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Marianna writes for The Australian Financial Review and Business Review Weekly from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in legal affairs, technology and business.

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CEO Q&A: Cameron Judson

Published 20 February 2013 10:54, Updated 16 May 2013 10:22

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CEO Q&A: Cameron Judson

“I regret not understanding the word pragmatism earlier in my career,” says Cameron Judson. Photo: Supplied

Cameron Judson is chief executive officer at human resources company Chandler Macleod.

What was your first job?

A management cadet at TNT Express. It set me in good stead for the rest of my career as it taught me valuable skills on what’s expected in the workplace – a strong work ethic, honesty and integrity.

Name a business leader you admire

Late media mogul Kerry Packer. His tenacity, will and perseverance were exemplary. What he did for media and sport in this country completely changed the game. He wasn’t willing to settle. Rather, he had a vision and pursued it vigorously.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

My life long mentor John Ross at TNT Express told me to under promise and over deliver. Make your promises achievable. If you’re able to exceed these deliverables, by going above and beyond what is expected of you, it stands you in excellent stead for building a successful career.

What skills or qualities do you wish you had?

The ability to think differently about the future and the ability to anticipate and create trends rather than merely respond to them. Those who envisioned the tablet has revolutionised the way data and communications are used. It’s a skill few possess, but those who do have the ability to change entire sectors.

What has been the worst incident in your career so far?

Attending the funeral of an employee who tragically lost their life at work.

Describe your biggest regret in business and what you learned.

I regret not understanding the word “pragmatism” earlier in my career. I could’ve been more productive and effective. Often there are multiple paths to success rather than being too driven towards a particular option believing it was the only way to get things done.

And the best deal you’ve ever made?

The acquisition of Ross Human Directions, which enabled Chandler Macleod to secure our place as No.2 in our market.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Next Decade by George Freeman. It provides a global perspective on the shift of economic empires particularly from Europe and the US to Asia. Freeman presents a fascinating analysis of global theatres and how large-scale economic changes are occurring much faster now than in the past.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best thinking time is at 5:30am each day when I am staring at the black line at the bottom of a swimming pool. I swim every morning. My best ideas come from other people such as my colleagues and advisers. Their suggestions, inspiration, experiences and perspectives help provide a different lens to my thinking and often help me uncover excellent ideas and concepts.

What keeps you up at night?

Contemplating what’s next. I’m not a worrier, but I’m often awake at night thinking about what’s next and what opportunities have the potential to be grasped both personally and professionally.

What’s the best way to deliver bad news?

Honestly and directly. Trying to hide things or cover things up is always a bad idea.

How has business changed over the past five years?

Both the pace and constancy of change has drastically altered the business landscape. In previous years there was so-called ‘still water’ your business could paddle around in and enjoy relative success. Now, you have to wind your way down the rapids constantly shifting your position as the rapids demand. Overall, change is constant and less likely to be anticipated.

Is now the time to play safe or be aggressive in industry?

There are a number of things outside of the control of business owners. Therefore, don’t be too concerned about what you can’t control, stick to your game plan and execute your strategy based on what you can control. By being tactically bold and seeking methods to maximise productivity and efficiency, there’s a chance to succeed while your competitors are standing still.

What time do you like to be at your desk?

I am an earlier starter – 7.30am is the norm for me.

Where’s best to prepare for leadership - MBA school or on the job?

Both. An MBA provides the theory, context, and peer to peer learning. The job and your career provide the environment in which to apply your learning and develop your leadership skills.

Describe your management style.

Open, self directed and energetic. I would hope that others would add ‘humble’.

Are tough decisions best taken by one person?

No, as tough decisions generally impact more than one person. As a CEO you need to be aware of the lives of those around you, not just your immediate circle but your entire company.

What does your support team look like?

A group of talented people who challenge me as they have an array of different skills and competencies. I’ve become a better CEO because of their input, guidance, advice and encouragement.

Do you read management books?

Yes, as I am often looking for a different perspective on things. I’m currently reading “The Next Decade” by George Friedman. He analyses the rise of Asia and the fall of America, looking through the lens of the next ten years. Many commentators and authors are focused on the next 100 years, the so-called Asian Century, however, the next 10 years will decide the fate of the next 100 so it’s critical to look near term as well as long term.

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