Despite his non-linear career pathway, Brendan Gore’s resources sector roles have provided invaluable experience for his leadership at Peet.
For example the young Mr Gore’s commute to school with a few classmates sets the scene for his developing initiative.
He recalls his route to school at Aquinas College from his home at Rossmoyne was typically by boat, initially rowing the vessel.
He and his friends then pooled their funds and bought a tiny Seagull outboard, which made the trip easier, if not particularly fast.
Recurrent punishment for being late led to further investment in speed, albeit not enough to always avoid getting in trouble with a junior school headmaster fond of discipline.
“We saved up and we got a six-horsepower Evinrude, so we were pretty top of the tree’” Mr Gore said.
“And that got us to school a bit faster, but we were still late for class.”
A sportsman at school, Mr Gore considered pursuing both cricket and football when he graduated.
“I was probably more sports oriented and I was contemplating whether I’d push that, more so the cricket than the football avenue, as a profession.
“As part of that I got into university, but I just went for about a week and it really wasn’t me.
“I thought I just couldn’t handle any more school, probably because I put in a good 12 to 18 months to get into uni and that was a struggle.
“It probably burnt me out.
“Again, I was still ambitious for sport but then it got to a point where it dawned on me, it just wasn’t for me.
“After lengthy discussions with my father I made the call that I could go into the mining industry, and so pretty much within one to two months of leaving school, and doing the first bit of uni, I was up in the mine sites.”
Mr Gore said he started off in gold mining near Westonia in the eastern Wheatbelt, taking on a variety of roles in what was, to a city kid, an eye-opening environment.
“I rocked up there with my brand new King Gee work wear and the guys I was working with, it was all ripped jeans, flannel shirts, long hair, beards, earrings, piercings, tattoos, you name it. It was a wake-up call,” he said.
“I think I washed my clothes that night, the first night I went to site, about 20 times just to make sure they looked old.
“And I was the youngest in workforce by a long way. So I was working with guys 10, 15 even 40 years older than me.”
After about three years working at various sites in different roles, Mr Gore said there was a trigger point that made it clear this kind of work was not the career he wanted.
“I remember that day. It was 4am, it was about -4C, raining, covered in mud, head to toe, trying to fix a pump, and I thought, ‘This isn’t good’. And actually, my offsider, he was about 62, he was a farmer, who was coming off the farm to work in the mines for something new. I just looked at him and I thought, ‘I don’t want to be there at 62’.
“So effectively what that meant was that I made a decision to go back to uni, but I didn’t want to give up working. The money was good. I enjoyed what I did.
“I actually transferred to WAIT (WA Institute of Technology, the precursor to Curtin University) at the time, because you could do your degree by correspondence.”
Mr Gore studied commerce while he continued to work in the bush, overcoming many of the hurdles of an outback existence to do so.
“In those days (there was) no fly-in, fly-out,” he said.
“The only fly-in, fly-out was effectively three months on and one week off. You’d work 12 hours a day, a shift, so I had to do all that.
“But it gave me that discipline I didn’t have at school when I was younger. I matured very quickly – my thinking, behaviour, all that kind of stuff. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for all that.”
After a few years of part-time study he completed his degree full time and then went back out to the mines, taking desk jobs in accounting, finance and administration.
Mr Gore said having operational experience was a significant advantage in many respects.
“Part of my role, apart from running the financial side, was all the admin side. I used to run the single persons’ quarters, and depending on where the mine was we could have a lot of (town) housing … so yeah, you’re actually running a quasi-town as well,” he said.
“And you have to deal with hospitals, schools, a whole range of things, Royal Flying Doctor Service, so it was very broad but exciting.”
Gradually Mr Gore shifted into more corporate roles, such as CFO and company secretarial roles in small mining companies, eventually joining with an engineer to start a listed explorer, which exposed to him the typical activity required to run an ASX-listed entity.
After a series of roles at mining companies in the 1990s, he went to what was Mermaid Marine (now MMA Offshore) in 2000, staying associated with resources but this time in a service business to the oil and gas sector.
He spent five years with Mermaid as the growth in LNG developments started, which involved a strategic change at the business.
“And now I think that the decisions we made turned out to be quite critical. The company went from circa 20 cents to over four bucks. But it repositioned the company,” Mr Gore said.
In 2005 he had the opportunity to join Peet & Co (as it was known then) as CFO, leveraging his experience in the ASX where the business had been listed for about six months.
“Also I think what appealed to me was that they were looking to put in a succession plan at the time,” Mr Gore said.
“They talked about it, there were no guarantees. We had to get there on our own merits; what attracted me was the different space, staying in property, and the company.”
Two years later he succeeded Warwick Hemsley as CEO and has held the role for 11 years, riding the highs and lows of property development in WA and the east coast.
“I joined the company at a time when the WA property market was just starting to take off. That was quite exciting. It’s always easier to move into a new space when the mood and the confidence in the industry is headed in the right direction,” Mr Gore said.
However, there were big challenges for Peet about a year after he took on the job, as global credit markets went into meltdown.
“Property is a long-term business where you can have a lot of capital tied up in the ground,” Mr Gore said.
“We were over-geared and were also one dimensional with WA.
“Before that, I suppose from my mining and oil and gas background, running a company, it’s a bit of a slightly different tactic in the way that it was managed. I’m used to the market side as being short and sharp – big on capital management and costs.
“There were things we put in place that certainly helped us navigate through the GFC.”
“The culture, the mindset of being a listed company that’s property based rather than a private developer,” he said.
A private company can just hunker down, whereas in the public sector it’s all about the price, he added.
A decade on, Mr Gore is well placed to read the market now, and sees WA as having reached the bottom.
“I think that’s a good sign that people believe we’re at the bottom. People are cashed up, prepared to spend, and I think the market has found itself where it should be.”