Survivor AE Smith Style

Survivor AE Smith Style - AE Smith

Curtis Island 2006


Nov 2006

It could've easily been the next instalment of the popular US based reality television show where contestants are isolated in a remote location to compete for cash and other prizes. However this time, in early November 2006, 56 people drawn from AE Smith teams in Brisbane, Townsville, Mackay and Cairns jumped off a boat in open water to swim 200 metres to an island to start a four day workshop like nothing else they had ever experienced before. Survivor - AE Smith Style!

Championed by Andrew Permezel (CEO) the 2006 Curtis Island Workshop used a combination of remote environment, physical activity, group dialogue and open discussion to deliver an innovative workshop that guaranteed individuals would be taken outside their everyday comfort zone.

Andrew's objective was to help each workshop participant realise how much talent they have as an individual and recognise how much talent lies in the group that surrounds them. Andrew is emphatic when he says "AE Smith is the number one mechanical contractor in Australia" and believes whole heartedly that a big reason for this success depends on how individuals use their own talent in concert with the talent of others from across, around and in every office of AE Smith.


landscape picture of mountainside surrounded leading down to water

large number of people getting onto a small boat in the water with a white boat in the background
group of people on a beach shore unloading items from a small boat
group of people walking in a line down a sandy path with trees sparsely planted on either side
Curtis Island lies off the central Queensland coast between Rockhampton and Gladstone and is accessible only by boat. Andrew describes how the isolation and rugged yet natural beauty of this large island created the perfect location to transport his team away from the routine of their normal day-to-day lives.

The workshop was conducted over two consecutive weeks and consisted of two groups of 28 people. Each group spent three nights camping in basic accommodation close to the historic lighthouse located at Cape Capricorn on the island. The first group largely comprised of engineers, draftsmen and project managers while the second group contained Andrew Permezel (CEO), project managers and site managers.

Under the expert supervision of Mark "Chopper" Burgers (personal trainer to the stars among them the Brisbane Broncos) the 200 meter Survivor style swim to shore on day one would set the tone for the action packed, high energy physical activity that would come. Each group would encounter a gruelling routine of daily physical activity that included more swimming, soccer, tyre flipping, running, a 13km trek, climbing sand dunes and beach cricket. Andrew explains how the physical activity was critical in helping to achieve the objective of the workshop; "The sometimes punishing physical activity tested mind, body and spirit. Participants learned to tackle and overcome obstacles they had not encountered before. A new type of confidence emerged with many individuals able to transform the confrontation and embodiment of measured physical risk into a new professional confidence. A professional confidence underpinned by new found trust in both their own abilities and that of their team mates".


7 people walking accross a sand dune into the distance making tracks in the sand

group of six people struggling to push a large tire over on sand
group of people running down a sand dune
large group of people posing for a picture on a beach with trees behind them
With physical activity quickly breaking down personal barriers, group discussion flowed more openly and with a level of ease that may not have otherwise occurred. In this open environment Andrew introduced the first point of discussion by inviting individuals to share with their peers their own stories to help demonstrate and explain their understanding of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".

Other workshop discussion focused on developing group insight and exploring in depth how AE Smith can learn from and improve matters related to the design, manufacture and installation of air conditioning and mechanical service.

When asked what workshop participants took away from Curtis Island, Andrew believed participants left with a new self confidence in their ability to take measured risks to deliver win/win outcomes while working at AE Smith. Workshop participants discovered that those around them, including senior management, would be there, ready to help if they looked like they were going to fail.

Andrew also believes participants from both groups at Curtis Island left with a better understanding of the business fundamentals at AE Smith. This includes how important it is to recognise "effective" people in your team, capture and then share whatever it is that they are doing with others. From this, Andrew observed that "creativity creates creativity" and AE Smith, the business, its employees and customers each stand to benefit by recognising and building on the rich resource of creative, intelligent and experienced people that surround us all.





man on beach with a blue baseball hat, black shorts, runners, and his shirt off giving the peace sign with his left hand and holding a towel in the right hand
Mark "Chopper" Burgers - AE Smith personal trainer at Curtis Island and personal trainer to the stars among them the Brisbane Broncos