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Nicole Hollows Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director, Executive Director of Macarthur Coal Ltd

07 March 2011

\"Enjoy what you do as you'll be better at it.\"

Nicole Hollows was the CEO of a publicly listed mining company well before she was 40. She is young, vibrant, and honest. The latter is something she aspires to and actively seeks in staff, colleagues and her peers. And it's the reason why she admits here, she wanted to \"give something more\" of herself, be more personal.

Meteoric rise

\"I had this very simple goal. I wanted to be a partner in a Chartered Accountant firm by 30. I had no strategy for getting from A to B.

\"Then at 29, I was approached to be equity partner. I thought to myself: 'well, it's now or never to do something else.'

\"I approached one of my clients at the firm I worked for to be a referee and he said: 'Sure, but why don't you come and work at Coppabella [mine] with us.'

\"It was chance not a thought process that led me to Macarthur Coal.

\"I knew I loved numbers, business planning, but there was never a thought to be a CEO. Moving from a chartered accountancy firm to be the CFO of a mining company, a commercial venture, was a risk, but I reasoned: I understand accounting. It's my core expertise. I'll give it a go.\"

When Nicole was offered deputy CEO a few years later, she mulled over it for a month. It was a new skill set and out of her comfort zone, she admits. She also had a young family.

\"I didn't want to fail. Then one of my mentors said to me he would be more upset if I didn't do it than if I did and failed. He also pointed out I would be frustrated if I stayed doing the same thing.

\"And this is where I believe as women we can let ourselves down. There can be this lack of confidence to step up, take the initiative and embrace change. I thought, so what if I fail I'll learn from the mistakes. But it was daunting to think about failing in a public company because it means failing in a very public sense.

\"What I do know about myself is that I step up to challenges and that you cannot let the thought processes of others define you. Instead, give it a go and don't dwell on what others might be thinking or saying.\"

Enjoy what you do

The other piece of advice Nicole lives by is to \"enjoy what you do as you'll be better at it\". And for her, this comes back to being honest to yourself - understanding what you do well and why you do it well, trusting your judgement and having those you know and work with trust you.

\"You can teach skills if you have the right attitude. Staff should be empowered to be involved to do their jobs. And it's essential to be able to trust and rely on staff, because if they're honest they will ask questions or come to you and discuss problems.

\"When it's your peers, trust is again very important. Robust discussions need objectivity and that means trusting everyone can work through the options to come to the best conclusions.\"

Balance

It is a question asked of women in business but very rarely asked of men: how do they balance home and work? Nicole's answer is to acknowledge that without the support of her partner, a great deal of discipline on her side and email – it would be impossible.

\"One of my major challenges is to balance career, wife and mother with being an individual. But how did we ever do business without email and Blackberries.\"

This past financial year has also had its fair share of business challenges. Nicole acknowledges that the GFC has been the hardest thing she has had to cope with in her career to date.

\"The GFC meant a cut in production for the company of 25 per cent. And in December 2008 after much thought and debate, that led to putting 30 per cent of people off. To save more jobs in the long run meant making a difficult decision back then. I personally went on site to carry out what was a very hard thing to do.\"

Key Achievements

Becoming a mum. We adopted a little girl from China.

My appointment to CEO in 2007.

Veuve Clicquot Business Women Rising Star award

President of the Queensland Resources Council. (The first female in the role)

Personal Passions

Chocolate

Movies

Reading

Travel

\"How did we ever do business without email?\"

Useful links

www.macarthurcoal.com.au

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