I’d love to have a beer with Duncan…..

A few weeks ago we received the tragic news that a good friend and long time colleague, had suddenly passed away, in shocking and totally unexpected circumstances.

Duncan Cunningham, who I worked with for almost 10 years, not yet even 40 years old, and with a young family, was suddenly gone.

In Australia, one of our most famous folk ‘pub’ songs is called “I’d love to have a beer with Duncan” by Slim Dusty, and I post it here as a mini-memorial to a great bloke, with whom I shared countless drinks, although to be honest his favoured tipple was the finest Scotch.

Watch video on YouTube

Duncan had many qualities as a man and as a recruiter, but two of his traits stood out above all for me, and I share them with you here, in honour of him, but also as a guide for us all.

One of Duncan’s most endearing characteristics, which all of us, especially in recruitment, need in spades, was that he was an optimist. Duncan ALWAYS believed good things would happen. Every year he would put in an outrageously optimistic budget and every year I would pare it back after a long debate where he would argue, beg and finally bet me that his numbers were achievable.

When he had made a success of opening our Hong Kong office, and I asked him to focus on China, his first business plan was for offices in 30 cities across that massive country.

He was always coming up with extraordinary plans for us to expand, diversify and ‘make a fortune’. Sure, some of them were fanciful, but lots were not and many of them came off. We did open in China, in fact three offices under his leadership. His audacious outsourced creative service offering, worked well, notably with one major client where we billed upwards of $1M in 2 years as a result of his pitch to the client.

Yes, Duncan always believed “it would happen”, and as a result, it often did!

The other hallmark of Duncan the man and the recruiter, was a characteristic I value just about highest of all.

He was a loyal man.

To his family of course, but also to his staff and his colleagues. He was loyal to his employer and to me personally and I will never forget it. As a high profile, high achiever in the Greater China recruitment market, he was constantly headhunted. He not only rejected the loot and stayed, but he never dreamed of using those approaches to leverage his position with me.

His big dreams could sometimes frustrate me and we had our tense moments, but he never bore a grudge, always bounced back, often with a chuckle and wry “that’s pretty harsh Mr. Savage, but probably fair”.

(And for 10 years he called me Mr. Savage, not sarcastically, and not in deference either, but it was just his way of showing respect and familiarity at the same time).

He was loyal to his clients and he looked after his staff, who he believed in and defended, sometimes frankly, when they no longer deserved it.

I will miss him, as will we all. And I really would like to have a beer with Duncan if only to be inspired by his optimism and to thank him for his friendship and loyalty.

Farewell Duncan Cunningham.


How you can help

We have started the Duncan Cunningham Family Fund to assist his family as they transition into a new life. Please contact Jen Gottlieb jgottlieb@firebrandtalent.com, if you wish to assist.

I am giving a 90 minute seminar in Sydney “Old Skool vs New Kool”, on 10 August. All proceeds will go the Fund. Please attend if you can. Information about the seminar is available here.

Views: 207

Comment by Tim Spagnola on July 25, 2011 at 6:37pm
Greg - thank you for sharing and I am very sorry for your loss.
Comment by Greg Savage on July 25, 2011 at 7:08pm
Thanks Tim. Great guy, shocking loss
Comment by Noel Cocca on July 27, 2011 at 8:55pm
Very sorry for your loss Greg. A year ago we lost a friend and recruiter Alex D'Agostino : http://recruitingdaily.com/2010/08/alex-dagostino-rest-in-peace-a-r... Let us know how we can help promote your event...Noel
Comment by Greg Savage on July 27, 2011 at 9:54pm

Thanks very much Noel

Its all very sad

Our event is in Sydney Australia so I am not sure how much you can assist but I greatly appreciate the support

Comment by Lisa J. Green on August 4, 2011 at 1:55pm


What wonderful memories for you to share of your optimistic and loyal friend Duncan. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

Comment by Greg Savage on August 4, 2011 at 7:08pm
Thank you Lisa.
Comment by Tim Spagnola on September 6, 2011 at 7:07pm
Greg - has another big event tomorrow in Melbourne with over 150 recruiters signed up! All proceeds going to the Cunningham Family Fundraiser. To find out how you can help you can visit this link. Good luck Greg (as always) on what should be an informative 90mins all for a great cause.
Comment by Greg Savage on September 6, 2011 at 7:45pm
Thanks Tim. Appreciate the support. Through these two events and other activities, we have raised over $75,000 - which will make a massive difference to Duncans young family


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