Marina Go MAICD is a successful author and media executive, who over the last decade has made the transition to the boardroom. She is currently Chair of rugby league club Wests Tigers and is on the board of Autosports Group, which listed on the ASX last year. She spoke to The Boardroom Report about the Autosports IPO, adapting your business model to the times and the importance of mentoring in advancing the careers of women.
Boardroom Report (BR): You’re a director of Autosports Group, which recently listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. What is the experience of an IPO like for a director?
Marina Go (MG): I was the final director appointed so a lot of the work had already been completed by the chairman, the other two independent directors and the executive directors, as well as the cast of thousands that are involved in the due diligence committee. We had a lot of due diligence meetings to ensure that we understood the risks. We had to make sure we could stand by the content that was in the prospectus.
It was an extraordinary process in many ways because you have no choice but to learn about an organisation from top to bottom, literally all the way through, in a very compressed timeframe.
BR: In your book , you talk a lot about the relationship between structure, people, and strategy and how that is critical to the success of an organisation. How have you sought to apply that in your various roles?
MG: I’ve always said to people that when you’re an executive, you’ll feel that something’s not quite right but you’re not sure what it is. And then you apply the theory to it and suddenly say, “That’s exactly what’s wrong.”
One of the most important things that I look at now when I’m looking at an opportunity, or a disrupted environment, is to look at the strategy and think about whether or not you have the right business model, servicing customers in a way that they want.
If the answer is no, or yes but not in the future, then you obviously need to change your business model. You need to look at your organisational structure and make a decision as to whether or not the structure still services that new business model.
A lot of organisations change their thinking. But they don’t change the organisation in a meaningful way so they don’t align their structure and people to the outcome. For me, it’s very simple. It’s about implementation. If you don’t implement fully, you’re not going to get the outcome you need.
You could probably cast a little net over the number of women running companies in media. There are many talented women out there who should be in those roles.
BR: You’ve spoken openly about the importance of gender diversity in organisations. You’ve also said that it’s very important for women to lean in and to back themselves. You’ve spent most of your career in publishing where there are lots and lots of very talented women in the lower levels but as you go up the corporate ladder, that diversity seems to slip away. How can leaders like you help to foster and nurture that talent?
MG: I mentor a lot of young women and I think that part of nurturing that talent is actually being accessible to young women, making sure that ambitious young women can get the answers they want or learn from you if they want to. I have a lot of women in publishing in particular approaching me at any given time asking me to mentor them. What I tend to help them to work on is their confidence.
I find that generally it’s not a lack of capability; it’s a lack of confidence. They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t know how to take the next step. They are sometimes fearful of leaving an organisation that isn’t offering them the opportunities that they deserve.
You could probably cast a little net over the number of women running companies in media. There are many talented women out there who should be in those roles. One of the reasons why I have wanted to join the board world is because I feel like I can have a greater influence in the future with regards to getting more women into leadership roles.
BR: You recently graduated from the AICD’s Chairs’ Mentoring Program. What was that experience like and what did you get out of it?
MG: My experience was fantastic. I was very fortunate that my mentor was Graham Bradley. Graham is an extremely professional, talented and accomplished chairman. But he’s also a man who cares about diversity. He worked, he pushed me, he opened doors for me and he challenged my thinking.
Most of all he devoted a lot of time to meeting with me. I met with Graham on a monthly basis for about an hour. He asked a lot of why questions, “Why? Why? Why?”
I still had to do the work, he would recommend that I speak to somebody or he would send an introductory note but I had to go out and speak to these people and I had to impress them.
I also got to ask him a lot of questions. He’s chaired many boards so I was very fortunate that during the first stage of my chair career, I got to work with such an accomplished chairman. It was just a brilliant year for me, I’m really sad it’s over actually.
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