Peter Coughlan has a laser-like focus on helping small business owners to articulate their why. He is the Co-founder of Business Success Partners Australia, through which he helps business owners to set their goals then holds them accountable to implement tasks to achieve those goals.
Beyond the business, Peter has made a commitment to the local Hunter community through his role as an Ambassador and past board member for Lifeline. He was a long-term board member of ConnectAbility and he spends a lot of his time on the Hunter Relay for Life.
- Tell us a little about your career path?
It all started back in high school and following my father’s involvement as an Accountant. I could see the way that he was helping his clients in regional New South Wales. I spent 15 years with Coopers & Lybrand, now PwC, in various offices, including several wonderful years in Port Vila, Vanuatu. In 1992 I came back to Newcastle to work with what was then Lawler Partners and spent 15 years servicing the local community.
Ten years ago, in June 2007 during the long weekend storms, I went home and announced to my wife,”I want to go out and consult and help people move forward from where they are”. That’s what it was all about, moving forward.
- What motivates and drives you?
A desire to help people. I want people to articulate where they would like to get to. And I believe I can then assist them to get to that end destination.
It’s all about helping them achieve their goals at a personal level, not just the business level, because if the business isn’t aligned to your personal goals you’re not going to feel any satisfaction out of it.
- What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?
I’m possibly a bit different to a lot of people in that in my early days I didn’t actually find a leader who I really aspired to be. I was always watching partners in the accounting firms and thinking, “I don’t want to be like that”.
So what I guess I’ve learned along the way is that you need to actually bring people along the journey and find out. It’s communicating the right way, getting people engaged in why you’re doing something.In the consulting world, that’s what it’s all about -helping businesses find out what their why is and supporting them to work along that line.
I think it’s the journey; it’s helping them communicating why you’re doing it.
- What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?
I’m passionate about exercise. So for me, it’s now been over 40 years of exercising daily. It’s just the way that I blow the cobwebs out. I don’t necessarily like the work-life term, but it’s important. I do think about work and sometimes you’ve got to be reasonably clear in your mind when you get home. So exercising even on the way home (as I used to do) just clears the cobwebs out.
And it’s also amazing when you give the brain something else to think about. The number of problems and issues I’ve solved while I’ve been out running constantly amazes me – what comes to me when I’m not focusing on work.
- Which local businessperson do you find inspiring?
Gary Webb is an inspiring person. My contact with him was when he was Chair of Lifeline. The way he engaged with all of the people involved in the organisation, the board and other interested parties – he could take us to the big picture view of the world with his encouragement.
I completed a company director’s course which really showed me where he was coming from – the importance of the difference in strategy versus management and having someone who’s absolutely clear on setting the strategy and not wearing the hat of management.
I found the way that he did that inspiring and it was so much fun following his lead.