Jon Kleinschmidt Retires after 28 Years with the Hyne Group

28 years, 6 months and 1 week. Today, Jon Kleinschmidt, known fondly throughout the business and industry as ‘JK’, officially retires as Chief Executive Officer of Hyne Timber and XLam.
Retiring Jon Kleinschmidt (right) hands over the reins to new Hyne Group CEO, Jim Bindon (left).
Retiring Jon Kleinschmidt (right) hands over the reins to new Hyne Group CEO, Jim Bindon (left).
Retiring Jon Kleinschmidt (right) hands over the reins to new Hyne Group CEO, Jim Bindon (left).

Jon has held the role of CEO for eleven years, having commenced in the business as the Mill Engineer at the Tuan Softwood Mill near Maryborough Qld in 1994.

Throughout nearly three decades with the Hyne Group, Jon has held many roles from Mill Engineer to Division Engineer, Operations Manager to Divisional Manager, and General Manager Development and Technical Services, before being asked by the then Chair to take on the role of General Manager Finance & Administration to fill the role with “someone who knew the business”.

From there, Jon went on to become a joint CEO for about 12 months before being solely appointed to the CEO role.

Jon attributes much of his success to the many mentors, exceptional team members, experiences and of course, the focus and support from the Hyne family.

“The fact that Hyne is a family business is what attracted me in the first place. The late Warren Hyne was the Managing Director at that time, and he was a legendary industry and business leader.

“Innovation was key and the word ‘can’t’ didn’t exist in the Hyne vocabulary. The ‘let’s have a go’ attitude was typified by the Hyne family. As a young, inquisitive engineer, I was inspired and encouraged from the onset.

“’They said you can’t ‘ultra-high temperature’ dry radiata wood. We did. You can’t convert the market to termite treated timber. We did. Years later, we established the first Cross Laminated Timber plant in Australia, and I am proud of the men and women in our business who continue to drive innovation with creativity and passion.” Jon said.

Jon, in his role as General Manager Development & Technical Services, managed both the Tuan Mill and Tumbarumba Mill redevelopments where the company’s processing capacity was increased more than eight fold to meet the increasing demand for softwood timber to build the Australian family dream home.

Throughout Jon’s tenure, there has been a rapid and exponential growth in the use and application of technology in the business.   A key development being the step change from visual grading to automated machine grading of the structural framing products produced at both Mills.

There have been highs and lows, challenges and wins over the years and an epic win for Jon was being part of the leadership team that successfully steered the Hyne ship through the Global Financial Crisis.

“Despite the stress and challenge, I look back on the GFC as a high point for me. There were many who thought that the company couldn’t survive. I made it my mission to ensure that wasn’t the case. Never accept the word ‘can’t!’ Let’s have a go!

“We had to completely restructure, sell assets, strip the business back. It wasn’t easy but we came out the other side. Last year, we celebrated our 140th year with exciting announcements of growth and expansion with new partners, James Jones and Sons. And with the further expansion announcement this year with Rocky Point” Jon said.

Although residing on the Fraser Coast, another Hyne region close to Jon’s heart is Tumbarumba. In 2001, Hyne Timber bought the old Mill and with Jon managing the redevelopment, he became ‘flying in and out’. By this point, Jon had got his pilot’s licence and was able to charter a plane to fly himself from Maryborough to Tumbarumba at a lower cost than it was for a commercial airfare.

The $180 million investment in the Tumbarumba Mill is a career highlight for Jon. So, you can imagine receiving the phone call on that fateful New Years Eve, 2019 from the then CEO of Forest Corporation NSW, “Jon, I think we might lose it all”. Of course, the then CEO Nick Roberts was referring to the plantation estate, being ravaged by uncontrolled bushfires.

Jon Kleinschmidt and James Hyne meet with NSW Fire & Rescue
Jon Kleinschmidt and James Hyne meet with NSW Fire & Rescue during the 2019/20 Black Summer Fires at our Tumbarumba Mill.

At that time, Jon was on recreation leave with his family, having been outside of news coverage until he received that call. As soon as it was safe and possible to do so, Jon was on the ground, to an eerie, empty sawmill, met only by the Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue crews who were tirelessly battling to protect the Mill and town.

“That visit to Tumbarumba will stay with me forever albeit not as a negative, but as a positive; an incredible show of community fight, resilience and what humanity can achieve when working together.

“I was asked to speak and provide reassurance at the community hall where residents could collect emergency, donated supplies. Residents, including some of our own team members, had lost a great deal including property and livestock and we were there with them, helping where we could.  

“Thanks to the bravery, huge effort, and collaboration of many, we didn’t “lose it all”, but we lost 40% of our plantation log resource for the Mill. But we didn’t accept ‘can’t’. We found a way to secure feedstock, and most recently seeing the first trainload in history bringing logs for the Mill. Now that is the ‘let’s have a go’ attitude of our suppliers, supported by the New South Wales Government who arguably, now more than ever, recognise the importance of our industry.

George Seymour, Jon Kleinschmidt, Cameron Dick, Bruce Saunders, Chris Hyne and Greg Moynihan at the new GLT Plant sod turn
George Seymour, Jon Kleinschmidt, Cameron Dick, Bruce Saunders, Chris Hyne and Greg Moynihan at the new GLT Plant sod turn back in 2019.

“I have spent many hours touring with politicians, decision makers and influencers through our operations, and without naming all names, I thank all of them for their support over the years and ongoing into the future.

“I thank the Hyne family for their support, the opportunities they have given me and faith they have instilled in me to steer their 141-year-old business for the last 11 years. It has been a privilege. I wanted to retire, leaving the business in a better position than when I took on the CEO role and that is something I can confidently take with me.

“I thank our many customers and key stakeholders who appreciate the quality of products and services we pride ourselves in and work with us to ensure this is continuously improved, working as partners. Thank you for your ongoing support and custom.

“Our industry is benefiting from the renaissance of timber, and rightly so. The sustainable benefits of our certified plantations are like no other building material, and I look forward to reading all about further progress in the years to come – from my boat… or caravan!

Jon Kleinschmidt with the Glulam Team, 2014.
Jon Kleinschmidt with the Glulam Team, 2014.

“Finally, and most of all, there are not enough words to thank and recognise the incredible team members I have been mentored by, worked alongside, supported by, inspired by and had my ‘batteries recharged by’ over the years. A tough week is always made good by a visit to a site and seeing the incredible, creative wins being achieved all around me. Keep up the incredible work you do. Always have a go!

“I wish incoming CEO, Jim Bindon, all the best as I officially hand over and sign off for the last time!

For all those wondering, next week I will be fishing off the shores of Hervey Bay, the paradise my family and I call home. Thank you!”

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