THE smell of fish hits you immediately, but after 18 months in the job, Danielle Adams' nose doesn't even twitch.
Her heels still clip-clop through the corridors of Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative headquarters at Maclean, but she's sacrificed her stilettos for a sturdier pair of boots.
Ms Adams came from the world of computer software to become the first female general manager in the co-op's 67-year history.
Some things, like her heels, she won't give up, but when Ms Adams left her job in the corporate world she didn't realise she would be gaining an important and responsible role in the community.
"Running a business in a regional hub is much tougher than a desk job in a large corporate environment," Ms Adams said.
"Everyone has an interest in the business through relationships or work and you are more account- able at face value to the community - there is nowhere to hide."
Ms Adams said dealing with Mother Nature has been one of her biggest challenges and it contin- ues to trip her up.
"We've just come out of two flood years and you can't control the throughput," she said.
Ms Adams grew up in a fishing community on the Central Coast and her parents retired to Mac- lean, where she heard the co-op was looking for a sales manager.
"They invited me for an interview and I told them I had no idea about seafood except that it tastes great with white wine," she said.
"It was a big culture shock. Not only did it take some time to get used to the smell of a processing plant but I went from a corporate world to being exposed to the fishermen's outlook of the business world."
Ms Adams became the general manager in August last year and soon realised the extent of the challenge before her when she learnt the co-op had been through a number of years of large losses.
She has spent the past 18months trying to turn the ship around.
The first big challenges were building a solid team, stabilising the relationship with the bank, consolidating the various arms of the business and ensuring the two retail shops in Yamba and Iluka (the co-op does not operate a shop in Maclean) deliver great local fresh seafood and focus on home-grown, home-cooked products.
Whatever the changes, they seem to be changing the tide.
The co-op this year reported a loss of $315,000 compared with $1.1million the previous year. And the plan this year is to break even.
Ms Adams anticipates it will take three to five years to turn the business around completely and has no plans of leaving.
"I love where I live and I want to stay here as long as my services are wanted or needed," she said.
Clarence River Fishermen's Co-Op is the largest fish co-op on the east coast.
Incorporated in 1945.
Champions of the Yamba king prawn, mullet, school whiting, Clarence River school prawns.
Fuel outlets at Maclean, Iluka and Yamba Boat Harbour (marine pump only).
Fresh and cooked retail shops at Iluka and Yamba.
Big customers include Woolworths, Sydney Fish Market and the Melbourne Fish Markets.
Exports to Japan, Thailand, China and Indonesia.