Maximising Opportunities to Make a Difference Keynote Speech

The following is the keynote speech our Managing Director Murray Saylor presented at the 2014 James Cook University event held at Old Parliament House in Brisbane titled "Maximising opportunities to make a difference."

Acknowledgement to country

I would like to pay respects to the traditional custodians of the land we meet on this evening, my people of the Torres Strait, distinguished guests, family and JCU graduating class of 2014.

When Andrew from JCU invited me to speak at this event I thought to myself “you want me to speak to JCU graduating class, what am I going to share with some of the most successful graduates in our great nation?” I even thought about declining the invitation, but I discussed it with my inner circle and realised it was an opportunity to share my journey

This evening I will share with you three stories that will give you an idea of my life resume and how I have endeavoured to maximise opportunities to make a difference. As the challenge of life is to build a resume that doesn’t simply tell a story about what you want to be, but tells a story about who you want to be. It’s not a resume about what you want to accomplish, but why.  In my journey it’s focused on thinking outside the box, maximising opportunities to make a difference as a son, partner, father and Torres Strait Islander.

Year 10

I want to share a story that illustrates the concept of maximising opportunities.  In year 10, I was living with family friends in a town called Dimbulah located in the Atherton Tablelands working at the local supermarket for some pocket money, playing sport and…..confused about the way forward in my life and educational journey. Why you ask? Well in my family the expectation was that once I finished year 10 I would follow in the footsteps of my uncles who chose a career working on building and maintaining the extensive railway networks across our country. Did you know that a crew of predominantly Torres Strait Islanders hold a track-laying record when in 1968, a rail laying crew predominantly composed of Torres Strait Islanders in one day laid, spiked, and anchored about 7km of track along the Mt Newman, WA line, breaking the previous record of 4.6km set in the USA.

Anyway, you can understand my dilemma of being confused about my educational journey. I stewed on the issue for days and decided four weeks out of school finishing that I was going to take matters into my own hands and get an interview to go St Augustine’s College, Cairns.  I approached my principal and presented my dilemma and shared that there was a “fire within” me that I wanted to fuel. It was a fire to make a difference at that point in my life. The interviews were a week later and my principal shared that he couldn’t promise that he would be able to secure an interview for me.  Keep in mind no one knew about my vision and actions and a feeling of dread came over me when I thought what mum was going to do once she found out.

A few days later, I got called to the school office and my principal shared he had managed to organise an interview. He reiterated that he couldn’t do anything more, and I thanked him for his assistance and I would be okay and what he had organised was all I needed. On the day of the interview, I had just finished my afternoon shift at the supermarket unloading stock and cleaning the warehouse area, so I was a little dirty and still had my school sports uniform on.  I turned up at the interviews being held at the local Catholic school, very nervous and committed to the course of action I had chosen. I was called into the classroom where the interviews were being held by a polite Marist brother wearing his white robe. We sat down and started the interview. I noticed that all my mates in the other interviews kept looking at me. I don’t know what was going through their minds. Brother Geoff and I had a great discussion which opened with a question about where my parents were, and yes I lied and as I did so an image of mum came into my mind with the dread. Anyway, Brother Geoff shared he was impressed with my drive and that I would be going to the private school. He asked me to wait outside and my friends asked me that I should have been more respectful and dressed more appropriately. I respected their words but didn’t understand why they kept going on about being more respectful to Brother Geoff.  What I ended up finding out is that of all the people that could have interviewed me that day, I was interviewed by the principal of the private school I wanted to go to. I knew at that moment that fate had flipped the right card of chance for me and that I was never going to look back.

The issue of mum was to come and after running away from home mum relented and signed the papers and shared she would not support me and that I was not part of the family.  My heart broke but I accepted that I had to maximise my opportunities to make a difference in my life.

University journey

My private school experience was an awakening to what was in the wider world, please note I came from a life of alcohol, violence and abuse. All the way through school I always wanted to get greater understanding why I thought so differently from my kin so I applied for mid-year intake to JCU to do social work and try and look for answers about who I was.  The two years I spent at JCU was turbulent and I decided after two years to defer, the main reason was when a social work honour student as part of his research thesis tried to categorise me into a box, and I disagreed that your past doesn’t govern your future.

I returned back to JCU as a mature aged student to study towards a Bachelor of Business degree. I was awarded a scholarship from my then employer the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). I wanted to maximise my opportunities that had been given to me. I had a young family with a new born, I was undertaking the Army Reserve officer training and studying. My university experience was similar to all who do study, long nights, tutes, reading, frustration, and balancing life. While at university, I became a ASPIRE mentor focused on assisting students from low socio-economic backgrounds either white, black or from overseas. I also, was a student representative at the school of business as I wanted the voice of students to be heard and learning outcomes to be enhanced through education service delivery. 

During my time at JCU, I was supported and most of the time pushed by my family who had a new addition my beautiful daughter Bryanna who would crawl to the study door with dummy in mouth seeking the attentions of her dad.

We have all experienced the long nights, exams, assessments, tutorials, presentations and even though at times it was challenging we all still continued on our chosen path.

The day of graduation was significant for two reasons: I was the first member of my family to graduate with a university degree and my daughter Bryanna was being baptised in the afternoon. I still remember when I went back stage to pick up my graduating gown and take my place with the rest of my graduating cohort. I felt nervous, elated, happy and all other emotions because I realised the significance to me, my family but what the degree meant to my future. I knew I was in a position to show other brothers and sisters that no matter where you started life that with self-belief, meeting the right people and maximising your opportunities you can be more than average.

Tagai Management Consultants

After graduating, my personal radar was actively on the lookout for opportunities to apply my newly acquired qualification. But, as we all know the best laid plans can sometimes get thrown out the window. Regardless, I continued to maximise any opportunities that was presented which lead me to work with great teams, organisations and customers in the Private and public sector.

Earlier this year, I took an option to leave a great professional position with a multinational mining company. I came out the front of the office looked left and right down the street and went to Myers and purchased a business suite, actually the one I am wearing.  I walked out of Myers first time unemployed and on my business journey still apprehensive and a little shell shocked. Had I done the right thing, what was I doing, I had bills to pay, but a funny thing happened as these thoughts were going through my mind I received a call from Qld Govt Industry Capability Network manager who asked me to register my business with the ICN.  TMC was created back in the first year of my degree and I still have my first business plan as a reminder, it was called Saylor Consulting, yeah I know it’s changed a bit but the values and drivers are still the same.

I focused on establishing TMC without going to a bank for a loan. I received great advice from fellow business owners, Indigenous Business Australia, family and friends. Who did not necessarily understand my new business adventure but listened, fed me and provided the spiritual nourishing to keep me going on this rollercoaster ride.

Tagai Management Consultants (TMC) is an Indigenous owned and operated business specialising in Supply Chain/Procurement, Community Engagement, Business development and growth services Australia wide. TMC is an experienced supply chain consulting service with a proven track record in successfully engaging with and developing local Indigenous business supply chains into the major projects market. TMC also works with mainstream suppliers - small through to very large – and project proponents to map, bundle and package work to maximise efficiencies while meeting project goals for local content.

All I strive to do is maximise all opportunities in order to be more than average and hopefully be a role model for my kids to work hard towards what they want to achieve in their lives.

I would like to leave you with a story which I am sure many of us here have heard and been inspired by…..

The starfish story…..

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean. As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water. The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied," I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. "But", said the man, "You can't possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied “Made a difference to that one".

"Remember vision without actions is merely a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world." - Joel A Barker.


Thank you

(c) Tagai Management Consultants Pty Ltd, 2014