01/08/2016 - 06:00

Leadership transition’s creative edge

01/08/2016 - 06:00

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Changes at Amana Living’s helm highlight the different circumstances facing each sector of the economy.

Leadership transition’s creative edge
GRACIOUS EXIT: Stephanie Buckland takes over Amana Living from Ray Glickman, who has been there for 12 years. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Changes at Amana Living’s helm highlight the different circumstances facing each sector of the economy.

There's a certain synergy in the transition at the top of Amana Living, with Stephanie Buckland’s arrival this month as CEO at the not-for-profit business to replace Ray Glickman.

Ms Buckland comes into the role after six years as head of state government agency Tourism WA, while Mr Glickman has quit after 12 years at the helm of Amana to pursue some consulting and focus on writing, following his first effort in 2014, the novel Reality.

Tourism marketing and fiction writing both require varying degrees of creativity; at the very least they are weaving stories that stimulate the imagination.

Perhaps that is suggestive of what’s required of a CEO at the top of a sector undergoing rapid and significant change.

Ms Buckland believes that creativity and innovation are already embedded in Amana, something she says is necessary for the organisation to deal with the disruption taking place as the industry shifts from centralised government decision making to a consumer-driven model.

“Everything I have heard has been positive about the organisation’s culture, in particular the focus on caring for the residents, the clients, and doing that in a very creative and innovative way, and I think that is going to be very important,” Ms Buckland told Business News.

“Increasingly there will be competition in the industry and we have customers becoming more discerning.”

Experience at the top

While Amana’s leadership changeover comes at a challenging time for the business, it is by no means a regular occurrence in the broader NFP business sector or even in the more specific aged care industry.

After 12 years in the job, Mr Glickman has beaten the current average for the NFP business sector’s CEOs by around two years, when looking at the top 20 organisations by revenue.

Some of his industry peers in that time were Penny Flett, who ran Brightwater Care Group for 11 years, and Stuart Flynn, who headed Southern Cross Care WA for 15 years. Outdistancing them all is Vaughan Harding, who has run Juniper since 1992 when it was Uniting Church Homes.

Only the leaders of major private businesses significantly surpass that longevity. At nearly 15 years on average, WA’s 20 leading private enterprises by revenue have staggering stability at the top, reflecting the fact that the state’s biggest unlisted companies are often so youthful that many founders are still in charge.

With an average CEO tenure of seven years and eight months, the state’s major charitable organisations show a moderate degree of turnover. Nulsen CEO Gordon Trewern is the standout with 22 years as leader, just one year more than Anglicare WA CEO Ian Carter.

The world of listed companies is somewhat divided. CEOs of the biggest industrial public companies leaders have more than 11 years on average, but their locally headquartered cousins at the big end of the resources sector are somewhat less sticky at the top with around five years and eight months in charge on average.

The industrial companies’ average is boosted by the recent arrival of Brett McKeon. His Australian Finance Group only listed last year, but Mr McKeon has run the company since founding it in 1994.

Remarkably for company listed for 19 years, Peter Cumins has run Cash Converters International for almost as long, since 1995.

Just one public resources company leader, OM Holdings executive chair Low N Tong, has been in his role prior to the turn of the century; two – Atlas Iron’s David Flanagan and Iluka ResourcesDavid Robb – have announced their impending departure before the end of the calendar year.

Only the key players at the state government have a shorter duration as the chief executive, with five years and three months being the average at the WA’s biggest 20 business enterprises and autonomous agencies, and just two months longer at the state’s biggest 20 departments.

In terms of stand-alone government businesses only VenuesWest’s David Etherton, Mid West Ports Authority’s Peter Klein and Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s Richard Burt have been around since the last Labor government.

State government departments are often without permanent leadership. The departments of housing, transport and agriculture currently don’t have permanent directors general in place.

Tourist marketing

Ms Buckland comes from that world, although Tourism WA is a small department, sitting at 39th in terms of staff.

She readily admits the handover from her predecessor, Richard Muirhead, was lacking due to the sudden nature of his departure. Ms Buckland, previously a market executive at the department, was acting in the role of CEO for more than a year before she was appointed permanently in 2011.

Both she and Mr Glickman felt a proper period of overlap was better for the business, which has spent more than a year in the process of replacing him.

“The nature of the transition is nice, it is sensible and civilised and it is going to work well,” Mr Glickman said.

Ms Buckland brings not just experience from government – a key player in the heavily regulated world of aged care and retirement accommodation – but also a strong background in consumer marketing of tourism, financial services and pharmaceutical products.

This marketing knowledge will be even more necessary than ever, Mr Glickman believes, as further deregulation provides more choice for the clientele who, in turn, are demanding more for their money, accelerating competition within an industry that is much less siloed than it was.

“The consumer is calling the shots,” he said.

By comparison, Amana Living had different priorities in 2004 when, as Anglican Homes, it recruited Mr Glickman from local government.

He said the organisation was bracing for the arrival of the baby boomer generation and grappling with how to deal with that; it needed better internal measures to determine its performance and wanted to open up and create a more engaged, transparent and democratic culture.

“It is probably not too dissimilar from what all the major not for profits generally have been trying to do in the past 10 years,” Mr Glickman said.

* Editor's note: the reference to Lion's Eye Institute in the accompanying graphic should read David Mackey, not David Massey.

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