Darren Turner (ILF2015)


Institution: IESE Business School
Course: Global CEO Program

I was fortunate to be approached by Geoff Vogt in 2014 and encouraged to apply for an ILF grant for overseas study to grow our business by going global. I am very grateful to both Geoff and the ILF as the experience and knowledge gained from the 2015/16 Global CEO program has been life changing for me personally and has had significant and positive effect on our business almost immediately.

I am both a shareholder and the Managing Director of SA WOOL products, which has manufacturing businesses in Naracoorte and Adelaide. The main business and brand is MiniJumbuk, a wool bedding range that focusses on high quality and Australian made. All products are manufactured in Naracoorte and sold throughout Australia in leading department stores and specialty bedding and homewares retailers. Over 90% of all sales are outside South Australia including exports and the business employs around 50 people in Naracoorte and 15 in Adelaide.

I chose the Global CEO Program which promises and delivers a transformational journey for seasoned executives from distinct backgrounds, industries and cultures. The program consists of one week modules in three top-ranked business Universities — IESE Business School in Barcelona, the Wharton School in Philadelphia, and the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. These are spaced about three months apart so it is easy to take the week out of your business and focus 100% on the course.

Each University has world class facilities with excellent course material and high calibre lecturers from around the globe that are flown in just for this course. I thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience which engages all participants and draws on their vast knowledge and experience so it is a unique learning experience for both the participants and the Universities. There are wonderful case studies and group presentations throughout the journey and lifelong friendships are formed.

As part of the course you get to take either a business or personal challenge and each participant gets their own small peer group to help solve their challenge. This was the real bonus for me as my challenge related to how to go global and the questions I posed to my peer group were as follows:

1. What is the best strategy to take a niche consumer products brand internationally and how do we find the right people to partner with to achieve this goal?

2. What does the business require within itself in order to create and support a successful international business model.

3. What do I need to be aware of when setting up an international distribution model and what are the do‘s and don’ts?

4. What other pitfalls or opportunities do I need to consider based on your own experiences?

My peer group were exceptional and stayed with me through the three modules. We all helped each other with our challenges and presented our milestones at each course.

I would recommend this course to other executives who have a global focus. We learned quickly that whatever business you are in you need to think global. For me personally the course was life changing as I was exposed to many high calibre people in the teaching and learning environment the Global CEO Program delivered. My decision making has been enhanced from the knowledge and experience gained and our business has grown in sales and profit so the payback has been tenfold in less than one year later.

Thank you again to the Industry Leaders Fund for supporting me and the many other business leaders in South Australia.