Because we developed the image of the company and what it was about over a long period of time, the later negative attention was perhaps an even bigger shock to us. I think none of us were sure what sort of ‘animal’ we actually were—porcupine (family business) or dragon (multinational operator)? Some of dad’s desire to thumb his nose at authority no doubt goes back to his upbringing; a rebellion against the religiosity of a family who was part of a highly restrictive cult. Maybe at heart dad has always had a desire to be ‘wicked’ in the sense that he reacts very strongly against ‘spin’ and hypocrisy he sees in any organisation (especially the government!) When the cult leader who has your family in thrall to their ideas isn’t smoking what he’s selling himself, children quickly pick up on that. Dad’s later acumen as a businessperson may have been honed in these years as well because of a persistent sense that he needed to be the provider and if necessary work till he dropped to achieve this. Mum’s seen this workaholism become a major issue later in their marriage but that’s a whole other story I really can’t presume to tell for them. Another way of ‘poking the dragon’ of authority before Wicked started was music—because dad had been forced to play Christian songs on the piano accordion on street corners as a boy till all hours of the night, as an adult, his musical ‘stuff you’ to the world became obsessive constant playing on the trumpet of the ‘naughty’ song “Stripper”. He even played it to the ladies in the drive through at our local McDonalds. No wonder risqué slogans and cheeky pictures on vans later became a trademark of his business! Mum also came from a dysfunctional family—she remembers waking up in different places because her father would spend time in pubs drinking and sometimes come home in a state that her mother didn’t want her children to see. While dad picks up on spin as I’ve mentioned (he didn’t believe that anybody’s super was going to be enough to retire on and refused to credit that the Y2K threat was real) he and mum make a good team since she is much better at sensing whether people can be trusted. I am speaking from experience when I say mum is very hard to lie to! She thinks this might be a common character trait that adult children of alcoholics share.
Despite his difficult beginnings dad powered ahead when he discovered a taste for motivational reading—starting with “The E-Myth”. This book was the key to helping him realise if he wanted to grow his business he had to learn to delegate the technical tasks to others and give himself permission to focus on creative ideas for the business if these came to him. Unfortunately for my brothers (as far as they were concerned anyway) he insisted on playing his taped books over and over in the car during the years he was driving them to school. When mum was driver, they preferred listening to Clive Robertson on ABC radio. We were very proud when my youngest brother successfully sent in a ‘word of the day’ query to the program at the age of 13—maybe what dad used to refer to jokingly as ‘brainwashing’ had had some positive effect after all!