Advisor Insights with Peter Murphy: Chief Talent Officer, Non-Executive Director, Certified Chair™

Advisor Insights

Published 08 June 2021

Certified Chair™ Peter Murphy is regarded as one of the foremost Executive recruiters in Australia with over 25 years in professional talent identification. He has completed numerous Board, C-Suite and Executive assignments for ASX listed and privately-owned corporations, government departments and owned corporations, and small to medium-sized enterprises throughout his career. As joint-owners of boutique business C3 Talent, Peter and his business partner Kelly Howard (also a Certified Chair™), have built their focus to be on ‘creating value through talent’. With talent being one of the three pillars of business, alongside strategy and finance, Peter has a genuine passion for ensuring the necessary rigour is applied to make an informed, quality decision to get the right person for the right career.

Not long ago, Peter and Kelly felt there was an opportunity to develop C3 Talent beyond its scope at the time – they were good at their work, they planned well, however they realised they needed help turning said plans into reality. Having completed the Certified Chair™ course themselves, they knew they needed similar expertise for their business and set out to find the right Chair.

In this Advisor Insights with Louise Broekman, Peter shares how choosing fellow Certified Chair™ Sean Steele to become their Chair has proven to be an excellent decision, as the business has flourished with focus. Peter likens having an advisory board to having an ‘external conscience’ as the scheduled and regular meetings have enabled a greater commitment to change by understanding his business is on a journey. He believes the greatest mindset when engaging an advisory board is to be open to being challenged, otherwise, an advisory board cannot have the impact that’s required or desired.

An Advisory Board is right for you if you’re willing to change and challenge the status quo. What we wanted was someone who made us raise our sights and believe that we could be bigger or do better work than what we’re doing at the moment.

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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Read the transcript

Louise Broekman: Welcome to the Advisor Insights interviews. My name is Louis Broekman. I’m the Founder and CEO of the Advisory Board Center. I’m here today with a Certified Chair™ and business owner, Peter Murphy. Peter, welcome!

Peter Murphy: Thank you, Louise. Thanks for this opportunity, I really appreciate it.

Louise Broekman: So, Peter, let’s start off to just talk about a bit about your business and get some context to your Advisory Board.

Peter Murphy: I’ve known Louise for about 20 years and always admired what she’s done, and then more recently with the Advisory Board Centre. My business C3 Talent is three years old next week. Myself and my business partner, Kelly Howard, both have had a long history, 25 years each in executive recruitment and hiring predominantly in the Brisbane market. We’ve created this boutique business, which is focused on what we call creating values through talent, and it’s really three areas. We focus on these boards, there’s executive and management. So it’s not just C-suite roles, it’s anyone who leads a team, general managers, site managers, operational managers, and then what we call corporate services. And that really covers finance and accounting, HR, digital, and transformation in some risk and compliance roles. So there’s six of us in a business. We’re going to go on enormous growth at 50% this year from four to six people. And part of that has been due to the advice we’ve got from Shaun Steele, who’s our chair.

Louise Broekman: Great and you are a Certified Chair™ yourself, but you wanted to build an Advisory Board for your own business. Tell me a bit about what was the trigger for that and what is your Advisory Board structure there to help you with.

Peter Murphy: The trigger point actually Louise was probably doing the Certified Chair™ course. When I did it in February last year before COVID-19, through conversations with you and then actually using Shaun to help do some client surveys and the manner he went about it – what we realised is that we were very good at it doing our work, we’re very good at planning, but we weren’t very good at making a plan a reality. And we felt that by having an Advisory Board our view was a bit like having an external conscience rather than telling me: get busy, try to hold ourselves to account. In comparison, when you’re going to meet with someone once a month or once every six weeks and say, ‘this is where we’re at’ and you get a greater commitment to doing things.

So there’s a trigger point also that we could keep going, doing what we’ve always done, I suppose, but let’s just challenge ourselves and I know Kelly (my business partner) Kelly did the course as well. So we’ve both done it and got out of it and I’d recommend it to anyone. We said, ‘Okay, how can we use this for our business and what will be the benefit of it?’ So we decided to choose Sean to come in as a Chair, was from the exercise he did in terms of speaking to 15 of our clients, he had great insight into us and the way we worked with our clients.

So we probably didn’t go through your formal EOI process. I know we spoke about that with you, but we both felt comfortable with him and not just comfortable in the respect that he’d just ‘do what we want him to do’ comfortable. And the respect that he challenges and he had an understanding of where we wanted to go. So we didn’t have to probably spend that initial formation period. We could at the very first meeting, hit the ground running because of the work he did previously.

We probably jumped ahead a little bit in terms of some of the formation processes, but we did the Business Growth Score Report and all that. So Sean had all that information, which was really valuable for him. And it did demonstrate the similarities where Kelly and myself thought the business was, you know you often think you’re on a different page from your business partner, and yeah there were some discrepancies, but they were nowhere near as big as what we probably thought they might be going into that. So it was really a case of, okay, let’s start, we’ve got some commitment for you. Let’s see where we’re at the end of that.

We’ve already had three meetings to date and they’ve been really valuable and particularly in the process of doing the plan for next year, Sean has been very structured with our approach. And he’s taken some of your 90-day plans for the next quarter. So I feel like the best analogy is we’re building a new house, we’re getting the concrete and the foundations right. We’re probably putting up some of the walls now, what will we put inside in terms of products and where will we go? But Sean’s helped us focus because I think if you’re not careful as a recruiter, you can end up trying to be all things to all people. And in the early stage of growth in the business, we’d probably do any role we can. Now we’re just focusing on those three key areas.

Louise Broekman: It’s a really interesting example, Peter, about the evolution of relationships. So you might have someone coming in doing a piece of work and they’re very into an Advisory Board structure, secondary relationship, but it’s not at the same time that it’s an evolution on both sides of the equation for you as well as for the chair.

Peter Murphy: Yes, and it was interesting because I think we had Sean do great work in terms of the client survey and it made us think about it. And I think I spoke to you about whether we were going to say jumping the gun, going with Sean or the like. We decided that we both liked his company. Likewise, he had an understanding of the business. I remember we’re sitting down having lunch to thank him for the client survey work, and we just threw out the idea about a Chair and having been involved with you for ages, understood it (the Advisory Board process). And he said it’d be a good idea, so we asked if he could set it up and he very well couldn’t say no!

I think I said to him, ‘What do you look for when you’re going to take on a Chair?’ Sean said, ‘People that are likely to do interesting things.’ We went through all this at this lunch and knowing we’d only have a Chair on the Advisory Board, so we asked would he be interested and he was! And it’s been really good because with some people, even if they do want to commit, they don’t have the time commitment and we weren’t sure of that, but it hasn’t been like that and it’s meant a lot to us.

Louise Broekman: That’s great, and you can see how it’s a journey too. It evolved over time and meeting you where you are and then bringing you on that journey of making it formal when it’s ready. Can I just ask you, as a business owner Peter, what suggestions would you have or tips for other business owners and organisations considering whether an Advisory Board is right for them?

Peter Murphy: The Advisory Board is right for you if you’re willing to change and challenge the status quo. What we wanted was someone who probably made us raise our sights and think we could be bigger or do better work than what we’re doing at the moment. I think Advisory Boards are really good when you leave your ego at the door – they come into advise and that doesn’t mean you have to take notice of them, but if you’re not going to take notice of them, why go through the charade. Our second meeting was really good because we’d had about six weeks between and I sat down said to Sean, ‘I’m really struggling at the moment because we’re really busy working out how do I break down my time between working in the business and working on the business.’

And he just gave some really key insightful comments on that. Well, this is what I’ve done and we tried that since then. Advisors will never know your business to the extent you will, and they will look at it differently and give you ideas that you haven’t thought about and as the saying goes, you can’t see the wood for the trees at times. I think you get too much in it. And there’s a couple of great examples in terms of, Sean’s talked about trying to get the sticker deal is ‘stickability’ of our clients because most clients, as a recruiter or a search firm, it’s transactional, I do a role for you and you move up, whereas if we can get part of the process he’s got us thinking about, which is the challenge for the next six months.

The next one is what products can we offer that help improve our process, but also give us greater access to the wider team within the client. And that’s really cool. That’s really valuable because it’s just making us think differently about what we do and how we deliver it. So I think, you know, you’ve got to be open to be challenged rather than just getting an Advisory Board to be a rubber stamp. All you’re doing is wasting everyone’s time and the right people who end up on an Advisory Board about that will leave because they’re not seeing they’re adding any value.

Louise Broekman: That’s so true. Peter, it’s great to see that progress being made and congratulations on that. And the whole thing is to ensure that when you engage external advisors that they’re impactful and making a difference to the business, but also you personally. So it’s great to see.

Peter Murphy: Well, thank you, Louise. I mean, if you had never developed this concept, I suppose it’s something we would never have thought out. So decided to businesses at various stages to get out, because I think the value you get out of it is the value you put into it in terms of the time of building the relationship with the advisor. So the onus is on you. If it fails, my view is it’s on you as the business owner rather than the Advisor. Set yourself up for success!

Louise Broekman: Wonderful, thanks Peter. I really appreciate you taking that time and sharing your story.