Pierre Malou is a passionate entrepreneur with impressive track records in commercialisation, business advisory services and leadership. Pierre has honed his marketing and sales skills in Europe and Southeast Asia before moving to Australia in 2001. Pierre has held positions such as Chief Operating Officer, General Manager and Head of Commercialisation and specialises in groundbreaking and disruptive technologies.
Pierre is currently the Chief Executive Office of the Business Centre, a not-for-profit organisation with more than 30 years’ experience in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs through business advisory services, mentoring programs, workshops, training and events.
• What has been your career path?
I started in France after business school for a couple of years in marketing and then the building industry. Very quickly and in 2000I was sent overseas to Hong Kong. As you may remember, 2000 was the Sydney Olympics and Sydney was very much on the map. I came here (Sydney)to do market research for the company and we decided to open a subsidiary -I was up for the job as General Manager. I arrived in Australia17 years ago, in 2001.
From there, in Australia, I continued to work in the building industry and then moved on with BlueScope Steel, and that’s the very moment where my interest in new technology actually started. I saw that we were putting solar panels straight on to the roofs as we’re building new projects and I teamed up with the design district. At that time, it was really in its infancy; we’re talking about 2002 or 2003. From there, one thing leading to another, and I developed new technologies and started to really find my way in the commercialisation of different technologies. That’s where I’m at now, bringing new things to market all the time.
• What has shaped your leadership style?
I don’t know if I have a style. But reflecting back on the question, I think it started with sports. I played a lot of sports when I was younger, particularly rugby and basketball. You know when you’re on a team, being a leader is not necessarily being the one scoring the most points; it’s actually the one that makes the team better. I’m thinking in hindsight, that was really something that shaped my ways of thinking about leadership – how to make a team better. I don’t know if then it was a style.
As you progress in your career you go under the influence of people like mentors. I’ve had one mentor in particular when I was posted in Hong Kong and he was back in France. It was absolutely fantastic. It was all about making me feel very good about what I was doing overseas, although I was alone and I didn’t have a team at the time around me. It was really empowering me. So, if I were to mix the two, I would say the leadership style I like, and I would hope I can use, is to be someone that makes the team better by empowering the players. That applies to business as well, I think.
• What do you think business owners need to thrive?
When you’re a business owner, we have to develop a service and product. At the same time, we have, obviously, a bottom line; we need to make some money and often have to manage a team. You can be a sole trader, but you manage relationships anyway, particularly with your clients, your service providers and everyone else.
The first thing is resilience. Nothing is given for free in this world. Nothing. Even when you’re on a good ride, it doesn’t mean it will last. The ability to understand that business is cyclable, that relationships change and that what was a win-win yesterday might be different tomorrow, even with your customers. Then, your customers’ needs might change as well and you need to be adaptable.
That resilience is to be reflected back and think “what do I need to do today to make it a good day?”. And, that transforms from resilience into adaptation. So, those are the two things from business owners, not just one, its resilience and being adaptable. You develop your learning skills because you are ready and you accept that you need to learn; you recognize that things will be different; and that you need to be resilient. And, adaptable means you need to be prepared for something new and you need to acquire more skills. So, one thing is absolutely fundamental, resilience. But then you also need your learning skills and adaptability as well.
• What do you think makes the business unique in the Hunter?
I arrived in the Hunter 13 years ago, so now I’ve got an idea of what our region is. I’ll try to think about it like a parochial and looking beyond Newcastle, the Hunter and the lower Hunter. What’s very intriguing is that we are certainly one of the strongest regional economies in Australia and we have a history. The one thing for me – and I know people might reflect back and think “why is he saying that?” – is that we still have the pioneer spirit in the Hunter. Part of the Hunter was developed very early on by fur traders and that spirit is still here.
We have the mining industry and it requires working hard, resilience, hard conditions, but same on the harbour. Product and services these days really require you to adapt all the time to your clients’ needs. I think that the hunter has that spirit. Our businesses are innovative, they’re resilient and they work collaboratively. I think that’s really the strength I’ve seen over the past 14 years.The main thing is to be finding the right business partners to work with, people who are going to work hard, and then to enjoying the innovation. Because there are always new things to do and new pathways. That probably defines business in the Hunter.
• Which local business person do you find inspiring?
I’ll be a bit bias. I’m going to name someone who is close to me for many reasons. It’s Craig McGregor from Hunter Recruitment Group in Maitland. I admire Craig. We are roughly the same age and we have the same background from two different countries. We grew up in regional cities and were basketball players. We used to compete with each other.
Craig’s passion for his region and for Maitland’s city, although he was born around the lake, and does great things for his community. So, he works around basketball and the committee and he is the President of Maitland Business Chamber and I was really, really fortunate to work under his guidance as Vice President for three years at Maitland Business Chamber.
It’s hard to find someone more dedicated to his family, his wife and three daughters, his committee and still drive a business and be successful. He’s an absolute inspiration. He’s just a great bloke, as you would say, so yeah, I’ll vote for Craig.