A View From The Stratasphere

 

As unit complexes and apartment towers mushroomed over the last two decades, Greg Haywood built a business that rose to dominate the strata management skyline.
 

In his 13 years as Group CEO and Managing Director of the PICA Group, Greg took a $12million business with 219 employees to one turning over $100million employing 600 staff through 30 offices.

The largest part of its business involves the management of high-rise apartments, a subject much in the news these days as cracks appear in the standards and quality control of building construction. Residents being evacuated from Sydney’s Opal and Mascot Towers are facing a repair bill of $20 million. The Victorian Government is budgeting $500 billion to rectify 500 buildings at risk from flammable cladding. And home warranty insurance cover is problematic for high-rise apartments in much of the country.

As a long-serving president of both state and national industry bodies, Greg became increasingly concerned about construction and inspection protocols and pushed for improvements in several areas, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.

Among the successes has come a welcome upgrade in the qualifications of strata managers who must now be fully licensed, with two years' experience, and undertaking continuing professional development.

Greg joined the PICA group as CFO / Company Secretary in 2001 after a productive corporate accounting career in manufacturing, franchising and transport operations. Within eighteen months he was called up as acting CEO to deal with a hostile takeover but as Greg says, the good guys won in the end, and he officially took the helm in 2003.

His priorities at that time were to develop a strategic plan and build an effective management team.

“Build around your people and success will follow,” says Greg. “You’ll end up with a more engaged workforce and stronger teams!”

The first step was to assemble a team of senior managers and put them through a twelve-month leadership training program, developing management skills and improving alignment within the business. Then, importantly, giving them the space to run with the responsibility they’d been given.

“Always employ people smarter than you are,“ says Greg. “If you feel threatened, you simply won’t achieve as much.”

Next it was the turn of middle-management, with a six-month program to bring them into alignment with the leadership team, before ultimately broadening the company’s training focus to embrace the rest of its staff.

Working with RTOs, PICA developed its own diploma in Strata Management and specialist Certificate IV courses to achieve the professional competencies necessary to provide their clients with the level of service expected of an industry leader.

“We put 206 people through that program,” says Greg. “I’ve never been frightened of spending money on my people.”

But what about the boss? Was he as committed to ongoing development as he expected his staff to be?

“Absolutely!”

Over the years, he has undertaken a host of AIM and other courses and in 2004 took what he now regards as one of his most significant steps by joining The CEO Institute.

In a role where it’s difficult to confide in those around you, Greg has found his monthly Syndicate meeting provides a sounding board he could scarcely do without.

“It’s amazing how we can all contribute to each other’s issues and problems,” says Greg. “And I think it’s important to rally around the successes we have too!"

He laments occasions when members have pulled out when they struck a rough patch, missing out on what could have been a great support right when they needed it most.


For all that personal growth has been a primary driver of PICA’s business growth, acquisitions have also played a major part. In fact there have been a remarkable 28 of them under Greg’s watch! With his intimate knowledge and standing in the industry, Greg knows which businesses will fit successfully into the PICA Group, with a compatible culture, good management and scope for profit growth.

His command of a balance sheet, acquired over so many years of corporate accounting, has certainly come in handy, too.

If an acquisition is to succeed, Greg stresses the importance of thorough due diligence, recognising the staff and the clients as the company’s key assets, and warns against keeping an owner involved too long.

Even in his current role on the board of directors, Greg continues his hunt for acquisitions that can further grow the PICA business.

After 15 years with Syndicate 44 and a proud recipient of a Certified CEO certificate, Greg is now retiring from The CEO Institute. He speaks passionately about the things he’s learned and the friends he’s made, and recommends membership to anyone running their own business with this bit of pithy advice:

“Unless you have some sort of external input or mentorship you become too insular. You start to believe your own bulls***, and you’re not going to grow the business as capably as you could.”

 


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