CEO SPOTLIGHT: Dean Mehmet, Hastings Deering
“I’m first generation, born of immigrant parents who came to Australia from Europe,” explained Dean Mehmet, CEO of Hastings Deering.
“I grew up in a multi-cultural country that represents a variety of values and ethnic backgrounds. I feel very lucky to have experienced life in such a diverse culture: It has allowed me to understand that there are a lot of different people in this world, and that we can all make a difference once we accept these differences.”
In addition to altruism and kindness, diversity seems to be a theme for Mehmet, both personally and professionally: his career has consisted more of forging paths than merely following trails.
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Mehmet’s experience covers the “…full gamut of both functional and operational roles leading up to the more general management roles,” he explained, which includes roles within engineering, sales, marketing, business development, and mergers and acquisitions.
As of 2014, he was able to add another role to his impressive resume: after a mere two years as COO of Hastings Deering (the largest Cat dealer network in Australia), Mehmet was promoted to CEO.
Q: What do you believe are the most important qualities of a leader?
I believe in values-based leadership: our values drive our behavior. They are what define us and how we make decisions and they drive people to take ownership and be accountable. A good leader is someone who can live by their values and the values of the organization that they aspire to grow a culture in; someone whose behavior consistently matches those values.
This is something we aspire toward at Hastings Deering by being consistent in our approach to all matters, whether with a customer, an employee or even a shareholder: Our core values are always our foundation.
Q: What drives you to want to succeed? What is the origin of your ambition?
My ultimate driver is making a difference, building on the successes of the past and helping to improve. I want to leave a legacy where this business – and culture of this business – is stronger than ever before.
Q: How do you measure success?
Our customers often tell us what they like and what they don’t like, so we measure [ourselves based on] their satisfaction—which should always be improving.
We also look to our shareholders to ensure we provide the right return, and our relationship with the communities we live and work in is also a good indicator. Hastings Deering has a large geographic footprint extending across multiple towns and cities across four countries, and being a part of those communities—being respected within those communities—is very important.
For me personally, success is the legacy of leaving something behind when I am no longer here; something that is sustainable and better than it was yesterday.
Q: How do you remain inspired in your day-to-day activities?
Knowing that our people work their hardest to give customers the best service in the marketplace inspires me.
I get inspired by wandering around the business; by going to see customers; by experiencing the success stories in which we have helped improve lives because of the products and services we’ve provided.
I’m also inspired by good behavior that matches the values that we aspire to; seeing people act with absolute integrity, even if it doesn’t always benefit the organization but because it is the right thing to do, inspires me every day.
Externally, there are so many people out there who want to make a difference and do better; people who strive to create a better tomorrow. Seeing that really does inspire me to do more as well.
Q: How do you inspire others?
We communicate with our employees consistently to not only explain “what” we are doing but fundamently “why”—why we are doing what we are doing and how that fits in with our core values and the aspirations of our corporation and customers.
Additionally, we don’t just discuss the organization but also provide our people the broader picture - what’s going on in the world and in the markets we are dealing with.
One of our largest mining clients recently hosted a workshop at his site and afterwards told me that the most engaged people – and the most difficult questions he received – were from Hastings Deering. He commended us on our ability to educate our people about what is going on outside the four walls of just our company.
Q: What traits do you look for when hiring new staff?
The assessment process at Hastings Deering begins with an evaluation of core values and beliefs—there are a lot of psychometric tests one can do to easily ascertain those traits.
We also look for a diversity of background and a diversity of thought. For us, diversity has many, many facets, and gender is clearly important as this has historically been a male-dominated environment, at least in Australia. Having a company that looks more like the world we live in is important and we as an organization are trying to address this.
More importantly, there are a variety of different backgrounds and experiences that people have brought from different cultures and organizations: We look to bring that diversity of experience into the business to give us broader, more rounded and (hopefully!) better decision-making abilities.
Q: What is your go-to question during interviews?
“Give me an example of a time when you were part of a team that made a difference.”
The answer isn’t really important; I get people to talk through the part they played and how it made them feel, which links right back to the values piece. You can get a really good idea about a person when they explain a time they feel they made a difference.
Q: What made you want to join the Hastings Deering team?
I’ve worked in the industry that Hastings Deering supports for many, many years, and this organization’s reputation in the marketplace for delivering best quality service from the best people – and being an organization that acts with integrity and does not backout on its word – really is second-to-none.
When I finally joined the organization, I was also able to see the quality of the people: a company does not have a positive reputation based on quality and innovation without having some of the best people out there [on the team].
We recently celebrated an employee’s 50th anniversary with the organization – 50 years!
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your current role?
Watching people grow and being the best they can possibly, helping our customers do their jobs and improve productivity, and providing value to shareholders.
“Treat others as you want to be treated,” Mehmet replied when asked to describe the most important qualities of a leader.
A similar response was given when asked to reveal the “secret” behind Hastings Deering’s continued success in a competitive – and often tumultuous – industry.
And – not surprisingly – he remained consistent when providing a similar answer about the alignment of his personal morals with Hastings Deering’s professional values.
The consistency in these answers is quite refreshing and genuine: Mehmet leads by example, practices what he preaches and maintains his core values both inside and outside of the office.
Seems like he was born to lead.
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