In the early 1960s, Roger Corbett was working at Grace Brothers in Chatswood, Sydney, when a senior colleague took an interest in him and in his future. “At the time, I was working for a fellow called Derek Moore, and he used to often take me for walks around the store, pointing out merchandising questions and issues and opportunities. And I can remember thinking, ‘Boy, I must have been walking around this place with my eyes closed; why couldn’t I see that?’” Roger reminisces. “I was mentored by some wonderful people who took an interest in me, supported me and taught me the art of retailing, and, I might say, the love of retailing. Such people as Ron Reedman from Grace Brothers, John Ayres from Woolworths, Paul Simons from Woolworths, John Spalvins from Adsteam, Jack Shewmaker from Walmart, and many others to whom I am indebted and very grateful.”

It was this—the time and expertise that others gave Roger as he was building his career—to which he attributes his success. From being an unknown kid in the back dock unloading trucks, to the CEO of Woolworths, Chairman of Fairfax Media, and a director of the Reserve Bank, the importance of mentoring still resonates with Roger. He is passionate about valuing every colleague and their work, regardless of their position in the company.

“The help of people below and above you is absolutely necessary for success. I always listened, always sought advice, always valued advice, always thought about it very carefully—and more often than not, it influenced the outcomes. For example, when I was in relatively senior positions, I would go into a meeting with a particular point of view, and, having put that point of view to my colleagues and hearing a contrary viewpoint, I was corrected on many occasions. In fact, I think of numerous occasions when I clearly would have made a big mistake if it hadn’t been for the counsel and support of my colleagues.”

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