President's Message

Stick to your knitting & your people power!

Companies such as nib have become so familiar to us that we seldom think twice about their small beginnings in Newcastle. When established by BHP steelworkers back in 1952 the aim was to have the fund support people of the Hunter. The founders could never have imagined it would grow into such a formidable brand with over $2 billion in revenue, an international presence and a workforce of over 1,200.

One of the many tips shared at our July luncheon by nib CEO, Mark Fitzgibbon, was to ‘stick to your knitting’. This being one of the keys to success for nib. But I will go further and add that we certainly do not want you to nod off in the process. A change in wool colour or needle size with an array of knitted items to choose from is recommended. It is an analogy that works. In simple terms it means that when faced with decisions it can be tempting for those in business to get carried away but sticking to your mission and core values keeps you firmly navigating down the path to success regardless of technology and product advancement.

I know some readers will disagree but I suggest it is the minority that find success outside their mission alignment. I am by no means suggesting that constant change and experimentation should be avoided; on the contrary. But defining your mission and sticking to it can be an essential starting point. I take this opportunity to remind you that sticking to your knitting can also involve sticking to the value you place on ‘creative capital’ which is needed to be a driving force for innovation and development.

In simple terms a happy collective body of creative thinkers whose ideas can stimulate economic growth and motivate those around them. Recently I had to research the subject of creative capital and I came across many diverse opinions but one consistent message keeps resurfacing: value people and make this an integral part of your mission. Take, for example, technological development and the ever increasing way it is enabling us to do business and change every aspect of our daily lives. We need to remember that it is people who make technology useful, not the other way around. What makes companies go from good to great is when they recognise that 95 per cent of their assets walk out the front door each night and it is good management that brings them back motivated the next morning. As reminded at our July luncheon ‘we are all flat out’ and therefore often make fatal assumptions such as: innovation equals technology, competitive advantage can last forever, markets are linear and fairly predictable and consumers are rational. We also make assumptions about the value of our people whilst we are busy concentrating on deliverables. Employee loyalty and enthusiasm transcends into customer loyalty which leads to bigger profits and larger budgets to fund innovation and development and in turn leads to happier employees and even happier customers.

A few years ago I was asked to contribute my view of Newcastle in an opinion piece for a local publication. At the time my answer was this: I look at Newcastle like my teenagers, I know how wonderful they are underneath but if they would just grow up a little, get their greasy hair cut and spend a little less time on the couch the rest of the world may also be impressed.

On Tuesday, 9 August 2016 we have put together a panel who will hopefully reiterate how well our City is growing and what we can expect in the not too distant future, particularly regarding the regeneration of development in the Honeysuckle precinct.

I look forward to seeing you for lunch,

Jo Bright | 2016 President