In memory of Harley Richardson
In memory of Harley Richardson
"Harley was a great mate. A great mate to many." Stephen Devine remembers his long-term business partner
He was born on a farm near Dubbo NSW in December 1955. Growing up on a farm was surely instrumental in shaping Harley’s inventiveness and practicality and his capacity to make do when the chips are down – characteristics that stood him in good stead all through his busy and successful life.
In his early years Harley was involved in bands in the Dubbo area and was the FOH engineer for a well-known Australian band The Reels, who originated in Dubbo. Harley’s burgeoning sound and technical expertise saw him accompany The Reels to fame as the band’s sound engineer, in fact Harley’s growing skill as the sound guy was one of the fundamental reasons for The Reels’ early success.
The early years with The Reels saw Harley evolve as a sound engineering enthusiast and a professional operator. He teamed up with Michael White who owned Sound On Stage in Sydney. That was a sizeable operation that sold and hired sound and lighting gear for live performances. It wasn’t long before Michael White asked Harley to establish a new outlet for Sound On Stage – in Brisbane – so Harley went into partnership with Michael White and moved to Queensland in the mid-80s. Queenslanders were delighted! Under Harley’s direction and management, Sound On Stage Qld became a thriving business.
Sound on Stage closed in Queensland following Expo 88 and Harley went to work for himself doing installations all over Queensland. In about 1993 he was offered the position as General Manager at Impact Technical Solutions, the install division of Australian Concert Productions.
I knew Harley from the SOS days but got to know him very well as I also was working at Impact, having just moved to Queensland in 1995. We got on famously.
One thing led to another and we decided to go out on our own, so Richardson and Devine was born.
We were not sure what R&D was going to do, but we were sure our combined talents would make it an interesting venture. We had nothing to put into the venture, so we had nothing to lose. Between us we knew everybody in the industry who was worth knowing, and some that were not.
Incidentally, we argued for years over whose name should go first. We settled by agreeing that whoever went first had to be the secretary and do the accounts. The other had do the freight and buy the former flowers on secretaries’ day.
After about 12 months of living hand to mouth, selling bits and pieces to our mates and spending too much time at the Brekkie Creek Hotel, the opportunity presented itself to represent Meyer Sound, a loudspeaker manufacturer based in Berkeley, California.
Over a period of 22 years we installed PA Systems in venues around Australia and New Zealand. Having access to the Meyer’s expertise enabled us to do large projects that were out of reach to the usual two-man company like ours. For this I thank them.
We provided PA systems to almost every performing arts centre and convention centre in the country. Sydney Opera House, Victorian Arts Centre, Aotea Centre Auckland, to name just a few. We did in excess of 40 premium hotels. Most major event companies. We kicked so many goals.
We had some unique concepts that gained us some notoriety in our industry. We always knocked off at lunchtime and went home. Due to this we instituted a price rise at 2PM each day on the basis we had to get out of the pool to answer the phone. During the GFC we released a price list in South Pacific Pesos.
I would be here for days telling the story. That is for another day. In any event, Harley and I agreed not to rat each other out unless there was serious money to be made doing so.
We decided at the start to keep our relationship strictly business. I suspect that is one of the reasons it lasted so long. Having said that if either of us fell over, the other was always there to pick up the pieces. Rarely did we ask each other a question or seek permission. We both knew what the others answer would be. We preferred seeking forgiveness after the act,
We trusted each other implicitly, even when we were arguing, which was often. We never questioned or had reason to doubt each other’s honesty and integrity.
When the chips were down, which was often, we ALWAYS had each other’s back.
Our business relationship lasted for 23 years. Two years ago, both of us decided it was the right time to knock it on the head. Harley wanted to travel and spend time with his family. I wanted a change.
Our official response when asked how we lasted so long was “Mutual greed”. We also used to say that the sum of the parts is less than the individual. The truth is we were brothers.
Harley was generous, friendly, intelligent, resourceful, courageous, tenacious, creative, caring and loving. Our lives are better for having had Harley in them. He was my left arm. I will miss him forever.