17/05/2018 - 14:49

Cleaning up, clearing out

17/05/2018 - 14:49

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Entrepreneur lunch: Navitas managing director Rod Jones recently found a simple way to end in-house confusion about his phased handover to successor David Buckingham.

Gordon Martin (left), Patricia Kailis and John Rothwell have taken different approaches to succession. Attila Csaszar

Navitas managing director Rod Jones recently found a simple way to end in-house confusion about his phased handover to successor David Buckingham.

Having run the company since inception, Mr Jones said staff kept on approaching him, even though Mr Buckingham had been group chief executive since the beginning of March.

“Part of the problem was I’d been going into the office every day,” Mr Jones said.

“I made a deliberate decision one day; I went in and I completely cleaned out the office.”

Mr Jones was one of five Perth business leaders who spoke at an EY Entrepreneur of the Year lunch about leadership succession.

He will complete the handover on June 30, when Mr Buckingham will become managing director of the global education services business.

Mr Jones, who turns 70 in November, said the phased handover was an effective process but wasn’t always easy.

“In my head I know I’m doing exactly the right thing, the big problem is the heart,” he said.

“When you build something from zero, it’s not easy to let it go.”

Mr Jones said he planned a short break but would continue as a non-executive director.

“The day I step down I will be a director and will stay on as a director.”

John Rothwell was executive chairman and chief executive at shipbuilding business Austal for 20 years, before moving into a non-executive role in 2008.

He still spends a few hours at Austal most days and says the relationship with chief executive David Singleton is working well.

“We make sure before any major decision that we are on the same page,” Mr Rothwell said.

“I focus on the strategy.

“You don’t want to get in the way of the CEO or cause confusion among the workforce about who is in charge.”

Patricia Kailis told the lunch she was still the governing director of MG Kailis Group.

“We’re functioning well as a family business,” Mrs Kailis said.

“The four children are directors and owners and I have the governing share.

“There’s been a few times in the last few years they’ve said, ‘whatever you do, mum, don’t give up that share’.”

Mrs Kailis said bringing non-family members into board roles had not been a success.

“If it’s a close-knit family business, it’s very difficult to change those (positions) without losing the values of your company,” she said.

“The decisions that really needed to be made were made by the family.”

Gordon Martin, who spent many years as chairman and chief executive at family-owned Coogee Chemicals, has had a different experience.

He has stepped back to a part-time executive director’s role, with his son Tim Martin as executive chairman and non-family member Grant Lukey as chief executive.

“We have good healthy discussions but they have to make the decisions,” Mr Martin said.

“Part of the problem is that you bring your kids up to be independent and think for themselves, and they don’t always agree with you,” he added.

Prendiville Group chairman Peter Prendiville currently has one son, Garrett, working in the family business and said his other children were free to choose their own path.

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