Date posted: 30/04/2018 5 min read

The power and the passion

After stepping down as South Australia chair of KPMG last year, Con Tragakis FCA remains passionate about promoting his home state.

In Brief

  • Con Tragakis is passionate about empowering change and was instrumental in driving the economic agenda in South Australia.
  • The real complexity for a business adviser is working with people to achieve positive outcomes.
  • Tragaskis, who was SA advisory council member of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), was awarded a CA ANZ Fellowship in 2017.

By Carolyn Boyd.

Losing someone close forced Con Tragakis to reflect on the things that really matter. He concluded that his purpose and passion was to make a real difference to the community in which he lives. 

For Tragakis, that meant taking a leading role in shaping the future of his home state of South Australia, which was desperately clinging to dying manufacturing industries and fast earning a reputation as an economic basket case.

“I look at what KPMG achieved through our Shaping the Future of South Australia program and still marvel how we united a community to change our state direction,” says Tragakis, who was chairman of KPMG in SA from 2011–17. 

At KPMG, where he worked for three decades, Tragakis tried to inspire confidence and promote change. “As chartered accountants, we can do this with our people, our clients and our communities,” he says. “We can inspire significant change by the way we behave and lead.  

“The ability to impart this kind of positive energy has a profound effect on people and things that look insurmountable become a great opportunity for someone else to develop.”

Sometimes I wished I had combined my commerce qualifications with psychology – I could have saved myself some real heartache along the way!
Con Tragakis FCA Business adviser and former KPMG South Australia Chair 

Chartered accountants are blessed with the training and practical experience to deal with complex commercial issues, says Tragakis, who is now a business adviser. However, the real complexity lies in working with people to achieve positive outcomes. “Sometimes I wished I had combined my commerce qualifications with psychology – I could have saved myself some real heartache along the way,” he jokes. 

The principle of giving without any expectation of receipt creates lifelong trust, wonderful relationships and friendships, he adds. “If you have information that will benefit someone, the idea of freely giving this without reward is something we are not taught to do, however, I have found it often leads to great shared experiences. Experiences, I am told, are what really define you and I expect to have quite a few more people experiences to learn from.”   

Soft skills will need to be a focus for the profession as the way we work changes. “Much of what we have been taught technically will be undertaken by technology,” Tragakis says. “This pace of change is unstoppable, therefore the question then becomes what will happen to our profession? 

“The answer to this is simple: our focus has to be on people. We will need to be skilled in the art of negotiation, people management, communication and relationships. Personal and professional values will be paramount – we will achieve personal success by making a positive difference to people we advise, employ and live with.”

Related: Why employee happiness matters

Keeping staff happy means they will keep clients happy, says Quintessential Equity co-founder Harry Rosenberg FCA, who shares lessons he’s learned in accounting and advisory.

Carolyn Boyd has been a journalist for more than two decades and holds an MBA and a communications degree. 

Photograph: Matt Turner / Newspix