two up david mckenna chris murphy

Millennial directors David McKenna MAICD and Christopher Murphy MAICD aren’t afraid of a challenge. The Canberra-based duo have served on many for-profit and not-for-profit boards and committees during the last decade, as well as co-founding two businesses together and holding seven directorships between them.

They also work full time; McKenna is an assistant director of information and communications technology for the Australian government, and Murphy is a management consultant in finance for PwC, plus they are completing their PhDs.

McKenna and Murphy met in Wollongong in 2013 as non-executive directors on the board of the youth-based leadership organisation Junior Chamber International, both eventually holding the role of national president (Murphy in 2013 and McKenna in 2014).

Both studying law and public policy at university, they discovered a common interest in politics, strategy, innovation and entrepreneurialism. However, it was their shared passion for social impact work that sparked the idea for their first venture, Energy Panda, in 2016.

An award-winning social enterprise, Energy Panda helps households reduce their energy consumption and energy costs. McKenna and Murphy are non-executive directors of the firm, which works with electricity retailers to identify customers who are having difficulty paying their energy bills and then enrol them in Energy Panda’s “Who gives a watt?” energy reduction program.

The program, created with educators and technology experts, uses interactive learning tools to educate and improve literacy around household energy usage. For instance, the gamification tool allows customers to “play” with their appliances to see how much energy and money they can save by turning them off when not in use.

Through Energy Panda, they have identified more than 98,000 Australian households enrolled in energy retail hardship programs across 27 energy retailers.

McKenna says Energy Panda’s driving narrative has always been about helping disadvantaged households reduce their energy bills.

“The numbers prove this is not an insignificant problem,” he says.

Murphy was recognised as a Young Social Pioneer by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) for his work on Energy Panda and chosen to complete the FYA Young Social Pioneers Program as part of the Sustainability Stream. He says there’s a fundamental knowledge gap for many households enrolled in energy retail hardship programs.

“Energy Panda is about filling that gap and influencing behaviour change,” says Murphy. “Even if some of these households could transition to solar energy and renewables, many do not actually understand energy and how consumption translates to cost.”

The pair have also been busy growing their latest venture, All Care Health Services Group, which they co-founded in mid-2017 with Deanna Maunsell.

Maunsell, the company’s CEO and executive director, has over 25 years’ experience in the aged care sector, and leads a team of nine employees.

The trio formed the group in a bid to find a new way of delivering in-home care services to people aged over 65. Their model uses technology to increase the focus on client-centred care, welfare, and wellness.

“We have developed a one-stop-shop cloud-based software platform that enables in-home care and disability service providers to streamline their administrative functions and focus on data and client-driven quality service delivery,” says McKenna.

Both McKenna and Murphy sit on the board as non-executive directors, with Murphy as chair. The company also has a seven-member advisory board.

What may appear to be a juggling act of directorships, day jobs and tertiary study is actually a desire to do good, which drives McKenna and Murphy through the busiest of days.

“I’ve always been passionate in financial literacy and helping communities,” says Murphy. “David and I have a deep interest in social good and setting up non-profits as a social enterprise business model.”

McKenna agrees, and says it is what has driven him to work for government and in social policy. “Social impact was ingrained in me before I knew what it meant and before it was in vogue. Chris and I have the same motivations — it’s about making a positive difference within the community.”

Connections

David: Build rapport with your peers to keep abreast of industry trends. Having a network of advisers to provide guidance and support is essential. Look beyond industries in which you operate and explore how others’ experience can be leveraged.

Time management

David: The self-discipline to stick with your diary is fundamental to managing a busy life. I am careful to schedule enough time for meetings, tasks, administration and travel, as well as time to think, consider and take breaks.

Wellbeing

Chris: I look after my mental and physical health, scheduling time for exercise and to be with my wife. The evidence about healthy eating, good sleeping habits and regular exercise is overwhelming.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Chris: I have learnt to focus on big-ticket strategic items. I use the five-year test: if it is not going to matter in five years, is it really something I need to worry about?