The 35-year-old took on his first executive role at the age of 21 with Century 21 where he quickly rose to become state manager and was responsible for the management and growth of 32 franchise locations across SA.
He then moved to Boost Juice and after building the brand beyond expectations in SA, relocated to Melbourne to take on the role at a national level.
In 2012, Cooke was lured to Specsavers to lead a transformation of the South Australian business. Through strategic intervention, realignment of vision and a focus on people, the SA business is now the leading performer across Australia and New Zealand.
Based in Adelaide, Cooke has been general manager of CIBO Espresso Australia since May 2017 and has refocused the business and quickly put it on a growth trajectory.
Cooke was this month named a winner in InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 awards. We asked him some more about doing business in South Australia.
What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?
South Australia is a secret haven of immense talent. Creative, ingenious, passionate, driven people who do business with integrity and a smile. People who are regularly, quietly and humbly forging the way forward. It is these people that make our great state a bright and exciting place to do business. Due to the connected nature of the business community in SA, being able to tap into and engage this talent through the connectivity of community means you always can find the best person for the job, and deliver incredible outcomes in partnership. This efficient community also means the good old-fashioned power of word of mouth is well and truly alive, meaning you can harness the wave of positivity to help grow and drive your business forward and build a fiercely loyal customer base.
What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?
We are often challenged by the limited customer pool available, due to our smaller population making business growth challenging and often driving us to think laterally or differently about where growth comes from through business diversification. While this is a challenge it also means you need to ensure you are always striving for the best customer outcomes and experiences so you not only win customers but retain them.
We can also be quite conservative in our views and approaches and inherently fearful of change, making it difficult to drive change and win hearts and minds for innovation and opportunities.
Do you see your future in South Australia?
I am and have always been a passionate South Australian. Choosing to build a career here has offered me opportunities I never would have imagined, despite regularly being wooed for interstate roles. While this has sometimes meant I have needed to take a sideways step professionally, ultimately I have been incredibly privileged to help build the business landscape in ways I could not have in any other place in the world and supported and created opportunities for the next generation of young people to build their own careers and opportunities right here.
The opportunity I have here in SA combined with a lifestyle that is the envy of the world means South Australia is and will continue to be where I forge my future, and proudly so!
How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?
We need to shake off some of the conservative and tightly-held business approaches and think differently to open more opportunities for the next generation. An increased focus on small business generation is needed. This includes support for entrepreneurs to bring ideas and innovation to life by encouraging people to take risks and create their own opportunities.
We also need to celebrate our successes and tell the positive stories about the incredible people, businesses and ideas being brought to life here. Generating positivity and lifting the lid on the great things going on here will allow young leaders to see the potential of our great state and the opportunities it can provide.
More about 40 Under 40
An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.
The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.
For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.
40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:
- Piper Alderman
- Australian Institute of Business
- Australian Institute of Company Directors
- Underwood Executive
- City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters
- Local Government Association of South Australia
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