A reflection on a career – or just navel gazing…

At the recent SCA NSW Annual Conference dinner I was honoured to be awarded life membership. Wow, what do you say except thank you…

After the booze wore off, the hugs and pats on the back done and the obligatory photos snapped, I was asked to put pen to paper or finger to keypad to give some thoughts on what it takes, and it was time to reflect on what had actually happened.

Life membership is awarded to someone for a life of service to an industry, but what did that mean to me and how on earth did a little kid from the Western Suburbs of Sydney actually make something of himself and be awarded something like this. I really am an idiot, just ask my mum or sister.

As anyone who has listened to my boring old story, I left school at 16 after being encouraged by the Principal (and the local Police Detectives!) that it would be better for me to try and get a job than doing more stupid things at school for another 2 years.

So, after a little while I had big choices to make. Either to stay on the Bob Hawke surf team (the dole), stick with my bike mates (naughty boys with funny rules and patches…) or get a job. My mum made that decision for me, and I joined Consumer Affairs (now Fair Trading) because I got 3 job offers and Consumer Affairs sounded the coolest. I had about 8 jobs in the Public Service over 20 years, then into private practice as a lawyer and 20 years ago started Grace Lawyers.

In all this time strata kept coming up. My first job was a records clerk putting pieces of paper on files – yep for 18 months that’s all I did. This was in strata, then I went into administration but then as an inspector (youngest ever at 20) – guess where – Strata Titles Office.

Then into major investigations (one of the youngest ever managers at 25) and after a bit here and there, guess where – strata task force…  wow. Then investigations unit doing background checks and working with Police (funny how that turned around from my kid days –  haha) for who again – strata and real estate licensing.

Finally, into Manager Strata Mediation and Registrar of the Strata Titles Board. Well, the future was set. Strata or die. I left the Public Service and became a strata lawyer and here we are.  Throughout it all, I never chased strata, it chased me!

I have been blessed because along that journey I have met the most amazing people (and some a$%^#’s) and been allowed to share in so many people’s lives in one way or another. All I was ever told to do was to be a good person and do a good job (the good old protestant ethic from my Irish redheaded mum). I hope I have made a difference to not only the strata industry (which has been the only constant in my life) but to people’s lives for the better.

I have made lifelong friends, helped in a little way to change legislation for the better and been able to share this journey with my business partners and staff.  In that regard all we say is that we want each staff member to walk out a better person and lawyer than when they walked into the Grace Lawyers family. A simple goal to state but takes effort to achieve.

So, what have I learned? At a personal level, you have to roll with the punches and never say no to anything unless you research it first.  You must be persistent and never stop or let anything stop you from what you want to achieve.  But having said that, everything comes with a price, and it will never be all rosy. The difference between those that get somewhere and those that don’t is persistence and the power to keep moving forward. At a business level, much the same, but do your sums and numbers. Stick to a budget and don’t go crazy.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, not to gloat or big note myself. It is to show that all you must do in life is keep going, never give up, never say no to a proposal (unless you have heard it all out) and whatever happens to you in your life, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward – onwards and upwards.