20/08/2008 - 22:00

Club’s culture provides it with a unique business perspective

20/08/2008 - 22:00

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The Royal Automobile Club, which trades as the RAC, is in a unique position in Western Australia.

Club’s culture provides it with a unique business perspective

The Royal Automobile Club, which trades as the RAC, is in a unique position in Western Australia.

It rides that blurry line between business and community very successfully, competitively challenging pure commercial operators in areas such as insurance while retaining the warm and fuzzy feeling of club.

Many in the commercial sector think of these types of not-for-profit organisations as some sort of sheltered workshops, but the RAC appears to attract a distinct set of achievers not driven only by profits.

It's a fascinating and important culture that many other businesses try to emulate to make their staff feel they are contributing to something beyond an investor's bottom line.

I was interested to see the RAC think of taking its advocacy role further than ever before by looking at subjects beyond what we would fundamentally think of as motoring.

With the RAC's reputation, it could legitimately become a voice in the public transport debate, even positioning itself as some sort of think-tank in that space without necessarily being perceived as a captive of the car lobby.

But after examining the RAC and discussing its place in WA with CEO Terry Agnew, I couldn't help thinking there was still a big role for a motoring-focused organisation, perhaps one that goes beyond advocacy and gets into investment.

Perth is a long way from Detroit, or Tokyo, but it has actually spawned some creative motoring innovations. Oribital's injection technology, Oka's off-road workhorse vehicles, Kinetic's suspension systems and Advanced Engine Components' natural gas technology are all examples.

What better place for RAC to get involved than to help create a hub for automotive excellence, possibly even help develop an infrastructure for electric cars, including solar power?

But advocacy and community are not the full picture.

Mr Agnew acknowledges that there is a fine balance between the community side and the business side.

Right now, he'll have a new test absorbing the insurance division and fully integrating it back into the RAC culture. He will also have a very powerful businessman in insurance head Mike McCarthy coming under his full responsibility for the first time - effectively two CEOs in the one business.

Such changes can create friction and unsettle an organisation.

The challenge for any organisation is to manage such change and prepare itself for the future. Only from a stable platform can advocacy and community driven objectives be successfully driven.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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