How a regionally based leadership role can accelerate your career

When changing your career path or considering roles you have been headhunted for, it can be easy to play it safe and say no to opportunities that take you interstate or to more regional areas.

However, in a recent Forbes article it was said, One of the biggest job-search mistakes you can make is to play it safe. The more you look and sound like every other job seeker, the worse your job search experience will be.”

Taking the path less travelled can have big payoffs for your career. Here are four ways that saying “yes” to a regional leadership role can help you climb the ladder faster.

Episode 96 – Merren McArthur – CEO – Virgin Australia Regional Airline & Virgo Australia Cargo

Merren McArthur is Chief Executive, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) and Virgin Australia Cargo, one of Australia’s ASX100 public companies.

Episode 87 – John O’Hara – Managing Director & CEO of Sunny Queen Eggs

John O’Hara, Managing Director and CEO of Sunny Queen Eggs, talks: the food business, playing to your strengths, analysing your weaknesses, walking the talk, and not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Arete Executive Managing Partner Richard Triggs first met John O’Hara when he spoke at an Australian Institute of Management function in 2009 and since then has watched Sunny Queen grow tremendously under John’s leadership. John has been the Managing Director and CEO of Sunny Queen Eggs since 2002. A privately owned company, Sunny Queen generates its revenue from the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of egg and egg products throughout Australia. When John assumed his role, Sunny Queen was an unlisted company that predominantly sold eggs in Queensland and turned over barely $50 million. 15 years later, the company has a major retail presence across the country, including contracts with a number of major retailers, and has grown to a $270 million business with 130 employees. John is also a Non-Executive Director of SunPork and Swickers.

Episode 88 – Kevin Potter – COO, Heritage Bank

Kevin Potter, Chief Operating Officer of Heritage Bank, talks: leadership and gender diversity, self awareness, intent versus impact, listening to learn, and The Beatles over The Rolling Stones.

Richard sat down with Kevin Potter, the COO of Heritage Bank, when he was just three months into his new role but he shared some strong insights into leadership, business, finance and his championing of gender diversity. Heritage is Australia’s largest customer-owned bank, with a history dating back to 1875, when it was founded in Toowoomba in regional Queensland.

Episode 89 – Wayne Grant – Banking Executive

Wayne Grant talks digital transformation, imparting knowledge, intuition, resilience and putting out fires.

Wayne Grant is the Head of Strategy Delivery at Heritage Bank, Australia’s largest customer owned bank. Founded and based in Toowoomba, Queensland, but with branches nation wide, Heritage Bank has a long history dating back more than 140 years. In 2008, Heritage was awarded the Best Building Society by Australian Banking and Finance Magazine for the sixth time and in 2009, passed the $7 billion mark in assets under management. As Head of Strategy Delivery Wayne is instrumental in reshaping the Heritage Bank’s digital strategy, as it transitions from a branch network with a physical presence, to a digital presence with the aim of serving a broader clientele.

Hailing from the inner city suburbs of Johannesburg in South Africa, Wayne was raised in a “tough neighbourhood”. One of two brothers, he grew up on the construction sites his father worked on, an experience he credits to being a part of his later decision to study architecture. Upon graduating from university, however, South Africa was in recession and unemployment levels were high. Wayne couldn’t gain employment as an architect but eventually found himself working in a bank. Wayne has extensive experience in the banking sector and throughout his long career has worked for First National – one of South Africa’s ‘big four’ banks – and for Investec.

“For me it’s always been a case of don’t box yourself in, always see the opportunity in everything that you do. I’ve never been constrained by a job title. I certainly would say to younger colleagues, don’t chase a title, chase an opportunity because the opportunity is where you evolve your career and get your greatest learning,” Wayne said.

Wayne lives in Brisbane with his wife and three children.


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Peter Lock – CEO – Heritage Bank

headshotPeter Lock — CEO Heritage Bank —  Talks Banking & Finance, Business Strategy, the Importance of Education, Spotting the Guns & Keeping a Twinkle in Your Eye

Peter Lock is the CEO of Heritage Bank, a national organisation headquartered in Toowoomba in regional Queensland. Heritage is Australia’s largest customer-owned bank and is one steeped in history – Heritage was established in 1875. Peter is a true banking and finance professional, who began his career with the National Australia Bank (NAB). He is a highly experienced senior executive and board adviser with an impressive record of providing strategic and operational business leadership. Throughout his long career he has held roles with a number of Australia’s most prominent banking and finance organisations. He has previously been the CEO of Corporate Banking for the Bank of Melbourne, the Managing Director of Victoria for St. George Bank and the General Manager of Corporate Banking for Commonwealth Bank, to name a few. Peter has a Bachelor of Business and Commerce from the South Australian Institute of Technology, a Masters of Business Administration from the University of South Australia and a Graduate Diploma in Applied Corporate Finance. He is also an Australian Institute of Company Directors Graduate.

Aidan Coleman – CEO – Bega Cheese

0be16cdAidan Coleman CEO of Bega Cheese Limited Talks the Australian Dairy Industry, Keeping Business Simple and Being a Mad All Blacks Fan

Aidan Coleman is the CEO of Bega Cheese Limited, an ASX 200 listed company based in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Steeped in heritage, Bega is focused on infant nutrition, cheese production and general dairy commodity products, and has a revenue of approximately $1.2 billion. Aidan joined the company as CEO prior to its IPO on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2011. He is an experienced senior executive and company leader with an extensive background in leading mergers and integrations, as well as strategic developments in both consumer and industrial dairy businesses internationally. His career has taken him to Japan, Asia, Indian Sub-Continent, Oceania and Latin America.

Aidan grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand the youngest of four boys. Upon completing school, his love of animals saw a young Aidan begin a degree in vet science at Massey University, before he decided he was more fitted to a bachelor of economics and psychology at the University of Auckland. Aidan later returned to Massey, where he achieved a Bachelor of Business in marketing and finance. After beginning his career in metal manufacturing, Aidan moved into the dairy industry and has previously worked for Fonterra Brands Australia and as the former CEO and now Director of Tatura Milk Industries Limited. Aidan is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He is a proud and passionate supporter of the All Blacks rugby union team and lives in Melbourne with his wife and three sons. He is due to retire from his role as CEO of Bega Cheese Limited in 2017.



Aidan on LinkedIn

John Wagner – Chairman of the Wagner Group

The Wagners are regarded as one of regional Queensland’s most iconic and successful family businesses of our generation.  As Chair of the Wagner Group, John has overseen the business grow from owning a small hotel and quarrying operations, to a vertically integrated construction materials and mining services business employing over 1000 fulltime people over 5 countries.

Along the way, Wagners have funded, constructed and now operates the first privately funded public utility airport in Australia; plus been honoured with the Premiers Award at Queensland’s 150 Year celebrations as the company that has had the biggest impact in Regional Queensland in 150 years.  John’s story is inspirational especially given how humble he is about his and his families achievements.

Nino DiMarco – CEO & NED

Nino Di Marco

During the Renaissance period, it wasn’t enough to master only one facet of life.  Nino DiMarco is a great example of a “Renaissance man”, travelling to America to study and then work as a professional Jazz drummer, before moving into a corporate career firstly in the banking industry and in recent years as CEO of a major not for profit.  Along the way he completed an Economics degree and became a property developer.  This is a great story of a man from humble beginnings as the son of new immigrants to Australia, who has gone on to have an amazingly diverse and interesting career.


Nino Di Marco is the former CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (QLD Section) and has over 20-years’ experience in leadership and management. As part of his role within the RFDS, he also sits on the National Executive of the RFDS National Organisation.

He is responsible for the strategic direction of the RFDS in Qld with 9 bases, 400 employees, turnover of $95m, and a balance sheet of $120m.

He holds an Economics degree from the University of New England, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Finance and Investment. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.