Early on in his career, Richard realised the importance of valuing and empowering the people he leads, and this principle has been the cornerstone of a successful business career that spans 40 years. Richard was born and raised in Dunedin, spent several years in Australia as a young man, then returned to New Zealand where he started two companies and took them public before founding Richard Joseph and Associates in 1991.
It was a transformative experience during his senior years at high school that Richard says changed the trajectory of his life. Up until this time, school was not an enjoyable or rewarding place to be. “The school system didn’t support the development of my self-belief but I got some of that through sport,” recalls Richard, who excelled at rugby and athletics. One particularly unkind teacher in his early years left Richard with huge anxiety and fear about the classroom. Fortunately, at the beginning of his fifth form year, Richard got to know the new sportsmaster, a wise and compassionate man, who believed that Richard had the ability to achieve well at school if he applied the same dedication, determination and persistence that he did on the sports field. As Richard explains, “This teacher was able to give me a glimpse of my potential and the self-belief I had in sport then broadened into other areas of my life.”
Beginning his business career with the Bank of New Zealand in Dunedin, Richard then moved to Australia to work for his uncle at College Mercantile in Melbourne. Richard witnessed his uncle’s humility and the respectful way he helped people less fortunate than himself, and determined to make these qualities part of his leadership style if he were to be given the opportunity to lead.
He was soon given that opportunity. Head-hunted by the Victorian Credit Bureau to be their new General Manager, Richard was given his first leadership role, and a difficult one it was. When Richard arrived, the company was in danger of going under and the culture was rotten. The previous manager had been a dictatorial chain smoker. Most of the staff also smoked, so the furniture was stained and dirty, not to mention old, ugly and inconveniently arranged. Richard was initially viewed with the same distrust and dislike as the previous manager until one day he commented on the unpleasant conditions. The staff said they had been asking for new furniture for years. Richard told them to go ahead and change it. This gesture of goodwill between manager and employees paid dividends beyond anything Richard had imagined. “I just wanted to make it a more pleasant place to work. I wasn’t thinking much beyond that, but by giving them that sense of contribution and letting them see that they mattered, they responded in kind. The culture became friendlier. The process of selecting colours and styles of furniture created camaraderie and strengthened team relationships. This initial contribution they made to the office décor started generalising to better ways of running the business.” Within six months, the company was breaking even and within a year it was making a profit. Richard emphasises that this success had less to do with the actual management of the business and more to do with his staff feeling valued and empowered. Because they knew they mattered to him and he respected them, they were prepared to give more of themselves to the business.
Richard returned to Dunedin in 1980 because he wanted to give his family the same lifestyle and the same sense of stability he had as a child. He formed Protocol Credit Bureau and after five years, merged with three other companies to form Credit Corp, a public company with 14 branches around New Zealand. However, Richard explains, differing management styles caused him to resign from the Board in 1991. "It was a hard decision but I knew I either had to put up and shut up or be true to myself, so I resigned and decided to set up on my own again.”
Richard had just completed a four year term as the national president of the New Zealand Credit and Finance Institute so his new venture, Richard Joseph & Associates, started by giving advice to businesses around the issues of credit management. He says "As I visited the different companies I noticed they often had things they wanted to achieve but they never quite got there. I became fascinated by the gap between what they wanted to do and what they actually achieved.”
Richard undertook extensive research into this phenomenon which, combined with his first-hand business management experience and the life-lessons from his formative years, led to the creation of the Turning Point programme. This programme has now run continuously for 24 years and has proved so successful that it has now been expanded to a suite of supportive, integrated development programmes harnessing employee potential and thereby creating productive, successful organisations.
Richard remains passionate about helping others uncover their potential, just as that one teacher did for him. Although that teacher became a lifelong friend, and Turning Point is dedicated to him, Richard is careful to point out that he learned just as much from the one particularly awful teacher he had as he did from the kind sportsmaster. “From one teacher I learned what to do, and from the other I learned what not to do, and I thank them both for what they taught me.” And from this experience has come one of the central tenets of Turning Point: All information has value… if you are brave enough to listen.
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