John Pitt FAICD, engineer, born and bred Tasmanian and former managing director of pitt&sherry has had a long, successful career at the helm of one of the state’s most successful businesses.
Pitt was drawn to engineering from a young age, partly because of his father, the late Brian Pitt, co-founder of the pitt&sherry engineering consulting business, and partly because of his fondness for mathematics, science and solving problems.
“I have always liked the idea of solving problems and engineering has allowed me to follow a path where I am solving new problems every day. It is a positive experience, where you are doing good things to contribute to communities. I can honestly say that there is very little negativity associated with a career in engineering,” Pitt says.
After graduating from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tasmania in 1975, Pitt started out working as an engineer and consultant in Hobart, before moving overseas to London and later, Johannesburg to soak up the different perspectives, knowledge and experience the world has to offer.
“I’ve always been an outward looking person,” Pitt explains, “perhaps that comes from living on an island. And my seven years abroad were some of the most enriching of my career.”
However, before too long he was drawn back to Tasmania where the opportunity to join the family business, and provide a succession plan for his father became a reality. Pitt was drawn to “build something of quality” and to continue on the legacy established by his father and his business partner Clive Sherry in Devonport more than 20 years before.
“There’s not much room in the commercial world these days to be a pessimist. You have to believe in what you’re doing and above all, be passionate about it.”
When Pitt joined the firm in 1984, it was a “microbusiness” that employed less than ten people and was confined to one office space. It was then that Pitt found himself having to choose between becoming a better technical practitioner or focusing on management and building the business. Since joining management he hasn’t looked back, quickly recognising that to “make an impact, the business had to be bigger and needed to be present outside of Hobart.”
During Pitt’s time with the business, pitt&sherry employed up to 200 staff across seven different offices, spanning five states and territories.
pitt&sherry has long been recognised for its commitment to delivering intelligent and sustainable solutions to industry, government and communities, culminating in being awarded two Financial Review Client Choice awards for Best Consulting Engineering Firm and Best Professional Services Firm in 2015.
Under Pitt’s leadership the business has carved a unique path, balancing development and the environment, where it now not only consults on infrastructure development, but also on the environment, climate change and energy.
“Maintaining a useable environment has become the catchcry of the business. And the success of this approach is due to the contributions of many, many people. While I may have provided leadership, direction and the desire to grow the business, it is my colleagues across Australia that do the doing,” he says.
Over a 30 year period, Pitt learnt a lot about management and the value of stepping back from the daily grind – as directors should – and focussing on the bigger picture.
Pitt’s advice for business owners? Optimism.
“There’s not much room in the commercial world these days to be a pessimist. You have to believe in what you’re doing and above all, be passionate about it. It’s what will get you a long way.”