It’s rare to be handed a lead position of a company at the age of 24. Ward Dedman shares a few insights from his career-defining moment.
by Cecilia Harris
We had an arrangement with EBM, who were wholesaling some business for us. At that stage, EBM were entering into some discussions with RTC Agribusiness. RTC had an existing business, which wasn’t going very well. They were in talks with EBM to take over management.
They came and spoke to a couple of us at IAMA about the opportunity. I must admit, I was under the impression they wanted me to come across and be a broker, but the opportunity turned out to be to run the whole joint venture.
It was surprising at the time. In the meeting I thought, ‘okay, how am I going to handle this?’ After discussing it with my wife and colleagues, I was convinced that I could do it and give it a go. I was 24 at the time.
LEAP OF FAITH
I decided to make the move for all the right reasons, clearly, because I’m still here today. It was the best move I’ve ever made in my career, that’s for sure. At the time, there was a fair bit of trepidation about whether I was the right person for the job.
About how I would go with all the aspects of running, employing and recruiting for a business. It was pretty daunting at that stage. I guess there is something in having a go and backing yourself.
The job entailed a fair bit. It was one thing getting control of the business RTC already had, as there were a lot of things to be worked through. It took a number of months to come to terms with all of that and also the recruiting of staff, opening branches all through Western Australia and controlling all those remotely. It was a pretty exciting step.
I think, from a personal perspective, I had doubts as to what I could and couldn’t do. Not too much has been that daunting since all the things we had to deal with during that period.
My approach to doing things is very much team-oriented. I really just engaged with our people, rolled my sleeves up and ripped into the job. I had some really fantastic mentors – Alan Bishop and Jeff Adams – and they were totally available for me.
I got a lot of guidance from them. But generally, the team I had around were good quality people who were trying to get the right outcomes, and that always makes life a lot easier. We all had common goals and wanted to get the same outcome.
We challenged each other, but always in the right manner. Insurance is very much a people business. That’s exactly what it’s about from an insurance broking point of view – relationships and being in the community, particularly a rural space. My background is to have a go. I don’t give up very easily, so I continued to work my way through things and get the job done.
I think the most important thing is it to be open to input, and to seek guidance and mentoring, because no one knows it all. We are all learning everyday. Common sense applies pretty well in the insurance industry.
Clearly there are technical aspects, and experience and knowledge that you build up over time. But I think if you’ve got a common sense approach to things, it’s not that easy to go wrong. A criticism I have of myself from back in the day was that I wanted things done instantly.
That just doesn’t always happen. Patience was something that probably wasn’t my strongest virtue and may still not be. But, over the years, I’m understanding how it all works and don’t have that impatient streak that I once had. It’s just the way the world works, things can’t always happen yesterday.