Mark Hooper - Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer - Sigma Healthcare

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Intro  0:13  
Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.

Welcome to the boardroom.

Michael Murray  0:50  
Mark, thank you for joining C suite partners in the boardroom. 

Mark Hooper  0:53
Thanks Michael

Michael Murray  0:56
Very interested just to understand your career to date, can you give us the Reader’s Digest version of what’s been happening?

Mark Hooper  1:00  
Sure, I guess it’s sort of really into discrete chunks. I started my career with BHP originally. And then that led to a role with a company called Ashton Mining. They had interest in the Argo diamond mine, s o the first 20 years of my life was all in resources. That came to a close around 2000 when Ashton was taken over by Rio Tinto, I was looking around and thinking, well, if I take another mining job, then I’m going to be the resources guy for my entire career. So I made the decision to move into healthcare. So that sort of brought on this second phase of my career where most of the last 20 years has been focusing in healthcare roles.

Michael Murray  1:37  
So what do you believe are the key considerations for the next three to five years for executives coming into healthcare?

Mark Hooper  1:43  
Look, I think the big challenge is going to be the rate of change. When you sort of put that against, I think a tightening funding model. You know, healthcare is one of those interesting businesses where there’s no shortage of demand for what any of us provide. But because of an aging population, there’s this incredible pressure on whoever’s funding that because the government has a big role in that insurance have a big role that patients have a big role in that.

Michael Murray  2:11  
It’s interesting, the conversations I’ve had with executives is that healthcare has had quite a good run for the past year or two, do you think healthcare executives or CEOs should be looking at people outside of industry to bring a different skill set or a different lens to, I suppose, come up against these challenges?

Mark Hooper  2:29  
I think it’s always better if you’ve got a blend, rather than rather than sort of all one or all the other. If I reflect on my experiences at Sigma over the past eight years, I mean, we bought in a lot of people when I first got into the role from outside the industry, because I wanted people to challenge what we did and how he did it. But what you lose then is the content knowledge. And this is, this is an industry that has a lot of regulation and a lot of subtle subtleties to it. So, you know, in an ideal world, you want some of that external experience. But I think there’s a value to people who’ve been there and made the mistakes, and what I can add as well. So you know, I’m always looking for a blend, to be honest, because both sides have something to bring to the table.

Michael Murray  3:09  
Based on what you’ve just said, Now, giving people the opportunity, when the time you’ve hired someone, it hasn’t worked out, can you remember some situations?

Mark Hooper  3:18  
Yes I can, and invariably, it’s more about something that needles you in an interview that you can’t quite put your finger on. You know, as, as I’ve got older, I think I’ve learned more to trust my gut. I mean, it sort of sounds a bit strange to say, but when you’re in an interview process, sometimes there’s someone who looks eminently qualified for the sort of role that you’re chasing. But there’s just something that doesn’t quite you can’t put your finger on right, you can. And I guess what I’ve learned over the years is nine times out of ten, that bobs out some time later on, right? You couldn’t properly define it, I guess it’s it’s an inherent weakness of that sort of interview process that you can’t quite dig those things out in those short format sort of presentations. But yeah, it’s it’s, it’s all I’ve learned that if there’s something needling you in the interview, unless you can chase it down, then you’re probably better not to hire that person.

Michael Murray  4:14  
Definitely. So you go back 10 years. What advice would you give yourself now that would would have helped you a little bit more in your executive career?

Mark Hooper  4:22  
I think try not to stress so much. 

Michael Murray  4:24

Mark Hooper  4:26
Yes, it’s hard to manage it in a way that doesn’t sort of chew up a lot of unnecessary energy on the way through. And stress always comes from things you feel like you can’t control. I think for all of us if you’re in difficult circumstances, but you can see a path forward. Right? That very rarely comes with stress. But when the world’s happening to you, that’s happening to you in a way that negatively impacts either you personally or your business. That’s quite difficult to control and the truth is, most of us get through those experiences. Most of the time, I’m I say to my kids, you know, all the things you worry about every time you get through it, take advantage of the fact that you got through it and build for next time. And I think it’s the same in business. But it’s hard to apply in practice when that when that when the blowtorch is really on.

Michael Murray  5:12  
It’s interesting. I like this topic, because a lot of people seem to make these snap decisions when they’re under stress. Are there any techniques that you use personally, for me, you know, we don’t work in an industry where you have to make a decision right now, you can get up and walk out and think about it, or do sort of create some distance and say, let’s, let’s revisit this, are there any techniques that you’ve used to make sure your decision making processes a little bit better? 

Mark Hooper  5:38  
Look, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t feel like the stress actually impacts the quality of my decision. Okay. So I’ve never felt in those circumstances that, you know, write them out of decision too quickly or too slowly. I think the one thing I have consistently uses when I’m really not sure what I should do because you do strike those periods as a CEO. I sort of go back to whatever this is my business which brings an amazing clarity to it, right? Because particularly in a sort of a publicly listed environment, it’s still one step removed in terms of the actual ownership of the business per se. So quite often I, I if I really get to a point where I’m really not sure what to do, I sit there and say well if this is my business, if I own it lock stock and barrel, what would I do? And it does as simple as it sounds, bring an amazing level of clarity because it and it comes quite quickly interestingly because and I suspect this because you probably know what you should do. Right? But when you’re in this other environment, you just don’t get there as cleanly. But when you think about it well, this is was mine, what would I do? It comes quite quickly.

Michael Murray  6:39  
That’s very interesting. I worked for Westpac when Gail Kelly was CEO and that was something that stuck with me that she just said if this was your business, no matter what it is, if you’re going into a consultancy firm or you’re spending budget, if this was your business, would you do that? And it just gives you that perspective of actually that’s a cost–

Mark Hooper  6:59  
It comes quite quickly, right? 

Michael Murray  7:01
It does

Mark Hooper  7:04
And it always puzzled me as to why it doesn’t, doesn’t work as it should normally but when I get stuck, that’s always my go-to tactic.

Michael Murray  7:10  
Perfect Mark. Well thank you very much for spending time with C-Suite Partners in the boardroom. 

Mark Hooper  7:13
Thanks, Michael

Michael Murray  7:15
Thank you

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