Managing culture

Interview: Tony Byrne, General Manager, International Towers

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Tony Byrne is one of Australia’s most experienced property managers. In a career spanning over 30 years, Tony has managed some of Australia’s most successful and innovative commercial assets, as well as a number of high-profile international projects.

As the General Manager of International Towers, Tony plays a pivotal role in the way culture supports one of Australia’s most progressive workplaces.


How important is culture in the context of managing a building?


I believe culture defines who you are, no matter what type of business you’re in. Every company has a culture, whether it’s a bank, a bakery or a building. I believe culture has to be ingrained in everything you do for it to have any meaning or purpose – your language, your actions, your behaviour, and your values.

One of the things we did here at International Towers very early on, was change the language around how we refer to our clients. We call them partners, not tenants, because that’s the type of relationship we want to have with them. Naturally, that has a big impact on how we go about our dealings and negotiations with them, because a partnership is very different to a traditional tenant-landlord relationship.

It can actually take quite a bit of time for both sides to understand and realise what it means. But when a building owner can have direct conversations about opportunities for collaboration and continuous improvement, then the results can be extremely positive. It can lead to better retention of talent and enhanced productivity. Happiness improves, and so does revenue – for both sides. For the organisation, the building becomes a partner in its success. And for the building, we become the workplace of first choice. So even that simple change of language, one simple word, can have a very profound and significant impact on how the business is run.

What are some of the key aspects of successful cultures?

One of the most important attributes of a successful culture is having diversity of ideas, and just as importantly, providing an environment where different ideas have a voice. In my opinion, the best way to fast- track mediocrity is to always have consensus of opinion. It’s fundamental to a healthy culture – and it’s the very foundation for a healthy democracy – that there are a mix of opinions that are respected and considered before decisions are made.

We experienced this recently with our support for the YES Marriage Equality campaign. Providing support in the form of hosting the campaign’s headquarters was very much aligned with our organisation’s values. But naturally it was a very polarising issue for many people, so it was critical that we allowed people within our own team an opportunity to express their views freely and without fear, and to respect the beliefs of every individual during that process.

How can a property, or a built working environment influence culture?

The built environment has such a profound impact on the way people behave and feel, that it is absolutely crucial in supporting every one of a company’s cultural initiatives. The white paper recently produced by Professor Anthony Grant and his team at the University of Sydney has now made that connection official. You can read more about Professor Grant’s findings later in this publication.

There are so many examples of a building playing a key role in the performance of a business. Not so many years ago, the Commonwealth Bank was ranked fourth out of the top four banks by graduates as their first-choice employer. However, after moving operations to Darling Quarter in Sydney’s Darling Harbour precinct, and using that as an opportunity to rejuvenate its culture, the bank soon began ranking as number one, and I’m confident the workplace played a huge role in that. The location itself become a highly attractive attribute, and somewhere younger people wanted to be.

We also saw similar results with Westpac, who experienced a significant reduction in sick leave across their workforce not long after moving to International Towers. So, the connection between a positive built environment and a positive culture, and strong business performance is very real.

How much then does the built environment rely on how it is managed?

Enormously. The interesting thing about property management is that almost all of the education is based on fiscal outcomes and operational technicalities, such as rent yields, lease inclusions, market reviews, gross reviews, allocations, shared services tables and so on. The one thing that isn’t in the ‘manual’ is culture. Culture is hard to define and even harder to teach. It needs to have buy-in from the owner, all the way through the organisation to the service staff. The person responsible for cleaning the bathrooms at night needs to feel just as good about where they work, and feel just as respected and valued as the management team representing the asset owners. Everyone needs to feel like they are part of the same team.

I’m a huge supporter of the concept of ‘team’, where everyone on the property management side and on the client side feels like they’re working together for the same goals. And to have a successful team, you need true partnership.

Explain how you maintain a positive culture within a building that has so much diversity.

It all comes down to values. Diversity can thrive in an environment founded on common values. So our role as building managers and owners is not to stifle diversity, or even to try and constrain a diversity of cultures injected into the building through our partners, but to ensure that everyone in the building community shares a set of common values. When we speak to prospective organisations who are seeking to join our community, it’s the very first conversation we have, well before we start discussing their physical requirements, because we know if our values aren’t aligned, then regardless of what we’re able to negotiate, it won’t be the right fit.

That’s why it’s so important things such as Green Star ratings for fit-out are committed to, and that their processes and procurement policies are aligned with our own values.

They don’t have to be identical, but as long as we share an aligned vision and share similar beliefs, we know we’ll have a successful partnership.

Even down at a very personal level, most long- term friendships are based on shared and aligned values. You may not agree on everything – and sometimes that can be very healthy for a relationship – but ultimately you share a common set of beliefs, and that’s how you can build trust and that’s how you can move in the same direction.

Culture creates a community, and being part of a healthy, vibrant, positive community is a fundamental need for all of us. So by nurturing and encouraging positive behaviour, we are helping our community thrive. And who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

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Feeding diversity, sustainability, and community

Interview: Ian McKenzie, KPMG Head Chef

Since the beginning of time and the earliest of civilisations, food has brought people together. The preparation and sharing of meals – whether it be around a tribal campfire in the remote outback or a boardroom table in the heart of the city - provides a profound opportunity for people to bond and connect, share stories, debate ideas and to defuse differences.

Food service is also an opportunity to embrace wellbeing, celebrate diversity and champion sustainability, and few know this better than professional services firm KPMG. With commercial kitchen facilities at Barangaroo that would rival those of any international five-star hotel, the organisation takes meal preparation and food service very seriously indeed.

“As an organisation, we believe KPMG is a reflection of the general community itself,” says Ransdale Dinger, National Client Experience Team Leader, KPMG. “We are an international company, which means our people are incredibly diverse, as are our clients. However, we feel some things are universal – great hospitality and service, celebration of community, and the provision of nourishment, and our goal is to use thesethings to bring all people together.”

With a team of approximately 2,500 in Sydney, and just over 7,000 nationally, the KPMG community is a mirror of modern Australia, and the organisation relishes its role as a responsible corporate citizen in every aspect of its operations. One of those is in the preparation and service of meals to its teams and clients. On any given week, the kitchens within its Barangaroo office at International Towers, Tower Three, prepare an average of 500 fine-dining lunches and dinners, cater to hundreds more for breakfasts and casual meals, bake thousands of muffins, and deliver an endless supply of fruit and beverages.

“The sheer volume of food we prepare each week means we have a genuine opportunity to make a difference to not only our own community at KPMG, but the greater community too,” says Ian McKenzie, Head Chef. “We work very closely with our community of farmers and growers, not only so that we can source the very best, seasonal produce, but also to minimise waste and food miles. We adhere to a paddock-to-plate and nose-to-tail ethos, which helps us to deliver an experience that is as sustainable as possible, and that is also very much focussed on the health and nutrition of everyone we serve.”

Currently, around 80 per cent of all waste from the KPMG kitchens is recycled or repurposed. An achievement like this doesn’t happen by accident. By taking control of the supply process – for instance, sourcing sustainably grown, whole fish and preparing them in-house, using the bones to make stocks for soups and other dishes, Ian and his team have been able to dramatically reduce the amount of food waste, as well as the organisation’s environmental footprint. A Waste Management Induction process, hosted by Lendlease and International Towers management, also provided valuable insights into how the industry-leading, recycling and repurposing facilities within the Towers work, enabling all involved with food preparation at KPMG to work together toward a common mission, and introduce processes to ensure they were working as sustainably as possible. This includes a highly disciplined approach to recycling, as well as other initiatives, such as supporting National Recycling Week, promoting multiple-use coffee cups, and working with organisations such as food rescue charity OzHarvest to distribute surplus meals.

Ian, who has cooked for CEOs, dignitaries and royalty all over the world (he was once the chef on the Royal Yacht and cooked for Lady Diana), also understands his unique position to influence the wellbeing of the community he serves. “The way people eat has changed, and continues to evolve,” he says. “People are much more conscious of the role of diet in their overall health, so we try to support that – and even drive that – through our kitchen. For example, we’ve replaced many of the biscuits we used to bake as team snacks with fresh fruit and nuts; we’re serving less carbohydrates, making cold-pressed juices and we recently established a close relationship with Bell & Brio from within our Barangaroo community to make our bread, using pure ingredients and amazing, whole grains. We even adopted a cow from the dairy in the Camden Valley that supplies our milk. The milk is bottled at the farm and delivered straight to us and, on a clear day, we can even see the dairy farm from our office at International Towers. It doesn’t get more local than that.”

Community responsibility at KPMG isn’t confined to the dining table. Outside the kitchens, the organisation has a robust program of events and initiatives, and uses every opportunity to engage with its own community to support a range of causes, from distributing white ribbons to its service teams in support of ‘White Ribbon Day’; purple neck ties for ‘Wear It Purple Day’; and hoodies in support of NAIDOC Week, to even decorating the coffees they serve with icons relating to national causes and community initiatives to raise awareness and start conversations.

“It’s all about experience,” says Ransdale. “If we can improve the life of a single person through our actions, then everything we do is worthwhile. If we can improve the lives of all in our community and beyond, then we have achieved something incredibly special.”

Disrupting the market

Interview: Rosie Kennedy, CEO, OnMarket


OnMarket is a unique, crowdfunding and venture advisory business that is helping democratise finance for investors and bring new, early-stage funding to startups and small, scalable businesses. The company recently completed its 100th IPO and introduced the world’s first App for crowdfunding IPOs, and was one of the first to receive the new crowd-sourced funding licenses in January 2018.

We spoke to Rosie Kennedy about how her traditional finance background led her to help build the OnMarket business.

As a professional, and now an entrepreneur, you have a wonderful mix of experience across traditional finance, financial governance and disruptive fintech. What are the highlights?

I began my career in the money market, then ran the government bond trading desk for what is now UBS.

My next major role was heading up business development at ASX, where my focus was on trying to allow retail investors to invest in fixed interest securities, or debt securities, because Australian investors are traditionally very equity-focused.

I went on to work at ASIC in the area that supervises exchanges. I also helped simplify the prospectus regime for debt issuers – again hoping to free up the debt market so retail investors had an opportunity to participate.

Then you met your co-founder at OnMarket, Ben Bucknell, who was trying to do something very similar in the equity market?

Yes. My passion came from being intimately involved in the bond market, and seeing the importance of diversification of portfolios. It was clearly apparent that retail investors were not being given the same opportunities to diversify their portfolios as institutions. Ben had the same vision in the equity market.

Initially we licensed our intellectual property to ASX, to build ASX BookBuild. This system was built within ASX’strading platform and was a tech-driven solution to improve the pricing on equity issuance by listed companies and improve participation for investors.

As this was a B2B model, we really needed some firms in the big end of town to grasp the opportunities arising out of digital disruption in financial markets. But remember, when we were launching ASX BookBuild, it was before the word ‘fintech’ was in common usage. The reality was that there were a lot of powerful, vested interests in the existing process, and it was not easy to get support for an innovative new approach.

Ironically, that lack of support drove us to develop OnMarket, which is a B2C service on desktop and in the App Store. It’s simple, and a far cry from what we were originally doing, but it seems to solve a real problem for investors (by giving them access to discounted IPOs) and companies (by providing a cost effective way of reaching investors).

What companies do you think stand out in the crowd-financing area?

We’ve had a few firsts. We closed Australia’s first equity crowdfunding offer, Revvies, in March 2018. And we’ve completed the largest crowdfunding deal in the world in terms of the number of investors. The company is called DC Power. They got 15,000 investors, and previously the largest number of investors globally was about 6,200.

One of our more interesting offers is The Cup eXchange (TCX) – which is a sustainable, coffee cup business which is solving the disposable cup conundrum. This offer opened in November 2018, and the minimum raise was covered in the first seven days.

It’s a subscription model where consumers are given two cups and they exchange those cups via scanning. Each cup has an identifier, and they scan the cups for credits. Once the coffee is finished, you pop the cup back to that particular café, or to another participating café.

That cup can be used by any participating café, and it never finds its way to landfill because if the coffee cup is ever damaged – which is unlikely because it’s made in a durable way that is very sturdy – it’s crushed down and made into another one.

It’s on trial in Sydney and Barangaroo, and in Melbourne as well. And they are the first-to-market with this product – there is no reason it can’t go global.

Does a crowdfunding raise also help with marketing and awareness of a business?

Definitely. The smaller companies can also use this process to engage their whole stakeholder chain – from employees, to the suppliers and the customers who really embrace the product and engage with the whole process – it’s a nice way of tying all the stakeholders in. For example, we completed a successful crowdraising for PT Blink – a technology company that is revolutionising the construction process. The key benefit for that group was getting referrals from customers. People saw their story whether they invested or not. As a result, large building companies got in touch with PT Blink to use the product.

You expanded your business to Tower Two at International Towers in 2018. You were previously based in Bligh St in Sydney’s CBD, what was behind the move?

We were looking to scale our business – and the tenant model at International Towers was beautifully configured for that kind of progressive growth.

Also, OnMarket is very much in the innovation business and the incredible strength of the innovation community at International Towers was a big attraction for us. We were drawn to the powerful community of enterprise and growth companies and the partnership approach International Towers takes with its tenants.

I think it’s a great benefit that we’re able to work together in such a collaborative environment, especially on our floor. As an example, with The Cup eXchange I spoke to fellow tenant partners, the Green Building Council Australia about relevant contacts in the sustainability area. They connected me with a terrific person at one of the large accounting firms, who has since put us in touch with a facilities manager, and as a result they’re about to sign a large partnership deal.

...which in an enterprise world is very fast-tracked?

Unbelievably. That all happened in 3.5 weeks. That’s a classic example of the working environment, but also of the collaborative nature of the people here. It’s certainly early days, but the camaraderie we’ve already experienced is fantastic.