (multi-coloured) wool.
"My great grandparents started the business, my grandparents and my parents were in it, and I was expected to follow suit," John said.
"I was told what to do and I was happy to follow their direction.
"My father told me I had to choose between a career as a professional sportsman or a professional businessman and guess what, I chose to be a businessman."
The company was established in 1870 when John's great grandfather, George Henry Michell, a Lower North cobbler, started to "pick up bits of wool" that had been left on fences and in paddocks in his spare time.
After washing and scouring the wool, he would sell it.
George Henry then moved to Hindmarsh in 1896 and set up a wool-washing tub in the middle of the River Torrens.
"He put the first bale of wool he scoured in a cart and wheeled it to Port Adelaide himself to give to the captain of a ship to sell for him in England," John said. "You certainly wouldn't see that happen today.
"At Hindmarsh we used to have the wool-processing plant on the northern side and the tanneries and private buying section on the south of the Torrens River."
The business remained at Hindmarsh until the late 1960s when it moved to Main North Road, Salisbury. The business still retains its Salisbury site, with the head office moving to North Adelaide earlier this year.
The Michell plant is one of only three early-stage processors left in Australia.
Carbonising and scouring lines are still run at Salisbury but combing, spinning, dying and carbonising are all done at plants in Malaysia, Thailand and China.
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