March 2020

CEO Update: "Global entrepreneur" joins Bartier Perry Board

Like most of our clients we see the value of having a different voice and perspective around the table when making important strategic decisions.

Our recently appointed non-executive Director Trena Blair is not a lawyer.

She is though, according to Forbes magazine, a “global entrepreneur” who through her consultancy has mentored more than 50 small and medium-sized Australian companies looking to launch in the United States.

A former senior executive at American Express, Trena has also advised the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales Business School, on matters and coursework relating to entrepreneurship.

In one sense Trena is a perfect fit with Bartier Perry in that our firm and many of our clients are growing fast.  In another way she is the perfect antidote to challenge our thinking and approach as a firm. In particular, we value Trena’s knowledge of the tech sector and the rapid developments that will impact all businesses.

Our Chairman Andrew Frankland and I are delighted that Trena, who has no previous connection to the firm, has joined our Board.

In conversing with her a lot of her insights seemed highly applicable to our clients and so she has been kind enough to share some of these insights in the Q&A below.

What are some of the mistakes fast growing businesses make?

We advise a lot of Australian businesses expanding into the US. And one thing you frequently come across is that their technology is not scalable for international expansion. As an example their Australian inventory system can’t be rolled out in America. So you need to make sure all your systems can cater for growth. You need to bring the governance around scaling.

When you talk about the importance of governance and process a lot of the start-up culture is portrayed as an anti-thesis to such “bureaucratic” concepts.

It’s a balancing act and a lot of companies we see are really beginning to think about entrepreneurial risk. Culture for me is clearly number one. But if the systems and processes are not in place to support that culture the business will implode and very, very quickly.

You have worked around the world for American Express, a company famous for its customer-centric culture. What’s the balance between the growing use of Artificial Intelligence by business and good old fashioned service?

It’s not a one or the other equation. I use AI in my business and it’s a godsend, it’s incredible. One-to-one relationships will always be important but there will be increased use of AI type processes. In the case of the law it’s about asking, ‘What is the future of work for lawyers in 10 to 20 years?’ and focusing on how AI can free them up to build better client relationships.

So technology cannot replace or replicate strong interpersonal relationships?

Any good business is focused on both clients and culture and I do think we’re circling back to that as a society.

Finally, what do you see yourself bringing as a newly appointed non-executive Director of the Bartier Perry Board?

A different lens based on corporate experience here and in the United States.