What an amazing opportunity and privilege it has been. This week in Shanghai has brought to a conclusion six months of the Global CEO Program. It is touted as a transformational journey, and in many ways it could be said that the course lives up to that claim.
Each of the three weeks together provided academic exposure to some of the best minds on a range of topics. The real learning, however, comes from the participants: motivated and experienced business leaders from around the globe. Most are CEOs of their organisations, and each has a wealth of knowledge to share, providing a unique view of the world.
I am humbled by the ready and friendly acceptance of the group, a sentiment I know shared by many. With 42 participants from 22 countries the diversity is extraordinary.
In São Paulo we were exposed to the possibilities that abound in not only Latin America, but also the developing world: the band of countries spanning from China and India, through Africa and Latin America. This region will witness the development of a middle class three times its current size. Consumption is driven by this sector, and the enormous growth provides opportunities for those fast enough to serve these people. The exposure to Brazil was particularly valuable for me; I had long believed Brazil to be a market we should target with our seedbed preparation tools. The message was that Brazil is a very difficult place to do business, not only because of industry protections, but also because of a cultural nuance which amounts to trying to build on shifting sands.
Case studies looked at unique and winning business models such as those of Aldi, Porsche and Big Cola, each with absolute focus on a market niche or an efficiency, driven not by grand design but by founding necessity.
In Philadelphia we focused on economics, not to the exclusion of all else but this was the specialty: some useful take home tools for understanding the value creation in your business; some insights into the way top investors view business opportunities; a lot of horizon broadening with case studies on some of the super models in on-line, retail etc. The Wharton campus and staff were excellent and the week included studies at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, drawing comparisons between great innovators in the art world and disruptive and innovative behaviour in business.
The Shanghai module is one that every business in Australia should do. I have long held a positive view of the Chinese people, but a typically ignorant western understanding of the country itself. Transformational is truly how I would describe my new understanding of China. The vision of the Central Government, now in their twelfth five year plan, is open, pragmatic and with a clear strategy for the long term benefit of the people and the country.
China today is consumer driven, prosperous and growing fast. E-commerce is booming, living standards are rising and there is an enormous awareness of the environmental damage and pollution that has beset the country. It is perhaps one of the most decentralised forms of government on the planet. National policy is certainly driven from Beijing, but each province, and even principality, has significant control.
In CEIBS, the Chinese European International Business School, discussion was open and frank. There was a feeling that a genuine “warts and all” discussion was allowed. The only signs that we were in a controlled society came with the absence of Google, Facebook and Twitter. The Chinese have their own versions of social networking and search, not state owned, all private enterprise. China has an extraordinary uptake of mobile phones. There are over a billion mobile phones; the 800 000 people classed as poor have access to on-line services that lack of local infrastructure can-not otherwise provide.
Infrastructure in the tier one cities is amazing, putting many western cities to shame. There is undeniably horrible pollution, but that aside, there are green spaces, corridors of natural beauty and stunning architecture. The remaining “old” China is certainly under threat of development in the larger cities. Chinese are nothing if not pragmatic; the improvements in sanitation and living standards are welcomed, but sometimes at the cost of community and tradition.
I have come away with the chance to access a wonderful network of people around the globe. Engineers, private equity, manufacturing, utilities, petrochemical, construction, finance, digital, events, luxury retail, distribution, electronics, innovation and baking were all represented and are all willing to help each other: a great resource and one that is up to me to develop.
As mentioned earlier, this has been a great privilege and both a humbling and mind expanding opportunity, dare I say, transformational.
This wonderful journey has been made possible by the Industry Leaders Fund. As the Managing Director of a rapidly growing business, and one that seeks continuous improvement in all that we do, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to develop my skills. Kelly Engineering is an export based business, and I believe our continued growth is reliant on expanding our overseas markets. This international focus led me to seek a course that would provide networking and personal development opportunities. It had to be accessible both in financial and time commitments for our business. It was a stretch for us even with the ILF grant, but entirely outside our reach without it.
I found the ILF grant process to be supportive, encouraging and even inspiring, inspiring in so much as I would not have considered myself worthy of a course like the Global CEO program without the belief that the ILF team had in me. The financial support made the program possible, but the emotional support is what really made it happen. Thank you, I believe it has been an excellent investment in our company’s future.