Elders trainee to senior manager: Matt Tinkler’s story - Elders Rural Services

Elders trainee to senior manager: Matt Tinkler’s story

Becoming an Elders trainee can take you just about anywhere, including into management, just ask Matt Tinkler, Elders Victoria and Riverina livestock manager! We chatted with Matt about what it’s really like to work at Elders and how a footballer-turned-farmer-turned-stocky built his career.

Career path:

  • Farming
  • Elders trainee, Wagga
  • Elders junior territory sales manager (TSM), Wycheproof
  • Elders livestock manager, Albury
  • Elders Vic/Riverina livestock manager

Q: What did you want to do when you were leaving school?
A: I loved my footy and my dream was to play AFL football.

That was probably my passion. But I grew up in agriculture in a four or five-generation farming family, so I guess there was a fallback position to become a farmer out in Jerilderie, in the Riverina, as an irrigation farmer.
I moved to Adelaide chasing a football dream. It didn’t eventuate and, when I was 22, my father was looking to change his direction. It was time to make the decision to come back to the farm, and that coincided with the millennial drought.

Q: What impact did the drought have on you as a person? 
A: Irrigation farming was hit pretty significantly.

It certainly gave me a different view of agriculture and, probably, the direction I wanted my life and career to take. I’d seen some great achievements by generations of my family, but I’d also seen some of farming’s hardships. It gave me an insight as to who I wanted to become as a person and what I wanted to do.

Q: After three years on the farm, why did you decide to become a livestock agent? 
A: This was the point where I realised that, no, I wasn’t going to be a farmer, and I really had to find a career or something I was passionate about.
I developed a friendship with a local Elders livestock agent and started to make some inquiries around a career change and, about the December of 2014, I was accepted into the Elders trainee program as a 25-year-old with ambition.

Q: What surprised you about the life of a livestock agent? 
A: The understanding that it’s not just a job, it’s your life, which lines up with agriculture to a degree.
You’re not just going to a market centre and selling sheep, which is probably how I viewed it previously – the surprise was all the work and interactions it takes.
It was six months of really solid work in Wagga. A manager told me that if you can make it in Wagga, you can make it anywhere, so I wanted to show that I could work very hard and I was invested in becoming an agent.
From there, I went to Wycheproof in the Mallee and that evolved from just being a trainee to almost a junior territory sales manager (TSM) role, where I moved into a motor vehicle and started to manage a client base. That was when I could really learn the fundamentals of the business and what being an agent is about.

Q: What do you think are the traps for young agents? 
A: I think probably just trying to be experts too early and trying to be the best without adopting or accepting all the advice and the skills are out there. Rather than having to have conquer the world straightaway, look at the long game.

Q: How did your career develop? 
A: I was a junior TSM for just over two years and then offered a livestock manager role at Albury.
I’d been in the business two-and-a-half years and it was certainly a big jump but I was really keen to take the challenges on. That was what I loved about the business: I got presented with plenty of options, plenty of challenges, plenty of personal development, as well as career development.
The biggest thing I’ve learned being an agent, is not just the technical skills, it’s certainly been dealing with people.

There was a huge period of learning how to deal with people because I was very young, I was very inexperienced, and I’d come in to manage people that had been agents for 30-plus-years with a huge amount of experience and knowledge.

Gaining respect essentially was one of the biggest challenges. To gain that respect, I just focused on working really hard, trying to show that I was committed to the cause and that I was prepared to learn. I wasn’t going to come there and say that I knew everything.
For a long time, I thought the best way for me to be really good livestock manager was to be the best myself. I realised that actually had a negative impact. It certainly improved our business, but it didn’t help develop and grow people. A really good livestock manager isn’t about what they do as an individual, it’s about what they can get a team of people to achieve.
It means forming really strong connections and bonds with people, understanding what their motivations are, what might help them and then having clear guidance to help them achieve those.
But, also, it’s exposing them to other experiences they mightn’t have looked at that can be really helpful for them, both professionally and personally.

Q: In July, you became the Elders NSW state livestock manager. Can you describe this role? 
A: My role is to help people develop new business opportunities and it’s really exciting when someone comes to me with an idea and asks how I can offer the support needed to take those opportunities.

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