Steven Cole FAICD has more than 40 years’ experience in the law, in business and across a number of Australian and international boards. Whether in a role as chair of a community organisation, as a non-executive director of an international subsidiary company, or as a managing director of his own consultancy firm, Cole Corporate, his motivations remain constant: the people he has the opportunity to work with and using his skills to make a difference.
Cole began his career as a solicitor at Perth law firm Parker & Parker in the early 1970s, later becoming CEO and Managing Partner. He was always drawn to the ‘business side’ of legal practice. “Lawyers often get involved in the back-end of transactions for their clients – and that is interesting and is the profession’s bread and butter – but I like to be in the thick of it. At the front end,” he explains.
His experience at Parker & Parker led him to appreciate the complexity of business and fuelled his desire to influence outcomes rather than managing their consequences. This appreciation prompted Cole to pursue boardroom roles early in his career.
Like many well-established directors, Cole’s career has been diverse, crossing a range of sectors and industries, including: financial and professional services, education, agribusiness, health, local government and resources. The breadth of his experience means he has been involved in governing and leading many West Australian companies and raising the professional status of directorship.
Over the years, he has served as a director on a number of ASX listed boards, most recently as chair of resources company Neometals Limited and manufacturer, Matrix Composites and Engineering Limited. Cole has also held a number of government positions and statutory appointments, including as Councillor and Deputy Chairman of the Professional Standards Councils for all states and territories.
Cole’s passion for the not-for-profit (NFP) sector is clear. He has extensive experience working with charities, member associations and community organisations and has served on upwards of 10 NFP boards and committees. Most notable is his service as director, deputy chairman and chairman of Brightwater Care Group, a charity that has been providing aged and disability care services for more than 100 years running.
“The sector is the backbone of Australian society,” he says. “It plays an essential role for how our society functions and helps to strengthen the fabric of our relationship with our communities.”
The NFP sector may have a unique set of challenges, but Cole believes corporates can learn a lot from the responsiveness and resourcefulness of community organisations.
“Not only do not-for-profits need to focus on their relationships – as they are markedly people based – they increasingly have to produce more with a lot less. This takes a lot of flexibility particularly when the organisation is trying to meet its mission,” he explains.
On the most important lesson of his career, Cole is quick to identify the immense value he places on education: “Over the past 40 or so years at each challenge and success, I am reminded of how much more I need to learn,” he says. “You can never learn too much in this game, because being on a board is a people business and the most fascinating thing about people is, not one is the same.”
- Managing Director, Cole Corporate
- Chairman, Brightwater Care Group Inc
- Non-executive chairman, Neometals Ltd
- Non-executive director, Matrix Composites & Engineering Ltd
- Non-executive chairman, Reed Industrial Minerals Pty Ltd
- Non-executive chairman, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre Trust
- Executive director and chairman, DGB Investment Funds Pty Ltd and Bilton Canning Pty
- National Board Member, Councillor, Vice President and President (WA), Australian Institute of Company Directors
- Chairman, Curtin University Business School Advisory Panel
- Chairman, PLC Foundation Inc
- Councillor and Deputy Chairman, Presbyterian Ladies College
- Member, Murdoch University Law School Advisory Board
- Committee Member, Salvation Army Business and Industry Committee
- Council Member, Australia Day Council (WA)
- Vice President, Rotary Club of Perth
- Non-executive director, Faber Benthin Australia Pty Ltd
- Non-executive director and company secretary, Sanmina-SCI Holdings Australia Pty Ltd and Sanmina-SCI Australia Pty Ltd
- Non-executive director, Encana International (Australia) Pty Ltd
- Chair of Commissioners, City of Canning
- Non-executive chairman, Emerson Stewart Ltd
- Non-executive chairman, Solco Ltd
- Councillor and Deputy Chairman, Professional Standards Councils for NSW, WA, VIC, QLD, SA, NT, ACT and TAS
- Independent non-executive chairman, Great Southern Managers Australia Ltd
- Non-executive chairman, Paramount Mining Corporation Ltd