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Name: Tony Rutherford
Title: Managing Partner
I started my career in the traditional sense within the corporate sector eventually reaching the level of CFO in my early 40s. Earlier in my life, I had viewed that as the pinnacle of professional success however having reached it, I felt empty and unfulfilled. So, I started consulting to "find myself" professionally and realised I wanted to share my experience and knowledge with a wider audience.
I started New Zealand's first CFO outsourcing business which I ran for 7 years while also supporting private clients. I set up CopperFox in conjunction my business partner Rob Erskine just over a year ago. It's been fun and somewhat challenging getting established but we are getting traction. I love the variety of work and lifestyle balance. No two days are the same and we have international aspirations. It's hard to see me doing anything else but you never know.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
There are a plethora of business consulting firms out there. The challenge has been in embedding our personal values in our brand and having an offering which is relevant and valued by our prospective clients
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I think leadership has come quite naturally to me. I've always had a natural affinity with people, consider myself empathetic and respectful. So, I'm just as comfortable chatting with the Janitor as I am the Board of Directors. I can credit my parents for instilling these values in me at a young age. So having the "common touch" has helped enormously.
The second aspect is around being able to demonstrate professional credibility. I've had several good bosses who have mentored me and given me opportunities to shine. However, not everything I've done has been successful but I've learnt from it, owned my errors and made sure not to repeat them.
Finally, I've always managed to remain impartial so always thinking about what is right for the client. So, to summarise, being an adept communicator, demonstrating integrity and being technically credible, all of which are important aspects when leading
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Largely, this depends on whether I'm engaged working with a client or otherwise focussed on CopperFox. But I have learnt to listen to my mental and physical rhythm and work with it. So often, I'm awake at 4am and attend to emails and urgent matters for a couple of hours. Often followed by a bit more sleep. Most days I meditate for about 15 minutes and exercise features every other day - brisk walk, badminton or swim. So, tend to work no more than 10 hours a day but I'm not fixed about when or how I do it.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Rob and I have different but complimentary styles of working. A friend mused that he is a bit more Microsoft while I'm a bit more Apple. Different operating systems that both deliver value but in different ways. I have enormous respect for Rob and it's great to celebrate our differences in our pursuit of common goals.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I've read most of Richard Branson's books and watched his doco on TV. For me what has the most resonance is you can take a business that operates in a mature or saturated market (such as an airline) and still be successful if the public gets behind the brand identity and the person leading it. I guess this is what motivates me in establishing and building CopperFox.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
My advice would be to start early and follow your passion. If you enjoy what you are doing then success will inevitably follow and you will attract like-minded individuals that you vibe with.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I was involved with a client undergoing a significant business transformation program as Finance Director. This required completing a discovery phase, agreeing on some short and medium term deliverables and overseeing the completion of them. It became apparent early on that the client was using an alternate first tier consulting firm for a different but related technical piece of work.
Over time the deliverables converged, and the engagement became "top heavy" with Partner advice being given some of which differed. While I tried to navigate through this it soon became untenable, so I pulled us out of the engagement. One of our values at CopperFox is "accountability" - we hold ourselves and our clients accountable to deliver in their best interests.
It was the right decision and the best outcome for our client and the relationship salvaged. I've left the door open for working with them down the track by acting with integrity.