Chris Boswell strives to be a hands-on and inspirational leader, both within his business and in life.
As the founder and CEO of Strategic Group he champions exceptional team culture, refusing to be guided by financial objectives only and striving to find the right balance of innovation, passion and integrity within the business.
A family man at heart the business is a true family affair, with a number of family members working with the organisation, including two of his children.
How do you define the difference between a Manager and a Leader?
The typical definitions are still valid, a leader creates change and creates the vision for the company with a long term broad perspective.
A Manager, on the other hand, reacts to change, and implements the company vision, with a more detailed perspective.
The Leader is also the creator and the spokesperson for the company’s values and culture. It is the Leader that needs to promote this culture and values, both internally and externally.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Maintaining a company’s culture and values.
With the seemingly ever-increasing pressures in the business world, it can be too easy to cut corners and undermine a company’s core values.
We see this on an increasing basis these days, whereby passion and integrity are compromised by cost cutting, or a too narrow focus on business objectives.
One example of this is the reduction by companies in the amount of time and money they spend on training.
For companies that wish to maintain or enhance their professional and service levels and then to cut training budgets, particularly in industries such as ours, means that the level of professional service that are offered must surely decline. Staff morale decreases and customer satisfaction declines and your passion for excellence cannot be realised.
What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
There seem to be a constant thought pattern in some organisations that we should always be chasing growth.
Whilst I have no issue with growth per se (and ours certainly has seen some good growth over the past years), this “tunnel vision” on growth can be truly detrimental on the culture of the organisation. As we all know, an organisation with five employees is very different from one with 20 employees or one with 50 employees.
We often see companies that have grown, more employees, more overheads, more profit (maybe), but the owners and employees end up less satisfied.
We need to recognise that with growth comes challenges not just around the logistics but more importantly around the integrity of the core values of the company.
What do you believe makes business in the Hunter unique?
For as long as I can remember, we in the Hunter seem to have drawn the short straw when it comes to any sort of government funding in this area.
This, and our regional isolation from Sydney, means that we have a tough resilience and a “can do” attitude.
We have been forced, to some extent, to be more innovative and certainly more reliant on our own abilities rather than on others.
The really nice thing about Newcastle is that it is quite a small business community, particularly compared to the major cities, and that means that the degrees of separation between business people become even smaller.
What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
The people that inspire me and the ones that are willing to give substantial time to assist others, and make our communities better places to live and work in.
I am on the Red Shield committee with Paul Murphy as the chair and I see how much time and devotion Paul gives to this cause.
We also support Ronald McDonald House, and I see how much time and effort Ross Bingham (CEO) and his team here put into the support of families and kids throughout the broad northern NSW region.
I am constantly amazed by the passion and enthusiasm that these people show, and the impact it has on our broader communities.