Cassandra Kelly created a whole new world of business since the foundation of Pottinger in 2003, a global corporate advisory firm with a higher purpose to give back to the causes they care most about. As a business for purpose, Pottinger’s own purpose now reaches far into the future – and deeply touches its global community.
I am deeply proud of Pottinger, its people, its supporters and its clients. At the end of the day, our greatest asset is our people, their insight and their integrity. And one of the most important attributes is that each of our colleagues is truly brave. And we have had to be very brave in recent years.
We believe in being prepared to speak out on issues that are contentious. It is important that we have healthy debate so that we stand a chance of making good decisions. For example, we’re heavily involved in climate change discussions. It’s been a very unpopular topic in Australia – a very divisive topic. The subject has been inconvenient for certain large corporations, and so it has been an area of friction for politicians. Some people in our industry have kept their heads low and others have said that – as a business that makes its income advising large companies and governments – it is foolhardy for us to get involved in the debate. But to stay silent would be to ignore who we are. We have to speak up about the things in which we believe. We don’t want to look back and regret.
We want to serve the world and we don’t do that simply by completing assignments for clients. We do it by being bold and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I know you don’t like what we’re saying, but we’ve looked at the facts. And now we’re standing up.’ We want to help create a sustainable future for the people of this world and the generations to come. This isn’t meant to be easy, but we need to speak out.
The other assumption that people make is that if we can afford to give some of our profits away, we must be charging too much. I want to tell those people that it is creating shared prosperity. I am a compassionate, thoughtful, loyal, dedicated, brave person and I love humanity; I want many to benefit from our prosperity. It should go full circle. Cassandra Kelly
Purpose to profit
Some of the clients I’ve worked with don’t understand the concept of business for purpose.
They think it’s a distraction. They might even think that if you are prepared to give some of your money away then you can’t be very commercially astute. We even hear people still talking about the need to work with a mongrel attitude to get better results. Which is madness in this day and age.
It’s the same reason we find it hard to shake the money out of people. If you give it away too freely, you’re crazy. You mustn’t be a good negotiator. Surely it’s all about holding onto the maximum amount of wealth and getting the biggest return?
The other assumption that people make is that if we can afford to give some of our profits away, we must be charging too much. I want to tell those people that it is creating shared prosperity. I am a compassionate, thoughtful, loyal, dedicated, brave person and I love humanity; I want many to benefit from our prosperity. It should go full circle.
What success looks like
It’s great to be commercially and profitably successful. It’s great to create jobs for others through your own enterprise; it’s great to work on building your own wealth and pension fund and it’s great if you can get that holiday house. You’ve worked hard for it, and you deserve it.
But there’s a gap between the haves and the have-nots. We can find those areas of disadvantage and do something about them, to try to share your prosperity and reduce that gap. Not everyone will share my belief, but that’s what makes me who I am; that’s what I’m about.
So I’ve built an organisation that’s about making profit. I want to make sure that the people in it are paid, that the supply chain is paid. And then I want to recognise a point where I have enough – where we have enough – and I want to use the excess to make an impact on the world.
We can find those areas of disadvantage and do something about them, to try to share your prosperity and reduce that gap. Cassandra Kelly
The knock-on effect
Right now, we have paid directly to look after more than 200 women in corporate Australia. These are senior women who are considered among the most valuable by their employers. We invest in them to give them connections, we create whole networks, we offer them professional development opportunities to actively build their skills and networks, and to train them to be leaders. We have spent our time, our money and our reputation on that.
It’s been an uncomfortable discussion for a lot of people. But I am deeply proud of those 200 women. Think about the impact they’re having. It rolls on. Two hundred women talking to one person each becomes four hundred people, and these women talk to so many people in their days. It’s impacting thousands and thousands of people here and overseas. These women are game changers and we’re supporting them.
We became the ABA Recommended Employer seven years in a row. We’ve actually stopped putting our hand up for it now. We know we’re a great employer, we don’t need the validation; we don’t need the award. The first step to being a great employer is getting great employees. We have those employees now, and so we are focusing our time on having a global impact. If we were recognised for that, I would be very proud indeed.
Pottinger is a global corporate advisory firm owned by its employees. This independence allows them to provide completely objective advice. Pottinger has won multiple awards in recognition of its contribution to staff and clients and was recently highlighted as a role model by the Australian Government’s Workforce & Productivity Agency.
Pottinger’s notable work includes advising on the 2007 AUD$7bn Suncorp-Metway/Promina merger and 2008 AUD$230m sale of its credit card portfolio to Citigroup, and the AUD$4.4bn water transaction and further development of Queensland Urban Utilities in 2010. Pottinger has also launched the Glass Elevator initiative to help connect, inspire and engage senior businesswomen so that they feel better supported as they continue their journey to greater impact and seniority.
Written by Thread Publishing (threadpublishing.com). Connecting the world one story at a time to bring humanity back into business. © 2015
Photo credit: The Glass Elevator,