Advisor Insights with Mark Wray: Chairman, Board Director, Certified Chair

Advisor Insights

Published 14 January 2020

Mark Wray is a highly respected Chair & Director, with 30 years of CEO and CFO Experience for public and private companies across Australia, Asia and North America.

As a Certified Chair, Mark has developed a carefully curated portfolio of companies that he supports to define and execute on their strategic vision. In this Advisor Insights conversation with Louise Broekman, CEO of the Advisory Board Centre, Mark shares his story and top tips for businesses and advisors wanting to get the most out of their Advisory structure.

The Advisor Insights series are unfiltered conversations giving you a lens into real people and real businesses within the Advisor ecosystem.

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Louise Broekman: Thanks for taking this time. So I guess to start with Mark, I’d love to hear more about if you can share your story.

Mark Wray: I’m at a 30 year executive career. I didn’t do either few degrees as most people do. Knock out a science degree. Wonder what you do with that then knock out an accounting degree. And in the IPS you have to have an accounting degree with a law degree. So I’ve had to knock out a law degree. So your father says, you better go get a job, you’ve got more degrees than a thermometer. So do that. And then had a wonderful career from groups like Wesfarmers that taught us a lot around the importance of strategy. So seven years within that group is a really powerful time. And been you know, obviously he’s experience, which is always good to see how the world operates in Asia and America and UK. In those nineties when you’ve still got a chance to get away with and work in the 1990s, I mean, and then some wonderful experience in James Hardy came back there and at a lovely time, it’s seven years in that whole traumatic time of their business in resetting it.

But they skills out of James Hardy a guy and these big firms give you a lot of skills in regards to structure, process and discipline. You know, lots of projects if be able to bring project management training I put you through in order to get projects done. So you might have a finance background but they still expect projects to be done in a structured, disciplined way. And so that was wonderful there. Now you’ve got some of that sort of experience, maybe 20 odd years in large corporate. You can then start to apply it to large food and ag groups. And that’s where I went into the stigmas group as their CFO and general counsel bringing those skills of setting the strategy, resetting businesses but doing it in a structured, disciplined way and had five years there and then applied it to another big group.

The Craig Mostyn group another big family $600 billion turnover ended up getting the CEO role there, but applying all those principles. So having had a wonderful executive career, embarked on the the board career, that’s always a start. You know, most of us all saying, well, we’ve done this for 30 years. I might be getting in my late fifties or sixties and start your career anytime you like, but I’m in my case I wanted to start at then and tentatively wait out six months and thought, Oh, have I done the right thing without lining them up. And I’ll use a combination of the advisory old method and the governance board method and it’s been quite successful. Lewis.

Louise Broekman: Yeah. So be great for you to share. You know, but what’s been your experience around advisory boards and what’s that been like?

Mark Wray: Well, I think the first step is do you come out of big corporates and you think I’m going to walk into an ASX 200. Well, that’s not gonna happen. You know you’re not going to get those sort of directorships straight up and then snap them all up. There’s a range of options. You’ve got, not-for-profit, you’ve got advisory boards, you’ve got governance boards. And I found the advisory board method a great way to start it. I was getting lots of requests from friends to help out, you know, whiskey business, you know, saying, well, I’ll give you a bottle of whiskey. You help us out with our strategy and whatever that, and then they start to move into, you know, rewarding you. And so you embark on that and then you might get a governance board role and slowly you chip away if you need a combination of both. And advisory boards can be a bit of a harbored between, you know, you don’t want to consult, but you want to be a an advisor on a monthly vices. So I found the advisory board a great way to start. And then I’m running the two, as I said, governance and advisory and I’m very successfully.

Louise Broekman: What’s been the I guess the benefits for the businesses that have had advisory boards to them. What’s been the outcomes of that Mark that you’ve seen?

Mark Wray: Well, I think in the experience wise of mine, it’s, it’s the broad experience. Some advisory boards want a dedicated advisor in a certain section. Others want advisors that can cover a range of sections. And that’s usually around, in my case, strategy and governance bringing some of the leading schools in as well. And being able to help them with a range of issues. But predominantly strategy. I find the businesses, if they, if you say, why are you doing that? You’ve got to go back to Y, which comes out of strategy. I think most of us said visors can drive the strategy quite well, you know, but it goes back to that, you know, the basics that we’ve done in other groups had Becky SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the team you related. And then drive your strategic issues. We’ll have strategies and then get back down to some initiatives that will drive the business along.

Louise Broekman: Why have they chosen an advisory board versus, you know, other methods what, what’s been the motive demoed motivational net site?

Mark Wray: Yeah, I think the first step is they don’t generally want to go to a governance school. When I talking governance boards, you know, this is probably the a hundred, $200 billion space. You’ve got the other space between the startups, the 5 billion capitalizations that chains the 30s. There’s still owner-operators. Generally they don’t want to embark on sharing all their financials. Sometimes they want to keep that themselves, you know? And so therefore the advisory board gives you that mechanism. Or they do want strategy. Every single one of them wants to get the strategic game happening and hope to get there.

Louise Broekman: With your experience in advisory boards for a long period of time, Mark, what would be your tips that you’d give business owners and the tips that you would give advisors?

Mark Wray: It’s still around those classic sounds a bit cliche, but it’s around innovation and strategy. It’s amazing strategies about structure and process. And when we say that as I said before going through that process the number of owner operators are no, we’ve got to get our strategy right cause they get tied up in the day to day and they find they need an independent person to drive their strategy piece. So you’ve got to have agendas where you put strategy up there and get rid of all the other stuff down, the operational stuff down the bottom of the agenda and get that strategy piece up. The and then a nice jewel strategy is you, you drive it. I want to drive it out into marketing initiatives, operational initiatives and fitness initiatives. So when I say marketing, sales and marketing, what strategic initiatives are you going to have to draw up that area? What are you going to do about your cost of production or operational ones? And what about your fitness? You know, do you have the right people in the place? You just, safety finds your quality, right, those areas up. And I think as advisors you’ll have a successful career and you’ll bring a lot of value to the businesses.

Louise Broekman: Terrific. Mark, thank you for, for taking the time and, and sharing your story and as, as you continue to, to work in this space, come and check into us and let’s, let’s do another catch up cause it’s always great having, having that knowledge being shared by you.