Dr David Cooke is the first non-Japanese Managing Director and Chairperson of Konica Minolta Business Solutions Australia. Here, he tells Thread Publishing why he believes business acumen and strong personal values are not only compatible, but also inextricably intertwined in creating a successful business with satisfied employees.
There is no incompatibility between values and success. - David Cooke
If you are going to be in business, particularly at a senior level, then you want to remain true to yourself throughout your career. For me that’s been quite simple. I’ve never seen any incompatibility between my values and what I felt the values of business should be.
Values and business
There are two ways you can look at it. One is that you are accustomed to good values, but constantly getting the idea that business is based on greed. I’ve never seen it that way. Pockets do exist, and sometimes, due to individual managers or boards, business can take the wrong direction. But when that happens, it’s counterproductive to commercial aims.
For me, my values and the values of the businesses I’ve been involved in combine. That’s the other way to look at it. Now, as the Managing Director who has the ultimate influence on the business, this means complete compatibility in running a company that I would like to think embraces really good societal values.
Of course, misalignment happens. The first thing I would try to do if I felt a misalignment in place, is to exert influence within the company. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But I would still encourage anybody that felt they were in an organisation where some important values were missing to speak to more senior people. Sometimes it can simply be that people who run companies are a bit out of touch.
Often it is young people – Gen Y, Millennials – that really have a much clearer vision about what society expects these days. There is an expression that has been levelled at many boardrooms of Australia, which is ‘pale, male and stale’. There are too many companies in Australia that are old school and just don’t get it.
Some of them haven’t quite got the connection between corporate social responsibility and employee engagement yet, let along brand engagement and the link to bottom line profits. They’re stuck in that old paradigm from the 70s or even before, where the company’s responsibility is purely to focus on profit. It’s a very misguided approach these days, because the employees who work for you in the first place leave, and suppliers don’t like dealing with you.
The real gem is to listen to people. - David Cooke
The corporate shift
Companies are starting to realise that there is no incompatibility between being successful from the bottom-up and having a positive impact on society, the lives of the people that work in the organisation, and the lives of all the various stakeholders.
There is no incompatibility between values and success. When a company realises that, there’s nothing holding an organisation like that back.
Society has expectations now on the companies that exist here and around the world. When people buy shares in a company, when they buy products, they’re taking regard of what sort of organisation is behind this company. Do they do more than simply make a competitively priced product?
I can’t think of a single industry where there’s no competition. There are always choices for people. There’s plenty of evidence around showing that companies that are good corporate citizens also have very healthy bottom lines.
How it happens
We have cross-functional workshops at Konica Minolta. We get people from different departments, who have possibly never worked with each other before, put them in one room and facilitate a themed discussion with them. How do we build a better company? What are we getting right? What are we getting wrong? What are you disappointed in? Where do you think we need to focus more?
We keep asking our employees. I don’t have six or seven people reporting to me who think they know everything about my employees and how they feel. They don’t know it all. I would rather use 500 brains than limit myself to my own ideas or the ideas of the six people who report directly to me. You have to leverage the intelligence and creativity and the values that you already have in your organisation.
We are trying to build a level of trust in all the people that work here so they don’t feel there is a big division between the managers and the departments and the staff in each department. We are all in this together. We all have different titles and get paid different money and we have different skill sets and qualifications – but at the end of the day, we are all kind of hopefully going in the same direction. That’s what it’s all about.
At the end of the day, we are all hopefully going in the same direction. - David Cooke
Talk, listen, respect
The real gem is to listen to people. Ask people their thoughts and views and even their fears. Just listen to them. Have integrity, and respect people. It’s not about ‘I’m the boss and you do what I say’; it’s all about bringing humanity into business.
At the end of the day if that’s your guiding principle then I think you get to sail long. People pick up on the dynamics inside businesses where the humanity does exist.
I had somebody come see me the other day and I went through reception to greet him. I had only been there for a few minutes, but going up in the lift, he said, “Have you any idea how much your receptionist says about what a good person you are?” The thing that impressed him, he said, was having someone on the front line just beaming with pride about the company. It’s not hard to figure out that this is the kind of environment people like to work in.
Konica Minolta Business Solutions is a Japanese office technology company with five continental headquarters, in Germany, the US, New Zealand, China and Australia. Dr David Cooke is the Managing Director and Chairperson of the Australian offices. He manages 450 employees Australia-wide. In 2014, Konica Minolta Australia had a turnover of AUS$210m.
Written by Thread Publishing (threadpublishing.com). Connecting the world one story at a time to bring humanity back into business. © 2015
Photo credit: Dr David Cooke; Victor Hanacek