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Myer CEO Bernie Brookes’ top ten tips for business success

Justin Grey
09 September 2011 3 minute readShare

Myer CEO Bernie Brookes has turned the company around. In 2006 it lost $66 million. This year it was a hefty $250million in the black, so he clearly knows a bit about business! Hence our interest in the ten tips for success in the business world he shared today at the Women Chiefs of Enterprise International conference in Sydney.

Myer CEO Bernie Brookes spoke today at the Women Chiefs of Enterprises International conference in Sydney. The topic of his talk was “Pitching success: Getting noticed by the big end of town” and offered the following ten ways to get noticed and accelerate your career, or your business.

Myer CEO Bernie Brookes

1. Play 3D Blitz Chess

Brookes said he feels people who thrive in business today and get noticed for their success do so because they pay very close attention to detail, and seek out plenty of information.

Doing so is necessary, he said, because today’s business world is so complex. Debate around meeting consumers’ demands as online and bricks and mortar retail collide is one example of that complexity is why he invoked playing three dimensional blitz Chess as an analogy for the challenge entrepreneurs face.

Those who thrive in that game, he said, are those “with really good attention to detail. They also read very widely. I call them sponges. They read everything and I think you have to become a sponge to succeed.”

2. Look ahead

Long-term thinking, Brookes said, is more useful and important than worrying about the next couple of weeks. He said her prefers his people to be thinking about where Myer will be in two years, rather than focussing solely on activities in coming weeks.

“We’ll be ready to go when consumers finish their current spending holiday,” he said. “I think you need to look at the end game.”

3. Be decisive

People don’t gravitate to the indecisive,” Brookes told the conference. “Make a decision together and stick to it. One of the problems in our current political environment is that people want decisiveness in leaders. You may not agree with their decision but you like the decisiveness.”

4. Be Generous

Generosity of spirit is, Brookes said, critical for leaders.

“It could be knowing the name of the cleaner,” he said.

The opposite of generosity is arrogance, and Brookes said that while it has its place it will not lead to success.

“If we find someone who is arrogant we want to knock them down a peg or two. Those people don’t climb and are normally put into a box and used in certain ways at certain times.”

He also said generosity helps business to succeed because it means entrepreneurs share information.

“Why do projects fail? Because people keep information close.”

5. Practise ‘servant leadership’

Brookes feels business leaders must never forget that they serve the people who work in their enterprise. Strong leaders, he said, go out of their way to be accessible to their teams so they can serve them.

“I call it a doctrine of fairness,” he said, and explained its workings by recalling a Myer store that was damaged by fire. Staff were naturally fearful for their livelihoods but by serving those people and giving them the tools they needed to rebuild, Myer was able to re-open the store in just 44 days.

Brookes attributes that swift restoration to staff feeling management was helping them, not directing them.

6. Train, develop and reward

Brookes told the conference Myer feels “obliged to develop people” and that efforts to train, develop and reward staff always deliver return on investment.

“Double your efforts because it pays you back,” he said.

7. Take a punt from time to time

Retailing is in the doldrums at present – Brookes said Australians used to spend more than they earned, but are now saving conscientiously and that “makes it harder to get them to spend a dollar in our stores.”

Myer however, has decided to spend $25 million to boost customer service, an investment he said “we could have just put straight onto the bottom line.” Instead the company is hiring more staff – 40 in its central Sydney store alone – to address an issue its customers repeatedly say needs work.

“I say invest when times are tough,” he told the conference.

8. Be a financial manager

“Those with financial acumen have a free kick in life,” Brookes told the conference. But when he came into the world of business with humanities degrees on his CV, finance was “gobbledegook” to him.

Brookes studied to learn the basics and says he “doesn’t understand the intricacies but does understand finance now “and that financial literacy is essential for any entrepreneur.

He also told the audience not to underestimate exception reporting as it is a rich source of data that explains what you need to know about your business.

9. Be a vision creator

Creating a vision for Brookes doesn’t mean being a visionary and seeing the future. Instead it is about being “an inspirer and a mobiliser” who “think about the important of building enthusiasm.”

Doing so can be as simple as “a pat on the back or whatever” but does start with a vision to shoot for. In Myer’s case, that’s currently to become the biggest online retailer in its space.

10. Don’t stress

It’s not worth stressing, Brookes said, adding that “I tell this to people 300 or 400 times every day.”

Myer CEO Bernie Brookes’ top ten tips for business success
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Justin Grey

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