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Picking the Right People for Mining Success – Lessons from a Kalgoorlie Legend

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Success in the mining game is often more about the quality of the people on a project than the quality of the mine.

This is a fact that was really brought home to me during a recent chat I had on the Full Production podcast. My guest was Graham McGarry – a guy many would say is a living legend among the Kalgoorlie-Boulder community.

Some would know Graham for his great business success. He’s developed multiple mines and businesses in Kalgoorlie and across the country in a career that began as an office boy in the mines in 1967. Others would know him for his tireless service to the gold fields’ community in several capacities.

There is no stopping the guy, with the latest gold mining venture developed by Graham and his partner Jeff beginning operation as this is written.

In an industry that’s notorious for its boom and bust cycles, how does he manage to move from success to success? As I discovered in our chat, a big part of his secret is in his approach to people and staffing. There are some great lessons here for all of us?

Seek out and develop strong partnerships

What really struck me most about Graham’s story is that he rarely went it alone in business. In fact, he and his business partner Jeff have been working together for more than 34 years. And the partnership is still going strong today with their latest successful venture.

Seek out people with complementary skills

Graham and his partner Jeff really prove that together you can become far more than your parts. Graham went to night school and qualified as an accountant, while Jeff became a highly skilled metallurgist. Jeff brings the technical mining skills and Graham the business nous. As history has proven, together they’re a tough team to beat.   

Develop you’re listening muscles

Another thing that really struck me about Graham’s approach was his capacity to listen to people and understand where they are coming from. It is such an important skill for any of us in business or management or anyone who works closely with other people for that matter.

As he says, it was a skill he learned as a councillor for the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder for a few years. ‘That was a great experience and it taught me a lot. I learned a lot about the ability to listen to other people,’ he says. Being open to another’s point of view, and adaptable with your thinking is essential for developing good relationships and getting things done.

Bring out the best in people

This is a big one. Throughout his career and life, Graham’s story shows the value of picking good people and sticking with them. It’s rewarded him well.

Graham’s approach is straightforward. ‘You’ve got to endeavour to select the best, pay the best and look after the best people, and quickly cull away the people that are not positive in their thoughts in the workplace. If they’re not positive get rid of them,’ he says.

‘Creating that environment is key. If you don’t have positive people you encounter all sorts of problems,’ he says. ‘All of your senior management has to be positive and has to be kicking in the same direction as you. If they start kicking against the wind, kicking against you, they’ve got to go.’

Be part of the community

For Graham, this really started with his love for sports as a teenager. As he says, ‘sports was the best part of my life.’ Playing competitive sport against adults since the age of 15  ‘gave me a good grounding,’ he says.

Service to the community has been an important part of his life, and it’s taken many forms. From his work on the committee to reroute the railway line around Kalgoorlie to his work on the local council, to his current passion for housing the aged in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder community.

It’s this kind of commitment to the community and its welfare that builds respect and trust. And all good businesses, relationships and communities are built on a foundation of respect and trust.

You can hear the entire conversation with Graham McGarry here.