Leadership - Building a Balance

Written on the 11 March 2009


INTOUCH Direct delivers health products and services to more than 70,000 people across Australia, alongside a commercial services arm that offers customer management solutions. As CEO of a health-related company that gives all surplus profits to the Spinal Injuries Association, Carmen Riley (pictured) can walk the walk as she tells Brisbane Business News how a healthy life balance and self-assurance go a long way in leadership.
What are you driven to achieve in your work with Intouch Direct?
Growing a long term sustainable business that will be able to continually support the Spinal Injuries Association and the community into the future. We are privileged that our work is not only about building a business but making a difference in and supporting the community.  
What steps do you take to achieve your goals? 
Developing a great team around me. I can’t build and sustain this on my own — I need solid advice and to be able to rely on a skilled team to develop and implement our strategy. I also believe it’s valuable to develop my people — I am lucky enough to work with some real talent and it’s important to challenge and encourage the team.
What leadership qualities do you need to run health care and commercial services?  
The strength and confidence to make fast and sometimes difficult decisions to do what is right for the business as a whole, and keeping the team focused on the strategy. I believe you have to seek appropriate advice and then make a decision and go with that - if you are too scared to do something you stagnate. Procrastinating can often cause more issues than making a decision. Butkeeping your people on track once the decisions are made is critical.
How do you balance these two arms of the business?
As part of our strategy we are realigning our commercial services business to support our vision to be Australia’s most prominent direct to door provider of specialised healthcare and wellness products and services. We focus on offering an end-to-end solution by understanding the needs of our clients and customers. The senior management team review any new business opportunities to ensure they align with our strategy before we act. While there are two arms to our business, they are complementary.
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the biggest challenges? 
I enjoy seeing people reach their goals, seeing all their hard work come together. It can be difficult sometimes to see beyond barriers but staying focused on the bigger picture and developing the people around me is what I enjoy.  
Describe a day in the life of Carmen Riley
Every day is different, I try to just expect the unexpected. You have to figure out a way to start each day fresh and take what comes. An early start at the office, lots of meetings, and then when I arrive home to my family I try to leave the office behind. I usually run a few days a week which I find helps reduce stress and clears the mind.
How many staff are you responsible for?
We currently employ between 85 to 100 people - I am responsible for, and to, all of them. As my decisions impact their work and also their employment, it’s important to me to be accountable to them for my decisions and to ensure the business is sustainable for their futures.  
Is there a business mantra that you adhere to and do you pass that on?
How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time. You have take each day as it comes and focus on the long term bigger picture. I also prioritise my health — it’s important to exercise and eat well to be at your best for business and family. Business is changing so quickly these days you have to keep up the pace and stay focused.  
How important is mentoring in today’s economic climate? Does is still have a place?
Absolutely critical, particularly when you’re moving up through the ranks. I think it also helps to give people a sense of normality to know they are not the first to go through an experience. I have had mentors and learned a lot from them and I still do. I hope to be able to help others and relish the opportunity to develop people in the business community.
With International Women’s Day this month, how important is it to have more women in CEO positions?
It’s always about the best person for the job, but it’s great to see women believe more in themselves and achieve their goals. It’s about finding balance, not about having it all. There’s always an element of ‘something’s got to give’. When you’re at work focus on work, when you’re at home focus on your family. But I’m sure my husband will say I should take my own advice!
What advice would you give to women with aspirations for business success?
You need to back yourself 100 per cent, stop worrying so much. Have a great mentor, learn from your mistakes — we all make them, and stay focused on your goals. You don’t have to compromise your integrity, aspirations or your family — it’s just a matter of determination and confidence. You can achieve what you set out to if your goals are clear and you are self-assured.

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