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Congratulations to WA’s top 40under40

The judges’ job is getting tougher each year, according to Mark Pownall, who says the problem’s not a dearth of talent, but rather its abundance.

 IF the experience of the 40under40 judges is anything to go by, the supply of talent in WA is clearly inexhaustible.

After three years of scouring WA for applicants to this award, the concerns voiced to us in the early days of the program that we would run out of people have simply proved misguided.

On the contrary, the pool of worthy nominees is widening as the market grasps what 40under40 is all about.

That makes the judges’ lives harder every year.

Of course, this type of competition is always tough.

Unlike an athletics competition, 40under40 is a not a matter of judging performance on a single criterion.

The winners of this year’s event are not the fastest or those who can jump the highest.

They are often all rounders who not only perform successfully in their chosen fields, but they also have a wide variety of other obligations that make them even more valuable to our community.

Some have struggled with hardships that few of us will, thankfully, ever have to encounter.

Others appear to have chosen the toughest assignments and succeeded despite themselves.

So it’s not a case of comparing apples with apples or, indeed, firing the starter’s gun and measuring who got to the finish line first.

At this stage it’s probably worth throwing in a few comments from my fellow judges, as a sample of the overall feel of this year’s 40under40.

“What stood out for me personally is that the candidates were from such wide and diverse backgrounds and different industries, but many had similar basic values and beliefs relating to their success,” Emirates sales manager WA Darren Tyrrell said.

“All of the nominees displayed very high levels of passion, enterprise, innovation, determination and dedication to their businesses, irrespective of whether they worked for themselves or someone else.  A ‘never-say-die’ attitude also appeared to be one of the keys to their success,” said Edith Cowan University executive dean, Faculty of Business and Public Management, Robert Harvey.

“It is not always the person with the best/highest qualifications or the biggest company who will be successful but the person who is able to dream and then go out and chase that dream,” said Curtin University MLM program director Marita Naude.

I can also thank Sally Malay managing director Peter Harold, a 40under40 winner from last year, for his summary of the common themes that emerged from this year’s entries: how important it is to learn by your mistakes; risk takers are rewarded; the need for solid business plans and budgets to avoid cash-flow problems; and the satisfaction people receive from giving something back to the community.

For those who didn’t make it this year, it would be worth reviewing their entries against this criterion to assess whether they might have a chance next year.

While we don’t reveal the names of those who miss out, it is worth noting that – like many of the winners have done in their businesses – there is nothing wrong with getting it wrong the first time and having another go at success.

On that note, I will say that there is a winner in this year’s field who failed to make the 40 last year.

That entrant proves what a difference 12 months can make in a business.

It is also worth touching on this subject for those who won.

As with any such program, the judges do not have 20/20 – or is that 40/40 – foresight.

Not everyone who walks out of here a winner will go on to bigger and better things. Some will fail, as we have seen with a handful of the 80 winners who have walked off with a 40under40 award since 2002.

Does that devalue what we do?

I don’t think so. The 40under40 program seeks outstanding people who we believe will make a difference to WA through business or business-related achievements.

They will inherently be risk takers.

As with all risks there is the possibility of failure. The same must be said for our awards. We take a risk in choosing people so early, in many cases, in their careers. Some of them may stumble along the way.

It would always be easier to wait until these people have succeeded and made their names, when the markets and those who give traditional honours have recognised their measurable achievements.

There are plenty of awards to acknowledge the success of such people, we simply want to shine the spotlight on the next group of up and comers – and we hope that some of the State’s biggest contributors in the future are among our 40under40 winners.

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