14/02/2006 - 21:00

FMG fired by vision and empowerment

14/02/2006 - 21:00


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Andrew Forrest’s company structure and management style is steeped in his outback upbringing.

FMG fired by vision and empowerment

Andrew Forrest’s company structure and management style is steeped in his outback upbringing.

It is a combination of vision, drive and empowerment, wrapped within a sales-focused charismatic charm.

“I do love to build a team. Not from the Harvard school, but from the outback,” he told a recent WA Business News Success and Leadership breakfast.

The successful stockbroker, investment banker and managing director CEO of aspiring Pilbara iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, was brought up on the family station near Onslow.

“I learned the importance of team building at an early age while mustering and found out pretty quick that unless everyone was on the same page, it only needed one who wasn’t to bring the whole show undone,” he told the breakfast gathering.

“[A good company] isn’t the approximately $100 billion worth of iron ore in the ground FMG has discovered in the last 18 months, or the equal of that at least by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto; it’s people.

“If you have a vision, bring on board at the beginning the people you will need at the end, people who will get you where you ultimately want to go. Give them an honest explanation about where you want to go.”

People working together as a team was the sum of leadership and membership to arrive at a collective vision, Mr Forrest said.

“I don’t have all the great ideas. I have a few, but they mostly come from the team. Debate the vision until the vision is unified, then establish the steps to that vision.”

However, Mr Forrest said there was no room for cynicism.

“That will bring you undone. Anyone who is not part of that unified vision should leave. It’s not all soft and cuddly.”

Keeping commitment to the vision was vital, he said, and was how FMG had grown from an idea around a dining room table in 2003 to turning the first sod on a $2.5 billion iron ore project.

“Lead the membership; stress and restress the common vision, and it will realise itself. Taking people for granted is part of the fall of man and something any leader should fight.”

Mr Forrest, a past president of Athletics Australia, said he did not do as well in the job as he should have for not adhering to his own philosophy.

“I wanted to sign national swimming coach Don Talbot to unify Australia’s athletics team, but I couldn’t get the likes of Jane Fleming [heptathlete] and others to agree. They argued that a high jumper had nothing to do with a shot putter or with a sprinter,” he said.

“There was a certain miniscule logic to what they were saying and that’s why I like to challenge logic all the time, because it doesn’t always stand.

“At FMG, we have the shot putter, sprinter and the hurdler, and they are all signed onto the vision.”


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