Thursday, 07 Jun 2018

Leaders of Life Education: Garry Browne AM

Newly appointed Life Education Australia Chair Garry Browne has spent more than 20 years as head of one of Australia’s longest running fast-moving consumer goods companies, Stuart Alexander and Co.

While Mentos, Chupa Chups and Fisherman’s Friend might seem a world away from Life Education and Healthy Harold, according to Garry, there is a lot the not for profit sector can learn from the fast-moving consumer goods industry.

Garry talks about how he plans to inject some agile business acumen into the mix…

After being an active member of the Life Education Australia Board, you were recently appointed as Chair. What do you bring to the role?

I bring a level of commerciality to the organisation from my business experience. I also bring an understanding of how the ‘for purpose’ sector works from my roles on other not-for-profit boards, including The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and the Centre for Social Impact at the University of NSW.

Importantly, I have a passion and an interest in supporting, encouraging and educating young people to live full and healthy lives that will improve society and community.

What attracted you to the organisation?

Life Education is a strong brand. It has passion in its DNA, which breathes vibrancy and life into the organisation. There’s nothing like working with young people in an environment where technology is providing opportunity, and where your outcomes are going to be clearly seen in the years to come.

What connects you to the mission and values of the organisation?

As a parent myself, I recognize that, as we move through society today, there is an imbalance in what children receive in education. Life Education delivers the same program to all children, no matter their socioeconomic situation. If there are families that can’t provide the environment for a healthy lifestyle, we are at least giving those children the opportunity at school to learn and understand what that means.

What do you see as the business strengths of Life Education?

Life Education has committed, passionate people. The strength and credibility of the brand and the integrity of the IP are enormously valuable and a result of a continual build-up of the effort made over the last 40 years of those who have gone before us.

Life Education is out there delivering a service that is not provided by government or by the commercial sector – we are on a mission to empower young people to make healthy choices, and there is a great need for that service and a belief in our power to deliver among our stakeholders and customers.

To have a trusted brand, like we do at Life Education, you need to have people who have integrity and the ability to understand the mechanisms of good governance. That is our strength.

What are the challenges facing Life Education?

The challenge that I see – which is also a strength – is the organisation’s commitment to and belief in innovation. To make Life Education even more successful it will require further innovation both in the way we deliver the program and in our portfolio of services.

How do you plan to use your skills to move Life Education forward?

To propel a business forward, you need to be innovative and creative and challenge people to think outside the square in terms of ‘how can we do things better’. 

For Life Education, as with many businesses, there is an opportunity to increase engagement with our board, staff and stakeholders.  But that’s not to say that we are not engaged – this is about taking a step change and moving us to another level.

We must be strategic and see where the opportunities are. This means being fact-based and data-driven, and making the most of the considerable skills we have across the organisation by knowledge sharing.

We must also be adaptable, and keep up with the changing nature and dynamics of the communities in which we work. It is a movable feast. The dynamics of what we do today will no doubt change, and we need to fill the gaps that could potentially be left – and filled by competitors – if we don’t adapt accordingly. 

How would you sum up your management style?

I’m collaborative: I lead from the front but I also recognise that to deliver outcomes people need to be engaged, enthused and inspired to be part of the team.

What is the current mood inside the Life Education boardroom?

We have a mix of new and long-serving board members who are all excited about making that step change. We’ve already started that journey by engaging in conversations about what is going to make the difference.

I’ve been in the Chair for five minutes and I’ve succeeded a Chair who has been in the organisation for more than 30 years – including as Chair for almost 15 years –  so I have big shoes to fill. But I’m up for the challenge.

Garry Browne, AM