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October 2014 Newsletter

- 28 Oct 2014
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Take a deep breath and blow out the candles; Keogh Consulting turned 30 years old this month.

The company has matured and gone through several phases of growth and evolution since Allan Keogh, with eight years’ experience in business consulting, embraced the risk and set up his own business in Brisbane in 1984.

It was very much a micro-business in those initial days, and the world looked quite different back then. Moes and mullets were in vogue, Stevie Wonder was top of the pops, and Arnie Schwarzenegger was roaming the cinema screens as a cyborg terminator. In politics, the wage accord was up and running, and Prime Minister Bob Hawke had just worn the bouncer that shattered his glasses during a cricket match.

The Keogh business was leveraged off Allan’s consultancy experience in the Queensland resource sector, particularly the coal-mining industry, working in greenfield mines and mining communities on the human relationships and organisational cultures that engender efficient operations, industrial harmony and healthy communities. His mentor in those highly successful formative years was John Mills.

Even in the early Keogh years, the basic pattern was imprinted; a boutique business selling its specialised people skills to some of the largest corporations operating in Australia and beyond – developing, reshaping and buffing the soft skills that are integral to the performance, productivity and profits of an enterprise. Its work has been focused as narrowly as the personal development of an individual CEO or executive and as broad as the implementation of cultural change across a whole corporation.

From Queensland coal and base metals, the business spread its wings to the oil and gas sector and the remote offshore working environments of Bass Strait and the North-West Shelf.  It also expanded its mining exposure to other metals – iron ore, tin, and gold –  to other states – New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia – and internationally to New Zealand, Indonesia, Tanzania and Botswana.

Some of its major clients eventually proved to be BHP Billiton, ExxonMobil, GE, Santos and Woodside and, over the decades, Keogh has contributed – in its own small way – to some of the biggest and most complex resource projects ever undertaken in Australia and neighbouring countries, most recently the PNGLNG project in Papua New Guinea.

Although the resource sector has been a constant in Keogh’s work – and thus it has been exposed to quite a few of those commodity cycles – the company has worked extensively since the early years in other industries as well. As its reputation has grown, it has worked on long-term projects in areas such as the manufacturing, hospitality and finance sectors in Australia, South Africa, China and North America. Some of its significant clients have been Cadbury Schweppes, Carlton & United, Metway Bank, Michell Wool, Motorola and Standard Bank.

It has been engaged on projects in health and education too. For example, it made an important contribution in the formative years of Bond University, Australia’s very first private university. Some of the input in that project proved to be groundbreaking and contentious, yet the concept and practices introduced there have been adopted subsequently in other tertiary institutions.

Challenge, Keogh’s long-running leadership development program, had a wider crossover target and each course tended to attract participants from a range of industries. That program pioneered experiential activities designed to develop the leadership abilities and high performance of teams. A beneficial spin-off was the number of later corporate projects that flowed, directly or indirectly, from participants in those courses.

One of the most recently completed projects, the $US19 billion PNGLNG facilities in Papua New Guinea, is also one of Keogh’s proudest. That project, stretching from the gas wells in the highlands to the LNG plant on the coast outside Port Moresby, was finished on budget and ahead of schedule. Keogh worked with ExxonMobil, the lead joint venture partner and principal operator, to provide strategic advice to its senior executives and to facilitate an integrated approach between the teams leading the development and production arms of the project.

Certainly not all projects run as smoothly. There are degrees of success and failure. But over the decades, Keogh has developed the experience and intellectual property to identify areas of friction and work towards delivering project success.


Keogh Consulting has rebooted in Adelaide. The bricks and mortar have been sold and its Adelaide staffers are now logging on as telecommuters.

The Melbourne Street office, the Keogh home in South Australia for the past 21 years, closed its door for the final time in the middle of the month. The company will retain a digital hub so that its Adelaide staffers can still work face-to-face when that is preferable. All of them have worked remotely on an occasional basis before so it is not a step into the unknown.

The Adelaide office has gone full circle as the workload of Keogh has shifted and expanded around the country and overseas. It began as a small outpost in 1989, evolved into a branch office in the 90s and then the corporate office, but the expansion of Keogh operations in Queensland and Western Australia in particular have overshadowed it in more recent years.

The Melbourne St office has been the scene of much hard yakka, laughter and some tears over the years as well as the venue for some masterful dinners and Christmas and birthday celebrations. It was the home-away-from-home for some amazing people in that time and its place in the Keogh annals will be remembered fondly.


Allan Keogh is a film buff and it is one of his prime means for switching off from the heavy demands of his professional life. But it’s obviously not a pure form of escapism. Asked to nominate his five favourite films and sum up their attraction, professional elements crept into the explanations.

The Shawshank Redemption: The inspirational triumph of individual spirit over injustice, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Mr. Holland’s Opus: Richard Dreyfus plays a composer who doesn’t follow his passion and is forced to accept a job to earn a living. The consequences of that choice reveal his true purpose. A wonderful example of precession in action!

A Bridge Too Far: The battle for the bridge at Arnhem during World War Two. A large-scale organisational classic: an example of being underprepared and bound for disaster when you fail to communicate and over-extend – one bridge too many.

Field of Dreams: Kevin Costner plays a poor farmer who, guided by a voice, converts his field to a baseball diamond in the belief that ‘create it and they will come’. The fantasy is a metaphor for the estranged relationship with his father, a baseball fanatic, and his attempts to reconnect with his roots. It had a raw impact on Allan as it reconnected him to the father he loved and lost at 22.

Avatar: Director James Cameron captures the spirit of how the environment affects us, not just how we affect the environment. The parallels with PNG were spooky and Allan saw the impact it had on one foreign project manager; it acted as the catalyst for personal transformation and a more sensitive understanding of the perspective of local communities.


Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.     James Cameron

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