Alumni profile: Richard Mathews
If you haven’t heard the name Richard Mathews then it’s high time you did. From an auditor in Deloitte Christchurch to CEO of the world’s largest publicly listed independent group of mining technical experts, this is one alumni at the top of his game. And while many at his level employ a cut-throat attitude, this man is full of generousity and gratitude both for his time at Deloitte and the position he currently holds.
When were you at Deloitte and what was your role?
I started at Deloitte (then Haskin and Sells) in 1987 after finishing a Science and Commence degree and was bonded for two years. I started in audit but after six months moved across to the software consulting business to implement new systems into large corporations. After that, I was moved across to the advisory business and worked with Partners across the country on business transformation projects.
What was your fondest memory here?
I have many fond memories right back to my first day when all of the graduates were sent to Sydney for a three week training course which was an eye opener. I really did get to work on some fantastic projects at a very young age. I was also fortunate enough to work directly with Senior Partners which accelerated my learning.
However my best memory would have to be meeting my wife who also worked in the office (and who was actually the daughter of a large client) and trying to hide it from the rest of the staff.
What’s your current role and how did you end up at RungePincockMinarco?
We tried to buy RPM back in 2008 when I was the CEO of Mincom. Instead of a trade sale, the RPM Board at that time listed the company on the Australian Stock Exchange. We always liked the company so in 2011 a group of us started buying RPM shares and after eight months I was invited onto the Board and then became the CEO and MD soon after.
Can you explain the three attributes or skills that people need to hold senior positions in a global company such as yours?
You have to understand the numbers. If you don’t, you will be found out. Investors want to understand your strategy, but more importantly they want to have confidence that you understand the financial returns of that strategy.
Continued success only comes through great teamwork and there is no better way to build a team than working hard and being passionate about what you are trying to achieve.
You do have to be prepared to make the hard decisions and then get on with it. If you find yourself thinking ‘I wish I had done that sooner’ then you have not been doing your job. I know this may sound heartless to some but you can’t lose sight of that fact that real people have invested their hard earned money on the basis that you are doing everything you can to improve the return they get on that money. Therefore there is no place for pet rocks, procrastination or politics.
You must be honest with everyone. While people initially may not like what they hear, they will respect you for telling them the truth - nobody in business likes surprises.
What does “success” mean to you?
Of course success depends on your objective, beliefs and perspective. But for me, success comes from seeing hard working people rewarded for the value that they add to a business, their community or their family.
While I love making money for people - at the end of the day, being a great husband and father is what I want people to remember me for.
A CEO position is highly regarded and highly coveted – is the reality of it the same as the dream of it?
The first time I was named CEO of a major international company I was really excited. I naturally love accountability and responsibility so I thrive on the cut and thrust of the competitive environment.
But you learn pretty quickly that it is quite a lonely job. I do like it that everyone laughs at your jokes but it is amazing to me how many people quietly think to themselves that they may be able to do a better job. Ensuring you have an honest, complimentary, hardworking tight team working with you and having a network of trusted peers and family outside of the organisation is a must.
Being a CEO is a real honour and privilege and the day you take it for granted is the day you should stand aside.
Anything else you’d like to add about Deloitte?
It has been really pleasing to see how the company which gave me my first job back in 1987 has grown into one of the largest professional services businesses in the world whilst others have fallen by the wayside. It seems that while the culture has evolved over the years, the underlying focus on quality and hard work has remained. I wish the Partners all the best and thank them for the foundation, encouragement and training they gave me all those years ago.