After nine years as a top policy adviser to Mark McGowan, Jo Gaines is going into business with her sister, well-known boardroom adviser Alison Gaines.
The two sisters will trade together as Gaines Advisory – a business established one year ago by Alison after she stepped down as chief executive of C-suite recruitment firm Gerard Daniels.
The expanded business will add to the high profile of the family in Perth’s business community.
The third sister, Elizabeth Gaines, is managing director of mining giant Fortescue Metals Group.
Gaines Advisory will draw on the very different backgrounds of the two directors, with Alison focusing on governance and recruitment while Jo will provide advice on business strategy and policy.
“I think there is a lot of synergy there,” Alison told Business News.
“Essentially a good organisation has good strategy, good governance and good talent.
“I can look after the governance and talent dimensions and Jo looks after the strategic dimension.”
Alison said she had often observed a need for more strategic support during her work with boards of directors.
“I’ve dealt with many people who are very commercially sound and business savvy but they struggle with strategy or they don’t fully understand public policy or community issues.”
Jo Gaines emphasised she would not be working as a lobbyist, despite having extensive experience in the corridors of power.
She spent 25 years in the union movement before becoming Mr McGowan’s deputy chief of staff in 2012 when he was opposition leader.
She continued in that role after Labor won power at the 2017 state election, working with the premier across nearly every policy area.
Jo left the premier’s office in March after Labor was re-elected with a record majority.
This coincided with the departure of the premier’s long-serving chief of staff Guy Houston, who now works as a strategic adviser for Kerry Stokes’ private company Australian Capital Equity.
Jo said she decided months before the election to pursue a career change.
In her new role, she expects to canvass a wide range of issues.
“Its providing strategic support, helping organisations work through complex problems, identifying how they can resolve issues, working with stakeholders,” she said.
Jo said this would include helping with community consultation.
“I’ve done a lot of work in regional communities across the state so I’m keen to have a regional focus as well.”
She gave the example of planning for the future of Collie, where the expected wind down of coal mining will have big implications not just for workers in the industry but their families and young people seeking a future and training opportunities.
“It becomes a whole different conversation and a much more rounded conversation.”
Another example was the WA Jobs Act, which Labor has used to try and get more local content on big projects including more opportunities for SMEs through the supply chain.
She described it as a way of leveraging opportunities from existing projects, rather than spending more money to try and get better economic outcomes.
“People usually want a quick resolution to their problems,” Jo said.
“Sometimes you need to pause and ask different questions.
“I can help organisations think differently and find different solutions.”
Jo said she was also interested in seeking board roles.
Alison’s board experience includes chairing ASX-listed tech company Hiremii, being a director of Blackstone Minerals and governor of the College of Law and most recently becoming the independent chair of the nomination committee at Hockey Australia.