Interview with Leah Sertori

  • Date:01 Feb 2014
  • Type:Company Director Magazine
Leah Sertori talks about why she joined Company Directors’ Bendigo committee and what she foresees as the biggest challenges for regional Victorian directors in the coming year.

Company Director (CD): What is your background?

Leah Sertori (LS): My expertise is concentrated in project management. In the past 10 years, I’ve led organisations such as Melbourne Cares and Sustainable Regional Australia as CEO and have contributed to major projects such as the new $650 million Bendigo Hospital and the construction of Victoria’s first solar parks.

The common thread running through all of my previous work is that it was project-based. My partner Tim and I founded our first company together, Regional Management Group, in June last year to increase the prosperity and capability of regional communities by delivering exemplary project management solutions. 

CD:
What is the value of an Australian Institute of Company Directors’ membership to you?

LS:
It helps me understand the issues facing boards in context. Speakers and members share their insights and expertise in an engaging and thought-provoking way. I always leave an event with more to contribute as a non-executive director, having benefited from the discussions. 

CD:
Why did you decide to join the Bendigo Committee and what do you enjoy most?

LS:
I’m passionate about building the prosperity and capability of regional Victoria, so I try to engage the most effective vehicles for achieving that. I joined the committee to learn about corporate governance issues for our region. Company Directors’ team and local committees are skilled at listening for where gaps in capability can limit regional centres and in providing solutions to enrich our expertise.

CD:
What do you enjoy about being a director in regional Victoria?

LS:
The chance to leave a legacy of job creation, skills development and innovation. In many ways, there has never been a more exciting time to live and work in regional Victoria. Bendigo has the fastest rate of economic and population growth outside of Melbourne. We are just booming. I’m a non-executive director of Sustainable Regional Australia and Regional Management Group, two companies committed to growing the prosperity and capability of regional communities. I enjoy pushing the boundaries at board level to explore how we can best fulfil our purpose and leave a legacy of success while capitalising on strong growth to generate prosperity in the short-term.

CD:
What will be the biggest challenges for regional Victorian directors in the coming year?

LS:
The Bendigo region, in particular, is experiencing unprecedented investment in infrastructure and services. This growth has brought new players with global expertise to our doorstep – players whose capability to respond to tenders is often more sophisticated than our local medium-sized businesses. We need to understand how that dynamic plays out in our marketplace and invest in quality management systems and innovative pricing, and explore opportunities to collaborate to ensure we remain competitive in the short-term. In the medium to long-term, we need to position Victoria’s regions on the world stage, selling our strengths in manufacturing, education and service delivery to sell ourselves as integral partners in the Asia-Pacific Region. I’d like to think we could do more of that together, becoming more effective in forming alliances across regional centres to strengthen our export markets.

CD:
What support does your committee provide local members?

LS:
Members can access the best talent Australia has to offer in corporate governance by tapping into Company Directors’ series of events, courses and publications. The Bendigo committee tailors local events to best meet the needs of directors in our region. One of the greatest benefits is the chance to catch up with peers and exchange approaches to governance.

CD:
What was the first board you were appointed to?

LS:
Castlemaine Childcare Centre, a cooperative owned by the community in which it operates.

CD:
What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt as a director? 

LS:
How to ask questions that will generate a rich response and give the most complete picture of an organisation and the environment in which it operates.

CD:
What drives you?

LS:
Ambition, coffee and the desire to make a difference.

CD:
What are your passions outside of work?

LS:
My extraordinary blended family. Tim and I have two children (Isabella 14, Coby 10), with baby Dunlop due in March. We were both very young parents the first time around, 19 and 21 respectively, and I think those experiences gave us a tremendous sense of purpose and maturity at an early age. I was a sole parent for the first 12 years of Bella’s life and I’m passionate about reforming the welfare sector to enable sole parents to find meaningful work. The current system is failing parents and their children. The barriers to work have never been greater and the immediate incentives more unclear. I’d like to find a way of contributing to change there.