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What can we aspire to?

Tena Koutou,

At the recent Rotorua Business Awards, Peter Clark, our recently departed CEO, was awarded the Business Person of the Year Award.  This is well-deserved, and perhaps made more significant by the fact that this award was not precipitated by anyone at PF Olsen.  In fact, it was both initiated and concluded by business people and political figures outside of PF Olsen’s business, to the point where our involvement was “simply” to get Peter and Jill  to the ceremony without disclosing why he needed to be there. This was not easy!

Watching Peter as Tim Rigter of Red Stag read out background on the person who was to achieve the award, it was clear that he was very surprised and somewhat embarrassed.  After a lengthy narrative around Peter’s achievements and most humbly accepting the award, Peter sincerely acknowledged and thanked various people and accepted the award.  He then went on to talk about the positive direction of business in Rotorua and the wider region and the contribution being made by other award winners. The evening honoured some excellent people and businesses from our region, all of whom thoroughly deserved the nominations and awards they received.

It would be tempting to leave it there and let the event and award be the end of a very good news story about Peter, PF Olsen, and the wider community.  It really was a privilege to be there and there were clearly a number of takeaways from this event that have relevance for PF Olsen.  However, one that I would like to flesh out is PF Olsen’s membership of the wider community, and our social license to operate.

Our brand and the PF Olsen name is very well known and respected in the wider community across at least two countries.  This, coupled with the perception that we as a professional services’ business act in a manner that exceeds the socially accepted norms, provides a platform from which at a global level, we are successfully able to continue to operate; and at a local level, Peter was able to be considered for this award.  If PF Olsen didn’t have the social capital, Peter would not have been considered for an award in the first instance.  To say we face challenges ahead around sustaining our social licence and global goodwill is both cliché but also very relevant.  We operate in an industry that is in flux socially, politically, and technologically.  We face significant legislative changes on the environmental, workplace safety, and even commercial fronts, and whilst compliance is a given necessity, it is highly unlikely to alone provide us with the social legitimacy to continue to operate.

So what does that mean?

I think this calls for a shift in thinking and focus that will result in a natural and sustainable level of authentic commitment in our global and local communities.  It will require enrichment of some of the things we do very well like communication and agility, and it will require additional energy into some areas like acting with urgency and making sure we always exceed client expectations.  It may also require the courage to speak to our industry and our clients about challenging blockages and impediments and aspiring to be better.  As I travel around our business, meeting our staff and suppliers, it is not only apparent that we are very proud of our organisation, we are also aware that “a one size fits all” solution will not work if we are to be as successful in the next 40 years of operation, as we have in the last 40.  I suggest we should aspire to be better where we can, that doing so will not necessarily be easy, but that this change will benefit us individually, socially, and professionally.