The Growth Project Business Leader: A Perspective
By David Farr
Managing Director of Asset Finance at CBA
Graduate of the Albatross Cohort of the Growth Project 2015-2016

Joining The Growth Project for their inaugural year 2015/16 I was paired with a newly appointed General Manager of Miracle Babies, an established Not for Profit (NFP) that supports premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them.

I applied to be a Business Leader as I had a desire to be involved with the NFP sector over and above the regular giving or special events which had been my voluntary/charitable contribution traditionally. I felt that a grass roots experience would give me a better understanding of the challenges faced by those who commit themselves wholly to a cause. I also felt it was an opportunity to broaden my skills by applying my professional experience into a completely different context.

All of these expectations certainly came to pass.

However, my experience was much deeper than simply those aspects. In many ways my role was more of a sounding board, counsellor, listener, coach and advisor. All similar concepts but all different in their actual application and effectiveness.

Being a leader in a large corporate in Australia there is no shortage of advisors, coaches and mentors who you can rely upon to help navigate the complexities of your role and the ambiguities these present daily. There is also no shortage of high quality education in the form of courses and seminars which are available.

Contrast this with those in the NFP sector. As a rule funding is scare and barely enough to cover the base running costs, some also rely on donations of goods and services to ensure the financial viability of the business in order to deliver on their core purpose. Discretionary funds available for the development of their leaders is simply nonexistent.

My biggest learning was the power of words when you are in that trusted position. A simple encouragement, a constructive and balanced test of thinking or a real word example from a different setting could fundamentally change the course of that leader’s thinking – and given their proximity to the front line services could have an immediate effect on the sustainability of that cause you are supporting. It is this intrinsic value that is impossible to measure but is the real purpose of the Business Leader’s role in The Growth Project.

My advice is to take the time to learn the business and the Charity Leader you are paired with – sit back, observe, understand their core mission and resist the temptation to dive into solution mode. Act instead as a strategic advisor that NFPs crave and need on a daily basis.

Opportunities like this – to help change the course of an organisation or assist them to grow via your experience and influence – do not come about every day. At the end of the chain someone in the community is going to benefit from your help – not through a donation of your money, but by a meaningful donation of your time and skills.

I cannot recommend the experience more highly.