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Exclusive interview: Rugby great Daniel Herbert’s secrets to strata success

We talk with the Chair of Rugby Australia, who is also CEO of strata management firm, SSKB

Daniel Herbert was a driving force in one of the greatest rugby union teams ever assembled: the 1999 World Cup-winning Wallabies. That all-conquering side was built upon innovation, teamwork, and commitment to excellence, factors the new Chair of Rugby Australia has brought into his seven-year tenure as CEO of strata management firm, SSKB.

The company, operating for three decades, manages close to 800 strata schemes from North Queensland down to Melbourne, employing 140 staff across five offices. Reflecting on his career in sport, Daniel recognises the valuable lessons that apply to business. “The team-first approach, where the team is more important than the individual, is an obvious one,” he said.

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“In sport you learn about dedication and commitment. It teaches you that success requires more than just showing up 9 to 5; you always need to put in discretionary effort to stand out from the crowd. There are many life lessons in sport, particularly in team sports. In a good team, you draw energy from your teammates, and I feel the same here at SSKB – it’s the people who energise me to go the extra mile.”

Daniel said that his managerial roles with Queensland Rugby from 2008 until 2017 were excellent preparation for transitioning to the world of strata management.

“Queensland Rugby is the governing body overseeing all the community clubs in the state and there are more than 200 of them that have volunteer committees, a treasurer, secretary, board members, and a chair. It’s similar to the body corporate world where you have a group of volunteers sitting on a committee,” he explained.

“In sport, you have passionate volunteer committees dedicated to their club, while in the body corporate setting, the passion is directed towards their home.”

Known for his hard-running rugby style and crushing defence, Daniel revolutionised the position of outside centre. On the subject of innovation in strata, he highlighted SSKB’s client-centric service model, which has driven significant growth since 2017 as the company continues to embrace technological breakthroughs.

“We’ve invested quite a lot of time and energy into technology and have a dedicated team working on it,” he said. “We’re leveraging technology better than most other companies in the market, it’s a key strategy for us moving forward.

“I’m really proud of our team who developed our brilliant strata app, more than 10,000 of our owners are now using it. Having everything you need at your fingertips is the epitome of excellent service.”

He added: “There will always be downward pressure on fees and levies in strata, therefore we always strive to make sure we deliver our service more effectively and efficiently.”

Many SSKB staff have very long tenure and Daniel says this also drives the success of the company. “Length of tenure contributes to teamwork, it is crucial to our business and our clients, who value consistency and continuity.”

SSKB surveys its clients to find out how they want to be managed and Daniel says the results indicate that speed of information and accessibility are paramount.

“Therefore, we structure our business to accommodate these needs. We have a First Contact Team (Client Solutions) at our Gold Coast office that services all our offices, it can handle 90 percent of inquiries. We also ensure every one of our managers has an assistant, the aim is to free up our managers and assistant managers so they can focus on working with the committees.”

Daniel’s journey from the rugby field to the strata boardroom exemplifies the enduring principles of teamwork, innovation, and dedication that underpin success in any endeavour.

During his stellar Rugby career, Daniel was a hard-running, hard-tackling centre who was a vital component of the Golden Era of Australian Rugby, with his Wallabies side celebrating a World Cup victory, a British Lions series victory, and five consecutive Bledisloe Cups against arch-foes New Zealand.

It was his two tries in the third and deciding Test of the British Lions series that helped ensure the Wallabies won their first-ever series against the combined might of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in 2001. He was also a dominant figure as Australia won the Rugby World Cup for a second time in 1999. In fact, after the tournament, he was named rugby’s International Player of the Year.

He played 124 games for Queensland and 67 Tests for the Wallabies, but he suffered a neck injury playing for a French club. It ended his career at the age of just 29.

When Daniel’s playing career ended in 2004, he and his wife set up an events and logistics business in France.

“France was hosting the upcoming (2007) World Cup, and some Australian operators were looking for people on the ground that they could communicate with,” Daniel said.

“I met the owner of Skins – a company that makes sports compression garments. They had a business in the UK but not in France and were looking to enter the market there, so I did that for a time. I also did some work with Austrade, which was involved with the Australian Rugby Union, trying to maximise the Australian presence going to France. 

After five years living in France, the Herberts returned to Australia in 2008…

“I had always been interested in property development and management,” Daniel said. “When I was living and playing Rugby in Australia, I worked one day a week for a property developer and considered it a career that I’d like to pursue one day.” 

“When we returned to Queensland the then chairman of Queensland Rugby was a property developer named Peter Lewis. He had a group called Trinity, a fund manager for developers with plans to redevelop Ballymore Stadium – which has just happened in the last 12 months or so. Part of my landing back in Australia was being the redevelopment manager of Ballymore.”

Daniel also held several executive leadership roles at Queensland Rugby until 2017 but said he wanted to do something different to avoid being “pigeon-holed” as a retired sportsman who became an administrator in the same sport.

“I wanted a more family-friendly job that would let me be home on the weekends,” he said.

Despite his retirement from playing, Daniel has remained closely involved in rugby, recently accepting the role of Chairman of Rugby Australia.

He admitted: “The Wallabies haven’t performed as well recently but I believe we’re making positive strides with some high-profile appointments.

“Across the game, many great things are happening – the Australian Men’s 7s, the Women’s 7s, the Women’s 15 are all going well, and the community game especially in Brisbane and Sydney is thriving.”

Although it’s been two decades since he last donned a Wallabies jersey his time as one of the world’s great players created many unforgettable memories and his impact on the sport continues to resonate. But his feet now remain very much on strata ground.

“It’s fair to say I’ve received my fair share of banter from my Kiwi colleagues at SSKB over the years,” he chuckled.

“But it’s pleasing to be able to say that I played in teams that beat the All Blacks more times than they beat us. Anyone can have a bad decade or two! Success is just around the corner.”

Read about SSKB strata app HERE

Article originally published in Resort News – subscribe HERE

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