NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year: Hamish McBeath

Hamish McBeath has vision for New Zealand manufacturing. “The country needs to re-embrace and re-build its manufacturing industries for number of sound economic reasons,” he says. “Too many of our manufacturers fall over unnecessarily.”
McBeath is the 2011 NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year. And he hopes winning the award will enhance the credibility and currency of his pro-manufacturing argument.
As general manager of Pacific Coilcoaters, $110 million business within Fletcher Building’s Steel Group, McBeath won the NZIM Northern Region young executive title on his way to taking out the National Award. Now he wants to be an ambassador for both the concept of the award and for local manufacturing.
To illustrate his case for re-thinking manufacturing businesses he quotes his experience with Fletcher Steel’s wire mill business which was due to be closed down. “Now it is one of the company’s most profitable units,” he says.
New Zealand manufacturing can, says McBeath, make good money in the world market if it is properly targeted. “There are many products New Zealand can bring to the table on which they can make lot of money. But they are niche, not long run, products.”
His rationale is based, in part, on the jobs and export income that manufacturing creates. He admires the efficiency and effectiveness of the country’s rural sector but, he adds, many agriculture-based industries are not particularly labour intensive. And that is an economic disadvantage.
McBeath’s career began in the Royal New Zealand Navy. He enrolled as trainee officer, reached the rank of lieutenant and then left to join the commercial world. He found shop-floor job as shift manager at Fletcher Building’s Pacific Steel wire mill. Then loss-making unit, after his appointment as sales manager, it has since turned to profit.
McBeath’s boss Paul Zuckerman, chief executive of Fletcher Building, describes him as “young, innovative and high achieving [executive] who holds senior leadership position within New Zealand’s largest listed company”.
Brought up with strong sense of responsibility, McBeath credits the navy with developing his leadership and management skills early in his career.
“The navy provided an interesting foundation in strategy formulation,” he says. “The military’s strategy development is scenario-based and grounded in the basic principle of making sure you win. The outcome of not winning in business might be less severe, but it is still useful base principle to apply.”
By constantly running scenarios around where his markets are tracking and contemplating likely competitor reactions and moves, he identifies new business opportunities early. The strategy provides either competitive edge or strengthened baseline position.
McBeath believes in building high performing teams. His leadership style is open and honest and he tries to bring the right mixture of capabilities and personalities to provide team balance.
“I focus on delegating effectively, setting clear performance goals and expected outcomes, and then coaching and supporting team members to success,” he says. “I am not interested in being the one with all the answers.”
His greatest achievement so far has, he thinks, been to “deliver superior shareholder value through high-performing and safe employees”.
He calls his communication style “open, down to earth and accessible”. The navy helped him appreciate the importance of this approach to personal communication.
Tackling and completing an MBA in 2005 exposed McBeath to strategic thinking, and planning theories and models. He then completed course on Advanced Mergers and Acquisitions at Australia’s Mt Eliza Business School in 2009. “Both courses benefitted me greatly,” he adds.
McBeath’s leadership and people skills have worked to his advantage at Fletcher Building. It is one of the reasons the company involved him in the executive team that successfully acquired the Australian Crane Group for the company earlier this year.
He played pivotal role in negotiating way through what was “high profile, sensitive and complex hostile takeover”, according to Zuckerman.
McBeath may be in the steel business but “I’m pretty strong on the environmental aspects of the business”, he says. “People see the steel industry as massive consumer of power, but there is more to it than what meets the eye.”
He is founding member of the Sustainable Steel Council and sits on Fletcher Building’s Environmental External Reporting Committee.
“Being green is good for the bottom line, particularly in the steel industry. We have made some tremendous savings by thinking seriously and honestly about the environment,” he adds. But that’s another story.
For now, Hamish McBeath is convinced he made the right decision when he jumped ship for career in the ups and downs of the commercial world.
For one thing, he can spend more time with his wife and their one-year-old son. For another, he looks set to be one of New Zealand’s most outstanding commercial leaders in the not-too-distant future. M



YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR AWARD JUDGES’ COMMENTS

FINALIST
MATTHEW (MATT) CARTER
GENERAL MANAGER HR AND STUDENT SERVICES, OTAGO POLYTECHNIC
Matt Carter is an outstanding human resources professional. He is humble and effective, and highly capable leader who cares about his people. He understands the importance of diversity in building creative and productive workplace. Carter is passionate about the role of learning. In addition to his role at the Otago Polytechnic, he has broad involvement in the community.

WINNER
HAMISH MCBEATH
GENERAL MANAGER, PACIFIC COILCOATERS
Hamish McBeath’s education in leadership began in the Royal New Zealand Navy where he quickly and willingly learned to lead by example and to alter his leadership style to meet different circumstances. He is well qualified manager and leader who clearly articulates his values. McBeath describes himself as coach for his people. He emphasises the importance of personal engagement, focusing on respect and clear communication. He stresses the importance of diversity as means of avoiding like-minded thinking. McBeath’s vision is to keep manufacturing alive and well in New Zealand.

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