Networking 101

In the last post I talked about the importance of keeping the axe sharp.  One way of doing this is to build and strengthen relationships. I have never liked the term networking. To me whenever I hear that word images of self-serving people wanting to get something come immediately to mind. An exaggeration maybe, but I think you get the idea. I much prefer to use the term relationships.

According to dictionary.com  one meaning of the word relationships is connection, association, or involvement. Each of these nouns assumes a two-way street. For there to be a connection, association or involvement with someone means that you are doing something and the other party is doing something. A real relationship involves this two way action.

To build and make relationships stronger requires time and effort on your part. One very effective way to do this is to serve people you want to have a relationship with or put more simply do favours.

Favours don’t have to be big, time consuming or expensive. Usually it is the small random acts of kindness that have the biggest impact. For example, one of my clients complained that they never had enough of the same drinking glasses when they held meetings with external people (like me) – it was embarrassing. It came up one day in conversation and I made a mental note that next time I was in their office (which happened to be 2 weeks later) to bring with me a set of 12 glasses. I left the box of glasses on the desk of my client and went to another meeting. I think they are still talking about it!

By doing favours for people in your current organisation (and sometimes more importantly those outside your employer) you build a reputation as a good person; someone who helps others not just him/herself.  However, all other things being equal (which is code for “if you are doing the right things the right way”) when you need help there should be those around who you can call upon for a favour!

See you next post,

James E

Keeping the axe sharp

I had a coffee a few years back with a well connected chap and we were talking about the importance of relationships in business.

At the outset of the chat the senior chap stated that it was important to keep the axe sharp.  I asked him what he meant by that. He leaned forward in his chair and asked me if I ever had the situation when I had a job to do around the house needing a particular tool I hadn’t used for a long, long time. I go to my shed, find the tool and see that it is blunt, rusty and simply not up to the job at hand. I of course replied (like most honest males out there can attest) yes. He then asked me how I felt at the time. I told him I felt frustrated and angry. Not only did I have to spend more money to buy a tool I already had purchased and owned, but the job would now take me much longer since I would have to go down to the hardware store and choose another tool from the range of dozens they would no doubt stock and try to choose. Aaaarggghhh – what a waste of time and money!

The senior chap nodded, reclined back in his executive leather chair and told me something which made a whole lot of sense. Wouldn’t it have been better to take a little bit of time and care to keep your saw or axe or whatever the tool was sharp and ready to be used just in case you ever need it? The obvious response is yes.

Well that is EXACTLY what needs to be done with the relationships and networks people have and maintain. It is far more effective to invest, build, enhance and help your network when you don’t need any help; rather than expecting your friends and contacts to help you at a moments notice when they haven’t heard you for a long, long time! sound familiar anyone?

As you know I HATE the word networking. I avoid using the word like the plague. The only reason I’m using it here is that people seem to know what it means – sort of. Tune into the next post to understand what networking really is.

Bye for now,

James E

The master of networking (part 3 of 3)

Here is the final installment of the series of a chap who is arguably Australia’s most connected individual.

So what is David Gonski doing today?

Board memberships

Non Executive Director and Member of Remuneration Committee
Non-executive Director of Westfield Management Limited and Member of Remuneration Committee
Chairman and Chairman of Advisory Board
Chairman
Chairman
Chairman of the Board and Member of Remuneration Committee
Director
1985-Present
Non-Executive Director, Member of Audit & Compliance Committee, Member of Nomination Committee and Member of Remuneration Committee
1985-Present
Non Executive Director of Westfield Management Ltd, Member of Audit & Compliance Committee, Member of Remuneration Committee and Member of Nomination Committee
1997-Present
Chairman of the Board, Chairman of Nominations Committee, Chairman of Related Party Committee, Member of Compensation Committee, Member of Audit & Risk Committee and Member of Compliance & Social Responsibility Committee
2002-2007
Former Independent Non-Executive Director
2002-2007
Former Non-Executive Director
2003-Present
Former Non Executive Director, Chairman of Audit Committee and Member of Nominating Committee
2006-Present
Independent Director, Member of Board Audit Committee and Member of Board Compensation & Industrial Relations Committee
2007-Present
Chairman and Chairman of Nomination & Remuneration Committee

Not-for-profit board involvement
  • Chancellor, University of New South Wales, from 2005.David Gonski is the first person to hold the position of Chancellor at UNSW who is also an alumnus of the University.
  • Chair, National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA)
  • Chair, Sydney Theatre Company, from February 2010
  • Ambassador, Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (www.aief.com.au)

Previous positions held include:

There is no doubt about it David Gonski is one busy and connected chap!
See you next time.
James E

The master of networking (part 2 of 3)

We continue the background story of David Gonski …

Santow was Gonski’s first mentor, inviting him to become a summer clerk at law firm Freehills, where Santow was a senior partner. Gonski became a solicitor at Freehills in 1977 and a partner at only 25.

Married to a South African, Kim Santow was a powerful figure in the South African networks of Australia in the 1980s, a time when highly qualified Jewish South African lawyers were populating major Australian law firms, most notably Freehills.

This influence of the South African legal community, once dubbed “the Springbucks”, has now spread into the wider business community, giving Gonski another network of support.

At Freehills, Gonski worked on mergers and acquisitions, advising such companies as Westfield Holdings, a client he brought to the firm along with Santow. Gonski became a Westfield director in 1985.

Media connections followed; he became friendly at Freehills with Richard Longes, who was advising Kerry Stokes on his media interests while Gonski himself was advising Kerry Packer on the privatisation of his Consolidated Press.

But for Gonski, the law was not enough. As Santow has noted, he enjoyed the financial side of law transactions more than the legal side, and quit Freehills in 1986 to establish, with Longes, the investment bank Wentworth Associates – the name inspired by the street where Gonski then lived, in Point Piper.

Westfield Holdings’ chairman Frank Lowy has said it was Gonski’s idea in 1986 to form a new capital-raising and investment vehicle, Westfield Capital Corporation, and Gonski became its managing director. WCC had stakes in ACI, Coles Myer, Bridge Oil and Northern Star, owner of the Ten Network.

Ten proved to be a disaster, leading to the wipe-out of WCC that lost $303 million in 1988-89. WCC’s foray into TV was damaging for Lowy’s reputation. He admitted it was the biggest mistake in Westfield’s 30-year history.

Since the bad old Ten days, Gonski has never been far from the top men in the media, among them Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black, who asked him to advise the Tourang consortium when it bid for John Fairfax Holdings in 1991. Two years later, he became a director of Fairfax.

With those kinds of connections, one thing was missing: the glossy outside interests that Gonski labels, in financier speak, “the not-for-profits”.

These boards appear to have a revolving-door policy of mates. In 1991, when Gonski retired from the St Vincent’s Hospital board, for example, he was replaced by Kim Santow. Five years ago, Gonski replaced Frank Lowy as chairman of trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW, where Santow had also been a trustee.

His “not for profits” began in 1987, when Gonski became chairman of Film Australia, a natural progression from his Freehills’ days when he advised Joe Skrzynski, the former chief executive of the Australian Film Commission. Six years ago, Gonski conducted a review into Commonwealth assistance to the Australian film industry and came into the orbit of the Australia Council in 1999, when he became a member of the Federal Government’s inquiry into the major arts organisations of Australia – the Nugent Review. It was chaired by Dr Helen Nugent, formerly chairwoman of the Australia Council’s Major Organisations Fund and now deputy chairwoman of the Australia Council.

A year ago, the partners of Wentworth Associates – Gonski, Longes and Levy – sold their business to the South African financial services group, Investec, but Gonski says he is staying on indefinitely with the boutique firm as chairman. He has, however, just quit as chairman of another much larger investment bank, Morgan Stanley, but remained a consultant.

Tune into part 3 on Wednesday to read about DG is up to these days.

All my best,

James

The master of networking (part 1 of 3)

Taking a bit of a detour from our core topic I’d like to explore an area that all professional advisers need to be better at doing – networking.

I personally don’t like the term networking. I much prefer something like “building and investing in relationships.”

There is a chap who is a master of building & investing in relationships. Chances are you have heard his name but don’t know much about him. Here is an article that was originally published by The Age newspaper way back in April 2002. It tells the back story of perhaps Australia’s most connected individual, David Gonski.

David Gonski is the “can-do” man of Australia. Want a new director for your board? Gonski can do. Want a new chairman for your arts foundation? Gonski can do. Like the late Lord Goodman of London, and Felix Rohatyn of New York, Gonski is seen as the universal fixer, a lawyer who has made an art form of being almost invisible and yet everywhere, mates with all sides.

Of course, the new chairman of the Australia Council did not get to the centre of his web of influence by accident. Gonski has worked at it from his days at Sydney Grammar School.

His ride to the top has not been accident free, however. He suffered a serious business blow running Frank Lowy’s Westfield Capital Corporation in the 1980s, having to reinvent himself as a hotshot corporate consultant after the company lost millions investing in the Ten Network.

Gonski, 48, speaks financier jargon. He says his new job as chairman of the arts funding body, the Australia Council is “do-able”, a phrase that first emerged from the mouths of junk bond dealers in California in the late 1980s.

For Gonski, it’s also “do-able” to be the chairman of investment advisory firm, Investec Wentworth, and Coca- Cola Amatil; to be a director of John Fairfax Holdings, Westfield Holdings, and the ANZ Banking Group; to be chairman of the National Institute of Dramatic Art; and president of the board of trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. And to take on the Australia Council job that proved too much for his predecessor.

A search of his name in the database of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission reveals 29 pages of companies of which he is, or has been, a director or shareholder.

The Gonski circuit of influence began with his well-connected parents, Polish neurosurgeon Dr Alexander Gonski, and South African Helene Blume, a relationship counsellor who is still in practice and has written a book on grandparenting. With his siblings, Lisa, and twin brothers, Steve and Peter, David Gonski migrated from Cape Town to Australia with his parents in 1961, when he was seven.

David Gonski is married to a doctor, Boston-born dermatologist Orli Wargon. His brother, Peter, is also a doctor, specialising in aged care.

David Gonski was a champion debater at the Sydney power network-ers’ school, Sydney Grammar, where he is now a trustee. Instead of the usual next step for a Grammar boy – that is, the University of Sydney – Gonski chose the new law faculty at the University of New South Wales. His former colleague, Justice Kim Santow of the NSW Supreme Court, once told me: “He was one of the first of the UNSW law/commerce graduates. They were quite a different breed in training from those who came from Sydney University. They were numerate, understood balance sheets, had a capacity to apply the law in a commercial context. People in those law classes were asked ‘what if . . .?’ “

See you next post for part 2 of the David Gonski story.

All my best,

James E

The Rolls Royce of Networking (3 of 3)

Here is the final installment of the series of a chap who is arguably Australia’s most connected individual.

So what is David Gonski doing today?

Board memberships

Non Executive Director and Member of Remuneration Committee
Non-executive Director of Westfield Management Limited and Member of Remuneration Committee
Chairman and Chairman of Advisory Board
Chairman
Chairman
Chairman of the Board and Member of Remuneration Committee
Director
1985-Present
Non-Executive Director, Member of Audit & Compliance Committee, Member of Nomination Committee and Member of Remuneration Committee
1985-Present
Non Executive Director of Westfield Management Ltd, Member of Audit & Compliance Committee, Member of Remuneration Committee and Member of Nomination Committee
1997-Present
Chairman of the Board, Chairman of Nominations Committee, Chairman of Related Party Committee, Member of Compensation Committee, Member of Audit & Risk Committee and Member of Compliance & Social Responsibility Committee
2002-2007
Former Independent Non-Executive Director
2002-2007
Former Non-Executive Director
2003-Present
Former Non Executive Director, Chairman of Audit Committee and Member of Nominating Committee
2006-Present
Independent Director, Member of Board Audit Committee and Member of Board Compensation & Industrial Relations Committee
2007-Present
Chairman and Chairman of Nomination & Remuneration Committee

Not-for-profit board involvement
  • Chancellor, University of New South Wales, from 2005.David Gonski is the first person to hold the position of Chancellor at UNSW who is also an alumnus of the University.
  • Chair, National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA)
  • Chair, Sydney Theatre Company, from February 2010
  • Ambassador, Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (www.aief.com.au)

Previous positions held include:

There is no doubt about it David Gonski is one busy and connected chap!
See you next time.
James E

The Rolls Royce of Networking (2 of 3)

We continue the background story of David Gonski …

Santow was Gonski’s first mentor, inviting him to become a summer clerk at law firm Freehills, where Santow was a senior partner. Gonski became a solicitor at Freehills in 1977 and a partner at only 25.

Married to a South African, Kim Santow was a powerful figure in the South African networks of Australia in the 1980s, a time when highly qualified Jewish South African lawyers were populating major Australian law firms, most notably Freehills.

This influence of the South African legal community, once dubbed “the Springbucks”, has now spread into the wider business community, giving Gonski another network of support.

At Freehills, Gonski worked on mergers and acquisitions, advising such companies as Westfield Holdings, a client he brought to the firm along with Santow. Gonski became a Westfield director in 1985.

Media connections followed; he became friendly at Freehills with Richard Longes, who was advising Kerry Stokes on his media interests while Gonski himself was advising Kerry Packer on the privatisation of his Consolidated Press.

But for Gonski, the law was not enough. As Santow has noted, he enjoyed the financial side of law transactions more than the legal side, and quit Freehills in 1986 to establish, with Longes, the investment bank Wentworth Associates – the name inspired by the street where Gonski then lived, in Point Piper.

Westfield Holdings’ chairman Frank Lowy has said it was Gonski’s idea in 1986 to form a new capital-raising and investment vehicle, Westfield Capital Corporation, and Gonski became its managing director. WCC had stakes in ACI, Coles Myer, Bridge Oil and Northern Star, owner of the Ten Network.

Ten proved to be a disaster, leading to the wipe-out of WCC that lost $303 million in 1988-89. WCC’s foray into TV was damaging for Lowy’s reputation. He admitted it was the biggest mistake in Westfield’s 30-year history.

Since the bad old Ten days, Gonski has never been far from the top men in the media, among them Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black, who asked him to advise the Tourang consortium when it bid for John Fairfax Holdings in 1991. Two years later, he became a director of Fairfax.

With those kinds of connections, one thing was missing: the glossy outside interests that Gonski labels, in financier speak, “the not-for-profits”.

These boards appear to have a revolving-door policy of mates. In 1991, when Gonski retired from the St Vincent’s Hospital board, for example, he was replaced by Kim Santow. Five years ago, Gonski replaced Frank Lowy as chairman of trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW, where Santow had also been a trustee.

His “not for profits” began in 1987, when Gonski became chairman of Film Australia, a natural progression from his Freehills’ days when he advised Joe Skrzynski, the former chief executive of the Australian Film Commission. Six years ago, Gonski conducted a review into Commonwealth assistance to the Australian film industry and came into the orbit of the Australia Council in 1999, when he became a member of the Federal Government’s inquiry into the major arts organisations of Australia – the Nugent Review. It was chaired by Dr Helen Nugent, formerly chairwoman of the Australia Council’s Major Organisations Fund and now deputy chairwoman of the Australia Council.

A year ago, the partners of Wentworth Associates – Gonski, Longes and Levy – sold their business to the South African financial services group, Investec, but Gonski says he is staying on indefinitely with the boutique firm as chairman. He has, however, just quit as chairman of another much larger investment bank, Morgan Stanley, but remained a consultant.

Tune into part 3 on Friday to read about DG is up to these days.

All my best,

James

The Rolls Royce of Networking (1 of 3)

Taking a bit of a detour from our core topic I’d like to explore an area that all professional advisers need to be better at doing – networking.

I personally don’t like the term networking. I much prefer something like “building and investing in relationships.”

There is a chap who is a master of building & investing in relationships. Chances are you have heard his name but don’t know much about him. Here is an article that was originally published by The Age newspaper way back in April 2002. It tells the back story of perhaps Australia’s most connected individual, David Gonski.

David Gonski is the “can-do” man of Australia. Want a new director for your board? Gonski can do. Want a new chairman for your arts foundation? Gonski can do. Like the late Lord Goodman of London, and Felix Rohatyn of New York, Gonski is seen as the universal fixer, a lawyer who has made an art form of being almost invisible and yet everywhere, mates with all sides.

Of course, the new chairman of the Australia Council did not get to the centre of his web of influence by accident. Gonski has worked at it from his days at Sydney Grammar School.

His ride to the top has not been accident free, however. He suffered a serious business blow running Frank Lowy’s Westfield Capital Corporation in the 1980s, having to reinvent himself as a hotshot corporate consultant after the company lost millions investing in the Ten Network.

Gonski, 48, speaks financier jargon. He says his new job as chairman of the arts funding body, the Australia Council is “do-able”, a phrase that first emerged from the mouths of junk bond dealers in California in the late 1980s.

For Gonski, it’s also “do-able” to be the chairman of investment advisory firm, Investec Wentworth, and Coca- Cola Amatil; to be a director of John Fairfax Holdings, Westfield Holdings, and the ANZ Banking Group; to be chairman of the National Institute of Dramatic Art; and president of the board of trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. And to take on the Australia Council job that proved too much for his predecessor.

A search of his name in the database of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission reveals 29 pages of companies of which he is, or has been, a director or shareholder.

The Gonski circuit of influence began with his well-connected parents, Polish neurosurgeon Dr Alexander Gonski, and South African Helene Blume, a relationship counsellor who is still in practice and has written a book on grandparenting. With his siblings, Lisa, and twin brothers, Steve and Peter, David Gonski migrated from Cape Town to Australia with his parents in 1961, when he was seven.

David Gonski is married to a doctor, Boston-born dermatologist Orli Wargon. His brother, Peter, is also a doctor, specialising in aged care.

David Gonski was a champion debater at the Sydney power network-ers’ school, Sydney Grammar, where he is now a trustee. Instead of the usual next step for a Grammar boy – that is, the University of Sydney – Gonski chose the new law faculty at the University of New South Wales. His former colleague, Justice Kim Santow of the NSW Supreme Court, once told me: “He was one of the first of the UNSW law/commerce graduates. They were quite a different breed in training from those who came from Sydney University. They were numerate, understood balance sheets, had a capacity to apply the law in a commercial context. People in those law classes were asked ‘what if . . .?’ “

See you on Wednesday for part 2 of the David Gonski story.

All my best,

James E

“Do you know anyone … ?” (part 1 of 2)

I was in a meeting earlier today with a client talking about some upcoming projects we are working on together. Towards the end of the meeting my client asked me the question “Do you know anyone …?”

I have heard these four simple words thousands of times during my working life – in fact its how I feed my family!

As a headhunter/executive searcher the bulk of my work involves broking relationships between various parties. For the first half of my search career it was bringing together employer and potential employee, however, in recent years I’ve been the “glue” between various business parties wanting to achieve a mutual outcome.

Anyway, back to my client meeting. My client asked me if I knew anyone that worked in a specific field within the Australian Agribusiness industry. My response (always) in this type of exchange is yes.

As I left the meeting and started to reflect on my client’s need, I thought how many of your accounting clients need that same type of help. People, be they business owners or employees, tend to trust their accountants and often go to them for advice, financial and  otherwise (see the 26 January post and read about Sandra’s story).

It is clear from the posts contained in this blog that clients are wanting more and more from their accountants, lawyers and other advisers. For example, what if one of your clients asked you “do you know anyone …?” As a trusted adviser is it really good enough to give an outright “No …  I don’t” without even trying. Is that really good enough?

Now lets not be ridiculous about this. If a client comes asking you if you know anyone who can teach him/her pole dancing then you can safely say that you don’t. (Unless of course you do which is kind of funny on several different levels 🙂 ).

However, if a client comes seeking some help with an introduction to someone with marketing expertise or web development skills or legal knowledge about a particular area or anything else that will help him/her in their business and/or personal life wouldn’t it be better for both parties if you were able to help? Your client would be happy and be grateful to you; and would have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with your client. Not a bad outcome.

I’ll share with you in the next post one of the ways I get to know people that is both quick and inexpensive. Well worth reading!

Keep smiling and bye for now,

James E