Mineral Resources boss Chris Ellison and recently retired Water Corporation chief executive Sue Murphy have taken out top honours in the Australian Institute of Management WA Pinnacle Awards.
More than 450 people attended the glittering black-tie ceremony at The Westin hotel on Thursday night to acknowledge stand-out organisations across the corporate, government, community and not-for-profit sectors.
As a founding shareholder and managing director of the WA mining powerhouse, Mr Ellison is now steering MinRes towards its next goal of becoming a leading global supplier of lithium.
Shares in the company have been driven to fresh all-time highs in recent months on the back of increased shipments that last year rose 700,000 tonnes to 3.5 million tonnes.
New Zealand-born Mr Ellison left school at 15 and worked in Darwin before arriving in the Pilbara just in time to secure work on the construction of the North West Shelf gas venture.
He said he was honoured to receive an award that had also been won by such renowned WA business figures as Stan Perron and Nev Power.
He said there had been no shortage of defining moments in his career.
“The sort of business I’m in, cash has always been king,” he said.
“We started with a low capital base. I remember in 1982, I’d just started a business a couple of years previously and I had nine people working for me. I remember sitting in front of the bank manager and he’s looking at me.
“I’ve got a $190,000 overdraft, no work and no idea and he asked, ‘how do you propose you’re going to repay this’, and I said ‘out of profits, I haven’t got any work yet but I’ve got some coming’.
“Almost 90 days later I was earning half-a-million a month running the supply base on Woodside and 140 people on the payroll … still no idea but a lot of cash coming in.
“There have been a lot of those moments.”
Mr Ellison said the role leaders played in their organisation had evolved as employees’ wellbeing and safety become key facets of success.
“In the early days we all had the approach, back in the 80s and 90s, to get the job done at any cost,” he said.
“I think today how you get the job done is critical, and caring about your people, caring about their welfare and the culture and safety is critical.
“Your reputation is probably the most important thing that you own in our style of business, or any sort of business, and the people you surround yourself with … is always important.”
Ms Murphy — who became chief tap-turner at Water Corp in 2008 and retired at the end of last year — agreed leaders were only as good as their teams.
Under her leadership, the utility has undertaken a program of capital works to diversify water sources and work to rally community environmental spirit to reduce water use.
She said her greatest achievement during her tenure had been closing the water cycle, with large-scale waste water recycled to high purity and pumped back into the ground to recharge aquifers.
Ms Murphy said leadership was about empowerment.
“Leadership these days is about making sure that everyone who works for you has the chance to be the best they can be and letting them rise,” she said.
AIM WA chief executive Gary Martin said it was important to recognise outstanding leadership.
“The diversity that exists within the winners in this year’s awards highlights the range of leadership talent that we have in Western Australia,” Prof Martin said.
“From local and State government winners, to corporates and not-for-profits, we clearly have exemplary leadership which will position WA for continued success long into the future.”
Other winners on the night were:
Innovation Excellence — P&N Bank
At a time when banks are being heavily scrutinised, P&N Bank has stood out from their larger competitors through its approach to innovation.
P&N Bank’s Instant Digital Card technology was first to market in Australia. The cardless banking technology struck a chord with customers with more than a third creating a digital wallet within 24 hours of opening a new P&N account.
Corporate Social Responsibility — Rio Tinto Iron Ore
For 15 years, Rio Tinto has been working to improve literacy outcomes for WA families through the Better Beginnings Literacy Program.
In partnership with the State Library of WA, Rio has provided more than 700,000 reading packs to children from birth to kindergarten.
Rio’s brand, communications and communities chief adviser Bernadette Murdoch said the company delighted with the win.
“Our partnership with the library influences intergenerational change in literacy outcomes for WA families,” she said.
“We are a long-term partner of the Better Beginnings programme as it encourages learning from early childhood and we have renewed our commitment to this initiative for a further five years to continue to invest in future generations.”
Emerging Business Excellence — Appbot
What started in 2011 as a side project for Appbot founder and chief executive Stuart Hall has become an international success.
Appbot, which allows developers and marketers to see how their app is performing on all app stores, is now a premier world provider of app review analysis and reporting.
It has more than 700 clients including BMW, PayPal and Microsoft, and more than 35 per cent of the world’s top charting apps using Appbot.
Human Resource Management Excellence — VisAbility
With the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and aged-care reforms,
VisAbility has worked to position itself as an employer of choice.
It has shelved the dreaded annual performance reviews in favour of a reward scheme for employees involving professional development.
Workplace Diversity — Black Swan Theatre
The Black Swan State Theatre Company
achieved gender parity across the 2018 season for directors, writers, designers, and actors with four of the eight productions written by women.
The diverse storylines of the plays performed by the company have also provided audiences with a place to explore the harsh realities of the modern political and cultural landscape.
Marketing Excellence — Cockburn ARC
The City of Cockburn was faced with a marketing challenge in the lead up to the opening the Cockburn ARC aquatic and rec centre in 2017, given there were 12 large similar providers within 5km of the facility.
Building a standalone brand for the centre and making it look and feel unlike a local government facility helped it attract 3500 by the time it opened. A year later it reached 7000 members, one of the largest membership bases for a local government centre.
Green Business Excellence — Rottnest Island Authority
Self-powered Rottnest Island is already one of 10 EarthCheck-certified sustainable destinations in the world.
With Rottnest Island Authority’s significant financial and resource investment in green business, visitors to the island can follow and track water and renewable energy levels by downloading an app.
Customer Service Excellence — WA Country Health Service
Covering more than 500,000 people in over 100 sites, spanning 2.5 million square kilometres, the WA Country Health Service is the biggest country public health service in Australia.
WACHS took the bold move of allowing itself to be judged by those they service, and successfully implemented a feedback platform, which had strong uptake and engagement by patients.
The winners each receive leadership and management training to the value of $20,000 to donate to a charity of their choice and an engraved Pinnacle trophy.