Five things I wish I knew before I started: Michael Falconer

Michael Falconer, Chairman of Orion Health

In our new series, we ask our key thought leaders to share a more personal perspective on their career journey and current position.

We asked our Chairman, Michael Falconer, to share with us his five biggest learnings from his rich and varied career.

Can you share with us five things you wish you knew before you started out?

He Tangata – It’s the People
The key to a great business is great people working together as part of a team. It has always amazed me how much of an impact a fantastic team can have on business performance. A team of great people can design cool products, solve challenging problems, find new ways of doing things, leverage a range of diverse skills, get things done and communicate well – this is crucial to a business’s success. So the lesson for me was to spend more time attracting, retaining, motivating and investing in extraordinary people.

Don’t be afraid to fail – just tidy up quickly
Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I have learned that inertia will kill most things eventually. We have to be brave enough to have a crack at doing things differently, even if it might fail. To create this environment, you can’t have a culture that punishes failure. Failure is an opportunity to learn – we need to tidy up any messes quickly, learn from it and move on.

Business is a team sport – Don’t try to do everything yourself
When the pressure is on, the temptation for leaders is to get something done by doing it themselves rather than delegating to the team. You think you are saving time, but all you have done is waste a teaching opportunity that will pay off multiple times over. By asking someone else to take on the task with some guidance, you get a much better outcome. More often than not, the other person did a lot better job than I could have done.

Speak to people
We have all got so used to texting, chatting and emailing that we don’t speak to people enough. Written communications have a high risk of sending the wrong tone and are hard to adjust on the fly. I have learned that picking up the phone (super old school, I know) or video chatting is a much more effective medium for communication. By interacting directly – I can read the room and amend my tone to work better or try to express myself differently if the body language suggests the audience doesn’t get what I am trying to say. Plus I am a slow typer.

Business is simple – So keep it simple 
Keeping it simple is actually harder than making it complex. Simple requires you to get rid of all the clutter and focus only on what is important. Business at its essence is super simple – make something people value and get paid more for it than it costs. Many businesses lose sight of this either not producing anything of sufficient value, not ensuring they are getting paid appropriately or not managing costs to ensure all the effort is not in vain. If the business is successful at simple things, it will have the funds to invest and grow.


Michael studied business management and Japanese at Waikato University. He joined investment bank Credit Suisse in Auckland in 1993 and then transferred to Credit Suisse New York in 1995. Michael spent eight years in New York, covering clients worldwide, focusing on capital raising, mergers and acquisition, restructuring and strategic advice. He returned to New Zealand in 2002 with Credit Suisse before moving to Carter Holt Harvey as Chief Financial Officer of the NZX listed company. After the takeover by Graeme Hart, Michael held several senior management roles at Carter Holt including CEO of Carter Holt Building Supplies, a $2.5 billion revenue business with operations in New Zealand and Australia. In 2010, Michael left Carter Holt and started his own advisory business working with entrepreneurs and business owners assisting them with significant business change. He has worked with Synlait, Compac Sorting, Wellington Drive, BBC Technologies and Orion Health across various transactions. Michael currently spends most of his time working with owners and investors in a range of technology, services, primary industry and property companies including Orion.


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