Asking the right questions is a skill that has harvested Sydney-based businessman Peter Ord’s life-long lessons.
He’s a big believer in the power of mentorship, having reaped the benefit of advice from some straight talkers during more than 30 years of management and marketing experience overseas and in Australia.
Having owned and successfully operated several start-up medical device companies including Device Technologies, the largest privately-owned health device company in Australia and New Zealand, Mr Ord is now a willing and generous mentor.
So happy is he to share his wisdom that several years ago Mr Ord had his eight favourite life lessons printed on plastic business cards which he continues to hand around today.
“They’re not all my words,” he said, “but they’re great lessons that have served me very well over many years and I know people still get great value from me sharing them.”
Sharing has been a strong theme in the career success of Peter Ord.
Device Technologies literally started in 1992 as an idea shared between four close friends with big dreams and a complementary set of skills.
“I’ve always been in business with other people, but I also believe that someone has to be in charge,” said Ord, who volunteered to be the fledgling company’s CEO, and with the unanimous endorsement of partners Kevin Ryan, Bill Walker and John McQuillan.
Needing cash to grow their orthopaedic joint replacement business into new areas of medical technology, including the world’s first complete artificial heart implants, three of the four put their family homes on the line and turned Device Technologies into one of the leading medical supply companies in the healthcare sector, now with more than 100 brands and 700 staff.
Having stepped back from the executive management of the Company, Mr Ord has focussed his energies on the business of business, as Executive Director and Shareholder of Coraggio, a national Advisory Board business providing peer-to-peer mentoring for more than 300 business leaders, and their companies.
It’s the perfect playground for someone who loves to share his support and knowledge with others.
“You can’t beat the lessons you gain from someone who has been there before and can guide you through the situation,” he said.
So, let’s tap into Peter Ord’s eight life lessons – as printed on the back of those very popular business cards:
Lesson 1: Move out of the comfort zone.
One of the first questions Ord asks new business leaders – aside from their cashflow and financial position – is about business differentiation. In some cases, these questions may lead to a whole new business model and, ideally, sustainability.
Lesson 2: Start imagining what you can do and get excited about it.
“You’ve got to paint the picture for the future and plan for it,” says Ord. “If you’re turning over a million dollars today, be thinking of how you’ll be turning over $5 million in five years.”
Lesson 3: Find a hero who has commitment, courage and passion as well as the occasional flaw.
“As my Dad once told me: ‘you’re not very good at school, but you have potential’,” said Ord, a former EY Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology Communication and Life Sciences, and mentor to MBA graduates from the University of New South Wales.
Lesson 4: Saying no to something before we investigate implies prejudice and pre-judgement.
If Ord has a superpower, it’s likely to be listening.
“I’m also a great believer in being patient and having really good people around me,” he said. “I never think I’ve got all the answers but I’ve worked very hard at listening and that’s served me well.”
Lesson 5: Choose to do something uncomfortable which you may be wary of.
Ord says this is why the Coraggio Advisory Board model is so powerful.
“When I joined, I needed to talk to people who didn’t agree with me,” he said. “That’s where sitting with leaders from other businesses is helpful. They can call you out on the things that challenge you and then help you to move through it.”
Lesson 6: You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do, you have to do the necessary work.
Ord’s a strong believer in teamwork, but also in the importance of having a captain who will make decisions.
“When we started out in business, I put my hand up for it (leadership) on the basis that if I made a decision, the other partners would support it,” he said. “But it was always on the basis that if someone else wanted to be in charge, that was fine. They never did, and we’re still friends 30 years on.”
Lesson 7: The person not taking risks feels the same amount of fear as the person who regularly takes risks.
And that’s where Ord’s belief in teamwork features again.
“I always thought that it was better to have a third of something that’s really successful, rather than all of something that’s a little bit successful,” he said.
Lesson 8: “The real secret of being different and successful is enthusiasm” – Walter Chayster
“Part of our success in business was because we had fun,” said Ord of his time with Device Technologies. “You’ve got to have laughter and fun. Success isn’t about money, it’s about people. If you get people in the business feeling right and believing in you, money will follow.”
And there’s no doubting Ord’s enthusiasm for Coraggio.
“You can get a lot from Coraggio, but you can also give a lot,” he said. “That is just as important in business, as it is in life.”
Coraggio, meaning courage, is a community of private business owners and industry leaders who share, learn and grow through Advisory Boards and a focus on four key areas that determine the success of a business: attracting and retaining the right people, creating a truly differentiated strategy, driving flawless execution and building financial sustainability.