FINANCIAL adviser David Ruddiman left his post as managing director of Professional’s Choice Wealth Management to found hybrid communications provider Indigo Telecom last November. Co-founding the company with war zone cameraman Peter Henderson, Ruddiman’s passion for regional Australia has driven Indigo’s satellite and GSM networks to cover 100 per cent of Australia’s vast landmass and out to sea.

How will you steer Australia’s newest telco to success?

I’m focused on leading an amazing team to build a telecommunications network that covers 100 per cent of Australia’s landmass and out to sea, capable of delivering seamless and guaranteed ‘always on’ connectivity that supports voice, data and video applications in any business, geographical or communications environment.

To achieve this we have developed a hybrid communications network that combines satellite, terrestrial and wireless infrastructure to provide end-to-end connectivity.

I am proud to lead an incredibly talented team who are developing a sophisticated suite of integrated communications products, platforms and software applications that are designed to handle emerging and increasingly sophisticated network management requirements by integrating disparate technologies and automating systems into a single managed network.

It sounds complex, what leadership skills do you bring to the table?

In the course of my career I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of leadership roles but every experience has taught me the importance of recognising the skills, talents and strengths of the team you’re working with.

For me, being a leader is different to being a boss. I believe that one of the skills that I utilise on a daily basis as is my ability to motivate our people toward a common goal.

I am privileged to be able to work with people that have forgotten more than I’ll ever learn about their particular vocation.

But I know that by telling our people what to do and not how to do it – I am able to encourage our people to think, to innovate, and to be creative.

I demand integrity, hard work and excellence from our people – but not perfection. As a leader I’m always learning and always thinking and expect the same of my team.

Why is having a great team working with you so important and how do you keep them at the top of their game?

Not only am I fortunate to be a part of a fantastic company, but I am a member of the most amazing team in regional Australian telecommunications today. My team is bringing a world of possibilities to regional and remote telecommunications and standing out from all others. To keep our team on top of their game I am constantly working on creating a culture and working environment that encourages growth through innovation and communication. In the words of one of my business school teachers Jeff DeGraff – “Innovation is about arriving at a place we have never been before by doing something we have never done before”.

Do you have a leadership mantra?

I actually have two: “Do the things that others say you cannot do” and “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

How dificult is it to take Indigo Telecom into regional and very remote Australia?

We’ve identified about a million people living, working and travelling in regional and remote Australia who don’t have mobile network coverage. For us, that’s a sizeable number and one that we want to go after quite aggressively.

The technology exists to provide rural and regional Australians with a far better service than what’s currently available.

The floods and Cyclone Yasi highlighted just how important it is to have critical communications in regional and remote areas.

There were vast areas, including the Lockyer Valley, where communicating via a GSM mobile became impossible due to mobile towers or power supplies having been knocked out by flood waters, strong winds or flying debris.

Our network continued to function throughout Queensland and the rest of Australia throughout the cyclone and floods.

Critical communications are not a luxury or nice to have – they are a necessary pre-requisite to a better, safer, more fulfilling and productive life.

What affect will the NBN roll-out have on your strategy?

In short – none. We think that the NBN rollout will be hugely beneficial to Australia over the medium to longer term and will have a positive impact on our business. There is no doubt that the rollout of NBN will spawn new industry participants and greater competition, which the industry as a whole will have to learn to adapt to. We welcome the increased competition and believe that we will lead telecommunications in regional and remote areas of Australia through innovation and good customer outcomes.

You were educated at Harvard, how did that shape your ambitions?

Harvard had a profound affect on my life. I was privileged to be taught by some of the greatest business academics in the world and I got to study alongside some truly inspirational and amazing people over three years from more than 30 countries and varied industry and cultural backgrounds. At the Harvard Business School (HBS) we were primarily taught by way of the case based method of instruction, which meant that the cases described actual management situations in a variety of companies and organisations from around the world. This required us as students to drill down and analyse the situation being described and then recommend an appropriate and defendable course of action during class – which usually provoked a hugely diverse and differing perspective from classmates.

The immense workload at HBS required thorough daily case and assignment preparation, and living group attendance and participation, something that I now demand from everyone in our company. It is amazing how powerful a culture of integrity, unselfishly sharing, mentoring and transferring knowledge can be for an organisation.

HBS taught me to believe in doing the things that others say cannot be done. It also taught me to have a huge amount of fun as we thunder down the thorny path of knowledge, pushing the boundaries into new and exciting frontiers. Above all – it humbled me (especially when benchmarking myself against the successes of my classmates – some of whom were billionaires in their own right) and gave me the purpose and determination not to regard this life as a dress rehearsal – but to go out there and make a real difference in this world and to imagine the possibilities.

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