Women in Business – Jan Ford
To some, Port Hedland’s Jan Ford is a vivacious friend and encourager.
To others she’s a fellow Soroptimist, supporter of the arts and the West End.
To others again, Jan represents community activism, from her time as a town councillor and her ongoing involvement on the Port Authority Board, to recently wearing a blue ambassador’s cap to welcome visitors off the cruise ship in Port Hedland.
She also happens to be WA’s winner of the 2010 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
However you put it, Jan Ford is about growing Port Hedland, with her successful company, Jan Ford Real Estate, an iconic turquoise landmark set against the red earth of Kingsmill Street.
She’s someone who’s always been able to centre herself with the sun, the water and the ground and says, “I suppose what was missing throughout my life was the minerals and now I’ve got that strength from the minerals up here.”
It all began in Perth with a little girl who loved playing cubbies and grew up with romantic stories of the north.
“I was learning at school about people who lived in a warm climate with rain; I was intrigued,” Jan says.
Then there was Monopoly, a game which taught Jan there’s a world where you can buy even more cubbies, then charge people to rent them.
Following a brief but exciting stint working at the telephone exchanges in Port Hedland in 1974, Jan ultimately returned 25 years later with her then husband.
Family history here runs deep, with her mother’s side Lockyers, her grandmother from Roebourne and her grandfather a friend of iron ore mining founder, Lang Hancock.
After briefly working as a detention centre guard and for another real estate company, Jan plunged into her own real estate business in 2000, taking on two fulltime (and still current) staff members, Donna Thompson and Tracy Simpson, before buying her present-day office in 2001.
At the time of employing Tracy, Jan wasn’t sure if she could manage the extra staffing but, once again, the landscape provided a timely reminder of possibility.
“I drove around the corner in the car and the sun was setting over [the ocean] here.
“It was about 5.30 in the afternoon and I thought, there’s an abundance – look at that sun.
“How can I say I can’t afford something?”
Years later, her approach to business remains holistic and she respects that everyone is taking their own journey.
Jan says of her staff, “They come in because they’re growing and they’re developing and we’re just the conduit to help them go through.”
Interestingly, the end of the journey she was to share with her husband came the night of her birthday in 2006 when she met with friends to create the Port Hedland Community Progress Association.
“He took the minutes, left the marriage and had the whole [association] packaged back to me incorporated,” Jan says lightheartedly.
“He might have left me, but he gave me the town.
“It was a beautiful gift and I thank him to this day.”
Jan cites strong yet feminine women the likes of Joan Collins and actress Barbara Cartwright as guiding forces.
“There are women who start off young and pretty and people don’t take much notice of them, but there’s a real strength in them.
“Then when it comes out, all of a sudden there’s this awareness and you can take it through to 100 when you get in touch with it.
“I see myself as growing up like a plant that had all the fertiliser and the growing and the water and now can just grow without the fight.
“It’s just evolving.”