Local Leaders: Ken Nichols – media to the ‘strata’sphere

Tim Benson 29 March 2018

Ken Nichols. Photo: Supplied.

What would be the ideal career path to become the Head of Strata at Independent Property Group? Maybe a career in strata or another area of the property industry? Not so for Ken Nichols – a veteran of the newspaper industry and once CEO of The Canberra Times.

Let’s go back to the beginning…

Ken is a fourth generation Tasmanian from Launceston. His father had a retail store selling televisions – in fact, he sold the first colour televisions in Tasmania. But, he was best known for doing the public address at everything from the horse racing to car racing, surf lifesaving, political rallies, local shows and even the arrival of the yachts in the Sydney to Hobart.

He finished year 12 in 1974 and had a Commonwealth scholarship in his last two years.

“I had no plan at all so I started working in an insurance company and then a bank. My big goal was to travel to Europe because I had an interest in working in Formula 1,” Ken said.

He saved up enough money, and in 1977, moved to London, bought a van with a friend and got on the Formula One circuit working as a ‘gofer’.

“We travelled to Spain, bluffed our way into the pits and got work. We worked our way from Spain to Sweden. It was the most amazing year. On a visit to the Ferrari factory we were taken to meet Enzo Ferrari but sadly he was out to lunch,” Ken reminisced.

Ken started his newspaper career as a sales rep at the Launceston Examiner.

“I was lucky that I arrived at a time of serious management change. Lloyd Whish-Wilson was the new senior manager and was way ahead of his time in terms of management training and staff development,” Ken stated.

As part of this program, Ken had the opportunity to undertake a six-week live-in course at the Mount Eliza Business College. He found this totally changed his outlook on management and how important it was to lead by example.

By 1993 Ken was advertising director there at the Launceston Examiner.

In 1998, he was offered a national role by Rural Press as General Manager of Development and he moved to Sydney.

The role involved travelling across Australia, working with senior managers focusing mainly on their marketing and advertising and on building bottom line earnings.

“The thing I most learnt from this experience was how much people mimicked their leadership and that one of the greatest sales techniques is simple honesty,” Ken said.

“People follow the examples set by their leadership. Strong hardworking leaders build strong hardworking teams.

“Success isn’t just about money it’s about being able to look people in the eye and know that they respect you.”

In 2002, Ken moved to The Canberra Times as commercial director.

“The Canberra Times was an iconic publication. It had a high standard of journalism but was underperforming as a profitable business,” Ken explained.

Ken set about rebuilding the advertising department with a focus on building relationships with local and national advertisers and with the government.

“We did some fun things to lift the profile of the Canberra Times with Sydney media buyers– we put invitations in wine glasses and delivered them frozen inside an ice block to around 100 Sydney media advisors. When the block thawed they found an invitation to ‘chill out’ with us at the trendy Bondi bar “Icebergs”. It got people talking and helped us massively increase The Canberra Times profile in the Sydney market,” Ken said.

In 2007 Fairfax and Rural Press merged and Ken was given the role of CEO for Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong, managing 600 staff, with a seat on the Fairfax senior management team.

“This was the start of the digital disruption of the media. “It was an exciting time in terms of change, but it was also the period where traditional media has started to seriously contract. Initially I was involved in launching a lot of exciting products, but as time went on it was all about downsizing and never-ending cost cutting programs.” Ken outlined.

Ken left Fairfax in 2014 and travelled through Europe for three months.

He was approached by the Australian Property Institute in late 2014 and was offered a short-term contract as Chief Operating Officer.

At the end of 2014 Ken joined the senior management team at National Capital Motors.

“I spent almost three years there before deciding it was time to travel again and catch up with old friends,” Ken said.

Ken caught up with Independent Property Group executives, John Runko, John Minns and Stan Platis and they offered him the role of Head of Strata at Independent.

“I didn’t choose ‘strata’ it was the people and the culture that brought me on board,” Ken explained.

“Strata is becoming increasingly important in Canberra as more and more people choose the convenience of apartment living. Our role is to provide the expertise and systems that allow the buildings executive committees to effectively manage the common property helping to make apartment living enjoyable and by managing the common property.

“One big issue for strata is better educating people about what we do and taking our relationship with strata owners to the next level.”

What can Ken bring to table that will help to make this happen?

“I bring my extensive experience in working in client relationship management and personal development to the strata team,” Ken explained.

Ken says it’s all about ‘increasing the value add, building relationships, ensuring the staff have the skills to adapt to a rapidly changing strata market and remaining at the forefront of technology’.

“Undoubtedly technology will play an increasing part in strata and we intend to be right at the forefront in this area,” Ken commented.

According to Ken, strata is becoming a real career option rather than simply ‘a job’ because it involves ‘technical learning, and professional communication and client management skills’.

“There is still a lot of misunderstanding about the role of the strata manager, and one of my goals is to get out there and educate people,” Ken concluded.

Do you know what a ‘strata manager’ does? If you do please feel free to share your experiences.

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