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Navigating bumps in the road

Seven business leaders reveal the truth behind the maxim that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

The road to the top of any field of endeavour rarely runs smoothly. Obstacles to success are often par for the course; here, seven leaders look back on some of the prickliest ones they’ve yet faced.

Robert Lo, President & CEO, RDF Feed, Livestock and Foods, Inc.

“Two of my farms were destroyed by the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruption of the early 1990s, and there was massive smuggling of leg quarters in the poultry business in 1997. But these events made me stronger.

“We have already encountered these problems, and moved on. If there is a problem, you try to find a solution for it.”

Robert Lo, President & CEO, RDF Feed, Livestock and Foods, Inc.
Robert Lo, President & CEO, RDF Feed, Livestock and Foods, Inc. Image source: Jasper Salceda

Kevin Algeo, CEO, IG Australia

“In the lead-up to the global financial crisis in 2008, I was co-managing a derivatives desk. Each week, I felt we were living through history, during some of the most definitive moments of our times.

“Looking back, we managed the crisis extremely well, and the strength of the team guided us through it.”

Kevin Algeo, CEO, IG Australia
Kevin Algeo, CEO, IG Australia. Image source: Elke Meitzel

Chris Dobbie, CEO, Barfoot & Thompson

“The biggest challenge of my career would have been putting out my name for CEO, and having the confidence in my ability to do the job.
“Because I’d been doing the CFO role so long, I was already an influencer within the company, but the CEO role involves actually leading the company. To me, that was a whole different purpose.”

Ben Foote, Group CEO, Australian Institute of Management

“Changing cultures to be positive and action-oriented is a big challenge, but one I like, as it tests soft skills and everything I have learned in my career.”

Gareth McAllister, President Asia Pacific, LORD Corporation

“I made this move from operations, and looking back, I was confused in that transition. I didn’t come across at my best at times; I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

“Even though I was trying very hard, it was a stressful transition for me. I had a lot of key lessons to learn, not just in terms of business and commerce, but also about myself.

“The whole journey of self-awareness really helped me get through this.”

Gareth McAllister, President Asia Pacific, LORD Corporation
Gareth McAllister, President Asia Pacific, LORD Corporation. Image source: Natalia Segura

Thomas Schmitz, President, Andritz China

“I became a manager when I was 29. Out of the blue, I became head of sales, with ten people in my first department. I was the youngest in the department.”

Eleanor Seet, President, Nikko AM

“The biggest challenge I’ve had is balancing family on the back of work.

“I don’t really define myself by my work, but then work – what I do, the people I interact with – is also where I spend a lot of my time, and what I do enjoy doing at some level.”

Eleanor Seet, President, Nikko AM. Image source: Todd Beltz

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