Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Dr David Griffiths was awarded a Bachelor of Economics with First Class Honours from UWA in 1973 and a Master of Economics from ANU in 1976. David was a member of the Senate of UWA for 12 years retiring as Pro Chancellor in 2008. He joined the Board of Perth Festival in 2001 and stepped down as Deputy Chairman in 2015. David was award an honorary Doctor of Economics by UWA in 2009.

After graduating, David worked as an Economist with Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, he later worked for Mount Newman Mining and the Cliffs Robe River in senior financial positions before becoming the Group Treasurer of Robert Holmes a Court’s Bell group of companies in 1981. In this role he was a member of the executive committee and ran the research, share trading and finance functions of the Group through offices in Perth, Melbourne, London and New York. David later went on to become a major shareholder and Executive Chairman of Stock Broker Porter Western Limited which was later sold to Macquarie Bank. David worked with Macquarie for 6 years. Since that time David has been a Director and Chairman of a number of ASX listed and Not for Profit companies.

Please see below his address to attendees of the 2019 Business School Awards held on Thursday 23 May:

Firstly, I would like to congratulate all of the award winners. As life goes on there are very few occasions where you receive an award for your success. So, enjoy the moment.

I would like to spend the short time I have available today to give you a very brief overview of some of the things I have learnt along the way during my career in the hope that they may be of some use to you.

1. Don’t be too dogmatic about what the future will look like. It will almost certainly differ from what you expect it to be.

It is usually not as good or as bad as commentators would have you believe. Change often comes more slowly than you expect and sometimes just comes completely from left field.  Like me, you may often be surprised by how little things change in 2 years and how much they have changed in 5 years.

2. Most people only get a handful of opportunities that can become game changers for them.

It is important to recognise an opportunity when it comes and seize it. If you succeed with an opportunity, do not underestimate the role that luck and privilege play in the outcome (there are very few people who enjoy two great successes in life).

If you fail, recognise failure, do what you can to ameliorate the consequences, learn what you can from the experience and move on.

The military approach which asks ‘What happened? What should have happened? What did we learn?’ is a pretty good starting place for handling failure.

I should also warn you to beware of the “living dead”. These projects are more dangerous than a failure. They are the projects which will forever require just a bit more time or money to succeed and mostly end up just draining your life blood and resources. Often only non-invested people can recognize the “living dead” and encourage you to drive a stake through its heart to end its curse.

3. Listen more than you speak but make sure you do speak .

The cleverest person I ever worked with was famous for being an inquisitive listener (he would draw all possible relevant information from a wide range of people), he would form his view and finally speak and when he spoke his ideas could be breathtaking.

When you are speaking you are giving away information. When you are actively listening, you are being gifted something valuable, often at no cost.

The most valuable information will come from people who oppose or challenge your views. You will often not learn much from people who agree with you.

When you form a view, test it on others and have the courage to change your view if new information makes it clear that your current view is wrong. But in the end do speak, there are no prizes for remaining forever silent.

4. I have learnt when leading negotiations to recognise the power of not speaking and the power of saying ‘no’ .

Many people find silence in a negotiation really uncomfortable and will race to fill the void. It can be amazing what the other side will say and concede to avoid an awkward silence.

My other observation with negotiations is do not to be afraid to say ‘no’… it is interesting to see what the other side will do when you say ‘no’ and you can usually turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ when it suits you. The odd crisis in a negotiation can be extremely useful .

5. You are your greatest economic asset .

Invest in your-self as you would any valuable asset. Each year set aside the time and money to improve your education or life experience and to maintain your health and fitness.

This is particularly important when you are busy with your day job, where years can go by, where you underinvest in you.

6. Choose your industry carefully and early in your career review the choice you have made .

Over time you will be defined and identified by that industry and it will become harder to change. A poor choice which leads you into a declining industry can prove to be very costly.

7. Treat people with respect and in an ethical manner.

Your moral compass will be tested by organisations and by adverse situations. This will be the time when you most need the courage to stand by your ethics.

Beware of other people trying to impose their standards on you. Be your own measure.

It is amazing over time how an ethical decision turns out to be the best financial decision.

8. Be cautious when associating with negative people.

The world is full of people who can endlessly describe a problem but cannot not solve it or they will tell you all the reasons why something cannot be done. The trick is to team with positive people who search for answers and are prepared to do the hard work and take the risks required to find the right answer.

9. Value your family and friends . Don’t neglect them when you are busy.

You will have bad days, you will give your all to a job only to find you are irrelevant to that organisation the moment you leave, you will spend long periods of time away from home but always remember families and friends are the ones that will help you through sickness and hard times and provide you with the strength to keep on going. In the end, the job is just a job and plenty of other people will pick up where you left off.

10. Give back to your community

Become involved in helping solve some of the big issues facing your community whether that be through donations or time spent in the Not-For-Profit, charity, welfare or arts sector.

Some of the most rewarding experiences of your life will come from these activities.

Finally, I have always found some value in a saying by the famous spruiker Zig Ziglar.

He said:

Expect the Best.

Prepare for the worst.

Capitalise on what comes.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today.

Once again congratulations on your achievements. I wish you the best of luck, health and success as you face the very exciting opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Media references

Rachael Chamberlain (UWA Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education) (+61 8) 6488 5863


Awards and Prizes — Business and Industry — Events
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education