Last year I had a go at writing an annual report for the company. It was both a quite cathartic experience as well as a completely restrictive process. An annual report is bound by structure, whereas in this blog I can pretty much write about anything; and more importantly, what my accountant wants in the annual report doesn’t necessarily lend itself to something I particularly want everyone in the world to see! So the blog post can be my cathartic release, while I can make the bean counters happy with a different approach.
So, what happened in 2008?
Staff wise, Akeal came on board just before Christmas in 2007, and Ryan joined us half-way through the year. Ryan’s been working away on a lot of projects but his main task is working with Earth 2.0, in conjunction with Tim. Ben also joined us after winning the scholarship for 2008. We’ve actually just finished interviewing for another GIS position and as I write this I am putting the finishing touches on an offer for another GIS person to join us in the new year – that will bring us up to 9 staff, which is a lot bigger than I thought we’d be. Our offices are now starting to look a little less “institutional” with the delivery of paintings commissioned from Rachel O’Shea, and the addition of some office plants.
Earth 2.0 is probably the biggest achievement we’ve had during the year. We worked through a lot of teething issues in the latter half of the year, but it is now up and running and being used by commercial consultancies as a data entry, management and reporting tool. Sometime during the last few months Earth 2.0 jumped so far in advance of my expectations that I have been consistently going “woah” at the functionality in it. It’s a testament to Tim’s skills in designing the application that it’s so good. And it’s great to have clients using it, and I’m sure that there will be many more joining up in the new year.
We also did a few fun things during the year. Apart from the trip to the Perth Zoo in September, we went to the cricket in January for a day. Tim kindly changed our internal web site so that when we came in on the Monday afterwards we were treated to a slideshow of Australia losing to India in the test match. Complete with captions! That day was a mixed success – I forgot how messy the corporate types get by the end of the day – but the Zoo trip was a highlight for me.
I did a fair amount of travelling this year (and I’m very thankful that Qantas put on a carbon offset option on their flights, making it a lot easier to offset those flights). From my calendar I can see I went up north twice and across to the east coast three times. The up north flights are always fun for me, as I love getting up to the Pilbara. I participated once again in the Birdwatch event for Rio Tinto Iron Ore, this year at Karijini National Park, and saw a few birds and had a lot of fun getting out in the field… as I wrote in the blog, sunsets like these are worth it.
We also did a lot of marketing this year, for the first time. We attended conferences as exhibitors and presenters. We exhibited at WALIS Forum in March, which was a good bit of fun. I didn’t get to see many presentations myself (the story of exhibitors everywhere), but the guys did. Then there was a short presentation in May at the IAIA 2008 conference before hitting the mad season… In October I presented at an ECAWA meeting, at the TDWG 2008 conference and at a Marine Data Management workshop for iVEC. I was pretty tired after that, but rounded out the year with a turn as an exhibitor and presenter at the ESA 2008 conference in Sydney.
Looking forward, the global economic crisis/meltdown/slowdown/downturn has already had an effect on the Western Australian economy, although in many respects our business is a bit insulated. We work with a range of clients on managing their environmental impacts and reporting on them, which they have to do if they’re producing 1 tonne or 1 million tonnes. So we expect there to be a bit of a slowdown, but we’re still putting on capacity to deal with the work that is scheduled already for 2009. Much of that work relates to large government funded grants and similar non-commercial projects, which is where I always hoped we’d be working anyway. It’s great to see that finally happening (and until these projects are officially launched, I’m not allowed to announce it).
We stuck with our guns on our corporate commitment to providing value to environmental researchers again during the year. We did quite a few maps and small analyses jobs for people doing research, some of which have been published. Andrew, Akeal and Charlotte also ran a workshop for high school students at Curtin University during the semester break. We also continued to give research projects a 20% discount on our rates. I don’t have the amounts to hand that we ended up donating through these means, but I hope we are making a difference. Some of these are listed on our volunteering page.
Environmentally, I think we had a relatively minimal impact on the environment from our business. We still use 100% Naturalpower to run our office, and purchase recycled stationery and the like. I think we can still do better – we are looking at ways of further reducing our consumption of resources and making as little impact as we can. Anything we can’t quite minimize we offset through Carbon Neutral. I’m not sure that we’re running completely impact neutral yet, but it won’t be long before we are. I think this is a challenge for small businesses and I’m always looking out for ways to get quality products at minimal environmental impact.
Addendum: 5% reduction in emissions! BAH HUMBUG, Kevin Rudd!
Anyway, as the year draws to a close I am looking at Gaia Resources once again with a “wow, how did we get this far?” sense of wonderment. Of course, all of our success has been down to the dedicated, hardworking staff that I am lucky to work with, the clients that come to us to help with their problems and the suppliers who provide us with the means to get things done.
So thanks again to all the people we’ve worked with or for during 2008 – we all look forward to seeing you in 2009.