Human on the Inside with Tom Griffith of Emma & Tom’s

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5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Tom, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight!

You’re the Director and Co-Founder of Emma & Tom’s – a much loved Australian brand you established in 2003 – nearly 20 years ago now!
In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your current role entail?

Striving to ensure the business and all of its stakeholders are happy and healthy. Absolutely ensuring Emma & Tom’s is first to give our customers exactly what they want in their day, and that we move with the market. Looking ahead so we don’t get run over!

In addition to your Directorship at Emma & Tom’s, you’re a Non Executive Director for Interlate (a software & services provider supporting mining professionals) and a Non Executive Director for Record Point (a Sydney based independent corporate advisory firm). How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

I have two main responsibilities, Emma & Tom’s and Record Point, so some days are very busy on both businesses, and at other times there is a more steady state. Emma & Tom’s primarily involves strategic discussions regarding new business and new products, governance issues, funding and marketing/communications. It’s a very public brand. Record Point requires absolute discretion as it solves complex commercial issues for large corporations, so to that end, it’s extremely sensitive and private in how it goes about its commercial activities. Two very different businesses, but both have built a strong brand and presence in their respective markets. Interlate is a mining services and SaaS business I was introduced to by Record Point.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics & Finance) at The University of Melbourne, joined Ernst & Young, obtained my Chartered Accounting qualification and completed a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance & Investment. I’m sort of broad and not a specialist in anything, try to be reasonably commercial and strategic. I’ve worked in many different environments and locations, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Paris and Geneva. I enjoy work, lockdowns have absolutely confirmed that. I’d climb the walls with nothing to do!

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

I’m probably a poor example, as I have reinvented myself twice. After working in Australia in chartered accounting and investment banking, I moved to London and worked for five years as a corporate advisor in a French company, then joined a London based start-up as their CFO. Following this, I returned to Australia and started Emma & Tom’s, a completely different industry sector in a country I hadn’t worked in for seven years. So, the polar opposite of “a job for life”. Looking back, I’d say that every day serves as a powerful building block, and to appreciate that.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

I’m a firm believer in the power of soft skills. The best operators I observe are both clearly intelligent, but have exceptionally strong soft skills. You can have all the university qualifications in the world, but if you don’t ‘get it’, it’s likely you never will. I have also observed exceptionally intelligent people, not second guessing themselves and falling hard. Additionally, it’s impossible if you do not understand the counterparties you work with.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

I used to row a lot at school and university, it’s the absolute team sport. I really enjoy working with people and collaborating together to achieve an outcome. I like challenges. I’m not big on titles and hierarchy, I look at all my colleagues equally. It doesn’t matter at Emma & Tom’s that my name is on the bottle. Similarly at Record Point, the Analysts receive as much air time as the Directors.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career

I learnt to try and understand issues from other people’s and/or companies perspectives. Clearly if you understand what’s important to them, you can guide the outcome.

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent Uni graduates or candidates keen to work at a company like Emma & Tom’s, what would it be?

Just ask, “What can I do next?”. Those who ask always get the best jobs and the most variety. Also, don’t overstay if it’s not for you, particularly in the early years. Move on and up.

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

Assuming they are all equally qualified, the candidate with the greatest ability to suck in as much information and experience as possible.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

I love learning, I’m an avid reader of non-fiction (I recommend The Premonition, by Michael Lewis). COVID has changed everything, so I’m currently learning how to maximise our business in the (hopefully) post COVID world.