Building Today’s exclusive Q & A with the country’s most influential construction industry leaders continues. Kicking off 2016 is Carters chief executive Mike Guy.
When and where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Tauranga in the sunny Bay of Plenty.
What schools and tertiary institutes did you attend, and what relevant qualifications did you obtain?
My teenage school days started at Otumoetai College. I gained a Bachelor of Commerce from Otago University and am currently a member of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.
In my view, education is ongoing, whether it is learning on the job or ongoing professional development. For me, learning is constant, so I like to set aside time every day to catch up on key industry information.
What were your previous career positions held, going right back to your first job after completing your education/studies through to any senior management/chief executive roles before moving to Carters?
My first job after my studies was as a chartered accountant for Murray Crossman and Sons. From there I went to Carter Holt Harvey (CHH). I’ve gained significant experience as I’ve moved around CHH subsidiary businesses in a wide range of senior executive roles.
As a qualified chartered accountant, I made my start specialising in finance, and moved to lead the finance team as commercial manager of the packaging division and then, ultimately, as financial controller of the CHH Panels division. It was in this role that I oversaw the ambitious acquisition of Australian company CSR Panels in 2000.
I then moved from CHH Panels to CHH Corporate as general manager of performance improvement.
My next challenge was CHH Forestry, ultimately ending up as HR director for CHH Pulp, Paper and Packaging across Australia and New Zealand.
With a desire to move away from HR, I spent five years leading the CHH Multiwall Bag Division.
With the culmination of an extensive and successful 23-year career history with CHH, I relished the chance to take up the position of chief executive of Carters. It’s been a tremendous two years, and a time of change, both culturally and organisationally.
How long have you been at Carters and what was it that most attracted you to the CEO position at the organisation?
I joined Carters in 2014. The thing that most attracted me to the position was the opportunity to be part of a business that has a deep history and heritage in a market that has served the building industry for more than 150 years, and how I could add value.
I am extremely proud to work with our people who are passionate about building lasting partnerships with our customers and suppliers for all New Zealanders.
How would you describe your management/communication style? How do you manage conflict, how do you reward excellent work performance and how do you manage poor performance?
I would like to think I have a collaborative and communicative management style. At Carters we are very much “one team”.
From our senior lead team to our customer-centric employees we all have a part to play in being our customer’s chosen building partner.
I have high standards when it comes to our team’s professional competency. But I am also aware different skills and knowledge allow for independent, cross-functional thinking, and I like people willing to challenge my thinking as this gives us far better results and better buy-in as we have all provided feedback from different angles.
You could say I also have a very consultative approach. This provides far better results and we are all working together to achieve each goal.
I tend to be open, honest and direct, and that organisational and personal performance comes from having a shared set of expectations at organisational and individual levels.
Having a shared understanding with our wider team provides a worthwhile investment as it motivates high performance and accountability, and also creates a platform to discuss performance issues. It also allows us to share and celebrate successes together.
What do you think is your most important trait/commodity? What do you attribute your success to?
I think my most important trait is that I have a driven desire to constantly improve. Our customers are the most important driver when it comes to service excellence. I am constantly asking myself and my team “is there a better way to service our customers’ needs?”
The most important asset is our people. Having the right team on board and having close relationships with our customers allows us to be right at the coalface in a constantly changing building environment.
I have visited every store and have met every staff member. Without good people servicing great customers we can’t make a positive difference to building and constructing our country.
What is your personal work ethic, and how do you think this affects the organisation’s culture?
Productivity is the name of the game for me. You lead from the top and certainly don’t set expectations of others that you wouldn’t be comfortable with yourself. My ethos is that all our staff, and customers for that matter, should be entitled to a work-life balance.
What is your priority for Carters in the context of the current state of the New Zealand construction industry? What is the biggest challenge you feel your organisation faces, and how do you inspire your employees to meet it head on?
Carters operates in a highly competitive market, and we are acutely aware customers have many choices on where to purchase.
We are very clear on who we serve in our marketplace, and Carters is “100% for the trade”.
Customer intimacy is where we get our best feedback to outperform the market place. Our customers lead our change management operationally and in innovation.
We have a very clear strategy, all our people have been part of the strategic journey, and our customers have driven the insight for that strategic change. We are full steam ahead in implementation.
If you could instantly change any aspect of doing business in the New Zealand construction industry, what would it be?
My only comment would be simplification and improved productivity. I’ve got a few other thoughts but I’d like to keep those up my sleeve, a bit like Steve Hansen.
What are your family/other interests/hobbies away from the workplace?
My family is my main focus when I am not working. We have three children that are heavily involved in sports, so if we’re not supporting on the field you can usually find me pounding a pavement as I have a passion for running and cross fit (yes even at my age).
In addition to sports, my wife and I have a lifestyle property, so there’s always something around the house my wife likes me to fix or change — and then there’s the ongoing maintenance of our property. Once the work is done, nothing beats a cold beer by the pool.