The Brisbane business woman Therese Rein recently spoke at the State Library about her career and the company she founded, Ingeus. Her speech was truly inspiring and I want to share it with you. Therese is one of the richest women in Australia, but you may know her better as Australia’s former first lady and wife of Kevin Rudd. Therese spoke as part of the Game Changers lecture series at Brisbane’s State Library. Game Changers brings innovative leaders from business, technology and the creative industries together to share their wisdom with an audience. You can watch the presentations of some truly amazing Australians online at the library’s website. I strongly recommend you have a look at these remarkable individuals talking about their successes, challenges and belief systems. I promise that it will inspire you and help you grow.
It was wonderful to hear Therese Rein’s story. She never had any plans to go into business for herself. She studied psychology at university, and as soon as she graduated she got married and followed her husband overseas for his career in the diplomatic corps. When she returned to Australia five years later she was the mother of two small children. She applied for a job with an agency that found work for people who’d been injured, but she soon discovered that she was working for a company that cooked the books so decided to quit. Then a former nun made her an offer she could not refuse. The former nun, Jane Edwards, managed the building where Therese was working and when Jane discovered that Therese was leaving, she suggested Therese set up her own company to help the long-term unemployed find work. Jane even offered to invest a few thousand dollars in the fledgling company. She was convinced that Therese had what it took to help people back into the workforce. Therese asked her husband what he thought and Kevin Rudd said he was sure she’d be very good at it.
So many successful business people have been blessed with just one or two key supporters in the early stages of their career. It makes all the difference to have someone who truly believes in you. Therese took out a second mortgage on their home and went into business, and she was committed to the work she was doing – helping people. Making money was not her priority. Why was she so determined to help people back into the work force? Her own father was left in a wheel chair after World War II. His backbone was damaged in a plane crash and doctors told him that he would never work again, but he refused to listen. Instead he went back to university and retrained as an engineer. It took him a while to find a job, but eventually someone gave him a chance. He worked at this company until he was 65.
Therese knows how important it is for everyone to be able to work and earn a decent living. It is essential to people’s sense of dignity. She wrote in her book Money Without Marketing, “I don’t like people being thrown on the scrap heap. Enabling people to reconnect with their communities, to reconnect with independence, to reconnect with their potential — I think that matters.”
Therese began her business in 1989 – the timing was perfect. The government was outsourcing employment programs to private providers. Her company won a contract from the Hawke government, and then big contracts from the Howard government’s Job Network. Next she broke into the English market and then the French market. The business kept on growing. Today, Ingeus has become a global human resources multinational offering corporate consulting, recruitment and labour hire, on top of helping the unemployed find work. It operates in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Poland, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
In 2007 Therese sold her company. Her husband was the opposition leader and she didn’t want a conflict of interest if he won government and became Prime Minister. Remember her company is often awarded federal government contracts. After selling her company, Rein appeared on the BRW Rich 200 magazine (at number 199) with an estimated fortune of $210 million.
During her appearance at the Game Changers talk she was asked about engaging and motivating her staff, and she explained that in her company she encouraged her team to tell and swap stories of success. She told the story of a homeless man in London who wandered into the company’s office in Oxford Street. He used to be a miner but the mine closed and he came to London to look for work. He failed to find accommodation and he and his dog slept under a bridge. He told himself it was a short-term arrangement but soon the weeks of sleeping rough became months then years. Therese’s company was able to arrange temporary accommodation for him and his dog. Therese explained that taking the dog into the equation was essential. Even if you dislike pets you have to remember that for five years the dog was this man’s only comfort and friend. He was not going to abandon it. Therese explained that when this man wandered into her office (despite his very fragrant smell from living under a bridge for five years), her employee shook his hand and said, “Hello Harry, it’s nice to meet you.” And the man, Harry, told her that it had been years since anyone had called him by name. He had not heard his own name for years. After her team arranged temporary accommodation, they also arranged a dog sitter who could mind Harry’s dog while he looked for work. He told the staff he had a forklift license. They asked about his personal interests and he said that he loved Greek and Roman antiquities. Would you believe the employment job managed to find him a job in the storage room of a museum? The museum later called Therese’s company to tell her they had never before had an employee who treated their artefacts with such love and care. Therese’s team had rebuilt Harry’s life.
Therese has hundreds of these success stories and she actively encouraged her employees to keep sharing these stories with each other. It reinforced what they were there to do – change people’s lives. It kept them motivated. It united them as a team.
What stories do you tell yourself? Do you focus on your successes or are you forever lamenting your failures? If we want to succeed personally and professionally we need to keep telling ourselves and others stories of our successes. I am not suggesting that you spend your days bragging and big noting yourself. Instead we need to remind ourselves and others that we have triumphed and share that joy.
Therese Rein is a truly remarkable woman and it was an honour to hear her story. I wanted to share that experience with you. Again you can watch Therese’s talk at this web address
Please, share your stories of success and inspire others!
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.