The grandson of Gough Group founder Tracy Gough will be spending the holidays with the cell phone switched off, trying to digest eight weeks of Harvard University lectures.
Ben Gough, who in July took a controlling stake in the Christchurch-based equipment and machinery supplier, has recently returned from his trip to the USA on a prime minister’s business scholarship.
He was one of five recipients of the award and chose to to spend his eight weeks at Harvard. Other recipients went to the London Business School and INSEAD business school in France.
In his day job, Mr Gough is in charge of the company’s strategic development. He says he is fortunate to be in a position to participate in all the divisions of the business – across property development; the company’s long-term vision or helping set up the group’s IT platform.
He thinks the idea of the business scholarship is fantastic.
“I applaud the prime minister and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for supporting New Zealand business and the individuals who want to continue to go overseas and learn and develop, he says.
“The opportunity to be exposed to a world class institution, with state of the art thinking, facilities, course content and faculty, really is a privilege.”
Mr Gough believes Harvard is arguably the most recognised educational institute in the world, supplying case studies to 80% of business schools across the globe.
There were more than 170 candidates on Mr Gough’s course, representing 43 countries and more than 60 industries.
“Attending Harvard is not a case of sitting and listening to a seminar for an hour and a half. You’re actually expected to contribute and engage in dialogue with lecturers and fellow classmates," he told NBR ONLINE.
"I think that dialogue actually contributes to 50% of the learning, so while the lecturer guides you down a particular path, a significant contribution of the learning is actually through discussion and acknowledging there’s not necessarily a right answer.”
Instead, he says there are a variety of choices available to find the best solution. And that idea is one he has taken away with him.
“We as leaders need to recognise that and with best endeavours, assess those options and make a decision based off the most accurate information available at the time.”
Mr Gough says there was plenty to learn in his eight-week stint and plenty of information to digest. However, he is reluctant to start implementing changes all at once, as he believes it would not be welcomed by the team.
“There’s just a power of information to digest. I’d describe it as trying to drink from the fire hose. Now I guess the challenge is applying those lessons learnt in a practical manner. The last thing I want or my team wants is for me to come riding back into town ready to change the world.”
He intends to use his summer break to collect his thoughts, concentrate on a few key themes and evaluate his work-life balance.
He says 2012 has been a big year for the company. While some sectors, such as coal mining, have slowed down and had an effect on the company, other areas, such as the Christchurch rebuild and gold mining have remained steady.
Just before Christmas, Statistics New Zealand said a 4.5% rise in construction sector activity was the stand-out performer in the September quarter.
Mr Gough expects the same to be true for at least the next two years.
He says he, his wife Penny and their three children are in the south for the holidays, where plenty of mountain bike riding and jet-skiing are on the agenda, and maybe some golf, too.
“This summer I’ll be trying to switch the phone off, focus on the family. Having been away for eight weeks, I think they probably deserve my attention.”