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7 More Questions on Leadership with John Perry

Name: John Perry

Title: Managing Director

Organisation: Conquest Capital

I am Managing Director of Conquest Capital, a mid-market boutique Corporate Adviser in Australia, which focuses on providing M&A and capital raising services for typically private businesses valued between A$10 - A$100 million.

Post university, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and joined KPMG in the UK. After 4 years I transferred to Sydney office (a long-held desire to work in Australia) in 1992 and then moved to a corporate advisory boutique before spending more than 11 years at Macquarie Group (Australia’s leading investment bank), where I rose to Managing Director. Subsequently I joined CIMB before setting up Conquest Capital in 2015.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.

I hope John's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?

For me there are a few simple guidelines based on transparency, fairness and setting expectations.

Open, honest and up-front communication is the key in my mind, even if it is a hard discussion or may compromise your interests in the short-term. Whether it is positive feedback or constructive criticism to employees, not sugar-coating key messages to clients or potential clients that they do not want to hear (eg their view of the likely value of their business is inflated) or realistically managing timing expectations on a project with other stakeholders, I find that being transparent will gain trust and respect in the longer-term and you will have employees, customers and stakeholders who share your values and who you will want to work with in the long-term.

However, this does also need to be married with you listening, hearing and considering other parties’ perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them.

The old adage “treat others as you would have them treat you” seems to be a pretty simple and useful way to deal with other people.

2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?

Mission to me is the “purpose” of what you are trying to achieve, which if powerful, can engage (or dis-engage) a whole workforce.

Vision I think of as the long-term 50,000 foot strategy of what you envisage you will achieve.

To be frank, I’m not sure if we have a “mission” in the business world of corporate advisory. I could say that our mission is to help mid-market businesses in life-changing strategic events by providing quality, independent and un-biased advice (which we always strive to do), but I actually think that sounds a bit trite and that the word mission better applies to organisations with a true social purpose that do real good in the world.

3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?

The key in my view is how much responsibility the leader is willing to cede to the people they are leading after properly explaining the task in hand. The Macquarie mantra of “freedom within boundaries” (covered in more detail in the next question) is a great framework for me.

If a leader micro-manages projects, is a chronic “re-drafter” of team members’ presentations or drops people in the deep end on a project with insufficient guidance, then the leader will likely be disappointed with the outcomes.

In contrast, I try to challenge my team by getting them out of their comfort zone by setting tasks which will intellectually stretch them. However, I try to do this by providing sufficient up-front guidance and ongoing support, although I aim not to “spoon-feed” them. And I try to avoid re-writing their presentations, recognising that everybody has a different style, and only correct errors or where I need to add additional material.

4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?

There were a number of mentors during my days at Macquarie who have had a profound influence on my leadership development. The Macquarie framework of “freedom within boundaries” was / is extremely powerful. It essentially encouraged employees to build businesses within the overall Macquarie “franchise” and said “we will help you to build a new business with resources and support so long as you don’t break the bank”.

I had many mentors within this business. However, to pick one, John Walker encouraged me to build the Industrials business in South Korea for a while. He gave me real freedom to implement a strategy and to take difficult decisions which he backed. He passed all of the public credit on successes to individual team members, but also rolled up his sleeves privately to get issues resolved. A real leader who “served to lead”.

It may also be useful to mention an incident with Nicholas Moore, which also impacted my leadership. I was in Nicholas’ office and was presenting a pitch to raise finance from the Macquarie balance sheet to fund a principal investment. After I sat down and opened the 60-odd page deck and started to talk, Nicholas took the presentation, turned it face down on the table, handed me a whiteboard marker and said “put it up on the whiteboard”. Whilst intellectually scary, it was an eye-opener in how to really test whether somebody truly understands their subject matter and can present it simply and clearly to somebody who is hearing the presentation for the first time.

5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?

With great difficulty!

I find the hardest thing in running a boutique advisory business is not getting overly distracted with short-term matters and admin and ensuring that enough time is allocated to working “on” the business.

That is one of my greatest challenges and it was recommended to me to book regular time in the diary to focus on such matters otherwise it is too easy to get bogged down in the weeds.

6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?

Planning in the short-term I think is fairly easy by using a daily / weekly “to do” list with prioritisation and most people would do that. I write a daily to do list the night before and a weekly to do list on the Sunday night before the start of the week.

Planning for the long-term is the key challenge for me. Scheduling regular time in the diary for the long-term important (but less critical short-term issues) matters is key and I find using the Eisenhower matrix useful to identify the issues on which to focus in these sessions.

I tend to schedule time to focus on these “big stones” (from Steve Covey - things which have the most meaningful impact on the Conquest business in the long term) for the first half of the morning before the day gets away and I have to respond to calls and more pressing, immediate client matters.

In addition, having coaches to hold me to account and monitor and guide progress has been critical for me. I use Arete’s The Sounding Board for peer to peer executive coaching and Bluewire Media specifically for digital marketing and both have been invaluable.

7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?

Simply to think about the benefits of leveraging your time so that you can perform more strategic and ultimately more valuable work which will enable you to progress into more senior leadership roles. Not delegating properly holds you back as you do not have as much time to “step-up” to more senior roles.

Delegating effectively requires you give to team members that work for you effective communication of a project or task and your expectations. Insufficient communication or up-front guidance will often result in poor delivery and the “leader” then doing more his or her-self, which is self-defeating.

I would also ask whether not delegating effectively could be a sub-conscious personal risk aversion issue. Not putting yourself into uncomfortable situations which stretch you means you then avoid the risk of failure. Having a more risk-tolerant mindset may be the issue that needs to be addressed, rather than say “delegate more”.

“Just do it”.

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