Chris Buckingham is CEO of Casey Cardinia Libraries. He has also owned an operated a small business, led community organisations, worked as a senior manager for Local Goverment and served as the CEO of Destination Melbourne. Chris shares insights into his working day and what he has learnt from his professional successes and failures.
Describe a typical working day?
Life at Casey Cardinia Libraries is never dull. We operate seven libraries and a mobile service which receive more than two million visits a year. It is always a challenge balancing the strategic and operational demands of the business. I love being with people in the libraries, so make a conscious effort to get out and about. There is only so much you can learn from an excel spreadsheet.
What are your impressions of the Casey Cardinia Region from a business perspective?
It is a really exciting time for business in the Casey Cardinia region. There are growing pains particularly around infrastructure, however the fundamentals are in place – close connection with major transport routes, a growing population, good education and training institutions and progressive councils that value the role of business in their community. Accessing reliable, fast internet remains the big challenge.
What has been your biggest career success to date?
I was named as a Finalist in the 2012 Melbourne Awards for Individual Contribution to Melbourne’s Profile and served an Adjunct Professor with Victoria University’s College of Business for a number of years. However my biggest successes have been a direct result of my capacity to build strong high performing teams. As a leader, it is the people you work with, who determine whether you succeed or fail.
What has been your biggest career failure to date?
I have had a few! My first job was in the public bar at the Hotel Windsor. At the interview I was asked if I could pour a beer. I said ‘Of course!’ not realising that there was a significant difference between emptying a cold stubby into a glass and using a beer tap … thankfully my skills were not tested until I started on the job. My first attempts were a source of amusement to customers and workmates. Thankfully one of the more experienced staff showed me how it was done before the manager turned up.
What did you learn from that experience?
If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again … while my career at the ‘grand old lady’ on Spring Street was short lived, I learned enough to pour beers for a living all the way through uni. I also realised the importance of listening to customers and making people feel welcome.
If you had to invite five people to a business luncheon, who would they be and why?
If I was to host a business luncheon it would be to encourage greater support for the vital role public libraries play in our region. The key criteria would be shared values around supporting early literacy, lifelong learning, free access to information and building stronger more resilient communities.
I trust that with a bit of time and the opportunity to engage with the local business community, I will meet the people who want to play a role supporting public libraries in our region.
How do you relax away from work?
I always look forward to spending time with my family, getting up early on Saturday morning for Parkrun and regularly help out at the Warragul Farmers’ Market.
I also enjoy reading, surfing and skiing when I get the chance. I particularly enjoy sitting on the front verandah at home with my partner Mikaela as the sun sets over the hill.
Tell us something most people would not know about you?
I am pretty sure that I was the first man to complete a Minor in Women’s Studies at Monash University in 1992. An amazing learning experience that taught me a lot about women and myself. I am very grateful to the lecturers in the Women’s Studies Department who took my application on face value and allowed me to participate.
What is your business mantra?
I have a few, but the one that stands the test of time is ‘Pay it forward’. It is the idea of giving to someone else without expectation of return. Generosity and good business go hand in hand. Everyone has the capacity to give if they think about it – whether it be time, expertise or resources.