Business Lessons: Resilience

Business Lessons: Resilience

I am Denis Keeffe, the co-founder of a uniquely Australian Aboriginal art and fashion label, Mainie.

The story of Mainie is really the story of my wife Charmaine. It is her concept, her creativity and her passion. I have been there from the beginning but from an almost completely different perspective. I have certain qualities that I inherited from my family upbringing and then further developed from lessons learned from my own experiences.

Charmaine and I often discuss the business whether, it be strategic planning for the future, risk assessment and subsequent risk mitigation, business development, finance, etc. During these discussions, she almost always says that even though I do not have all the answers, I do possess an attribute that compensates for my lack of a fashion industry background. It is my resilience.

Most people can develop skills that are useful, almost mandatory in business, but resilience must come from the inside. The ability to recover from setbacks and defeats is personal and powerful. Resilience is acquired and even perfected by a multitude of life experiences from unbelievable successes to more often than not absolute and devastating failures.

I have been engaged in the world of professional sport for around thirty years and I know how high the successes can be – the glory, the contentment, the exhilaration, the fame, the adulation. Conversely, I have been gutted by the shattering loss. There is no middle ground in this regard. You either win or you lose.

Winning is easy. It is what the hard work is all about. It is the reward. The only real issue about winning is winning the right way. That is, with humility and acknowledgement to the many factors and people who contributed to the success.

Losing is devastating. But like winning, losing must be embraced for what it is. It is a problem to solve and a lesson worth experiencing, because when you lose, you can do one of two things. You can give up or you can go again. The going again is called resilience.

I was recruited to North Queensland Cowboys as the CEO in the back end of the NRL season 2001. The club was fervently supported by a North Queensland fan base that personified the game of Rugby League. North Queensland was then and still is today one of the genuine heartlands of the sport. Rugby League permeates almost every element of society at all levels.

The Cowboys were perennial non-finalists since their inception in 1995. In 2004, the Club made the play-offs for the first time in its history and our team was extremely unlucky to lose in a qualifying final to the Sydney Roosters in very controversial circumstances. I have never made comment on this devastating result and I never will. It was shattering, but we started planning 2005 immediately.

The 2005 NRL season saw the Cowboys rise up again and dominate throughout the season, only to lose the Grand Final in Sydney to the Wests Tigers. This loss crushed us in the club, our supporters, and our communities in the north. However, in hindsight this second shattering defeat provided the impetus and motivation to get back on that horse and once again show the world that losing can be motivational and inspirational if the collective possesses RESILENCE.

It took another ten years for the Cowboys to register their first premiership Grand Final win, but persistence, courage, and resilience finally prevailed in 2015.

At his best, golfer Tiger Woods was virtually unbeatable. But there was an occasion during his glory days when he lost badly at a major tournament and the press gallery was gobsmacked. He was asked all sorts of “what now” questions and he responded simply by saying, “I’ll be OK – the sun will rise tomorrow”. Tiger was not being dismissive of the result; he was just demonstrating his incredible resilience. Although some may have been quick to write him off, he went on to win many tournaments after this defeat.

I am writing this article at a time when a global pandemic has devastated the business world. There has never been an economic crisis like this in living memory. The world as we knew it only a few months ago may take years to fully recover, if at all. Things that we once took for certainties are gone, maybe forever.

The Mainie team has two choices now as we look to the future for our business in these challenging times. We can give up or we can keep going. At Mainie, we have chosen to keep going. Resilience.

Mainie Team: L to R. Rebecca, Charmaine, Denis, Esther, Melinda