Literally my first memory of life is walking around my grandfather’s business with my father, looking at all that was going on. I can distinctly recall the smells and general feeling when stopping and staring at all the big stuff in their central gear store.
About 20 years later, I ended up working with my father in that same business as a 4th generation family member, for 5 years.
It’s a bond and something special that I’ll certainly never forget.
In 2002, I decided to create the Co-Pilot brand, having returned from living overseas and being presented with some opportunities to work alongside businesses and organisations, to help guide them with their various challenges, as and when required.
‘Co-Pilot’ seemed to fit well with the type of work, whereby a business owner gained confidence from having someone beside them for a specific requirement or to be there along their journey, although not looking to control their business in any way.
Many chapters have been experienced over the past 17 year Co-Pilot journey, in order to arrive at today’s offering & approach.
Real-life experience that spans both business and life, has collectively provided the tools, knowledge, skills, patience and personality, to help with either one-off projects or ongoing delivery across multiple business functions.
With any assignment, I always have a genuine desire to also help the business to be ready for exit at any time. So many things can happen. A plan is helpful.
So what have I done over the last 25 years?
Background & chapters
BCom: Marketing, Management Science & Information Systems – Auckland University.
Product Marketing across Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles & trucks, including the introduction of the SSangYong brand (powered by Mercedes-Benz) into NZ, with the Giltrap Group.
Worked in our ~100 year old family business (Leonard & Dingley) for 5 years as mentioned, as a 4th generation family member, including founding a fast growth subsidiary venture outside of our union-heavy industry, with ~100 staff, that succeeded. The businesses sold to Toll Holdings.
Founded and grew Co-Pilot, across commercial and non-profit projects.
Founded GrownUps and as a result of the rapid growth, managed the business over a 12 year period until late 2018 when we’d transitioned from a small New Zealand SME into part of a global behemoth.
We’d seen an opportunity to create an online lifestyle magazine, social club, brain training and product/service hub for the active and growing 50+ demographic – and so did it.
During this time I was responsible for negotiating:
– an agreed 20% stake from Sentinel/Seniors Finance (now part of Heartland Bank), at start-up (+ a later buy back);
– an agreed Joint Venture (JV) with Yellow Pages (a $2.2B company), two years post start-up (+ a later buy back);
– independently proposed purchases by 4 x local and international Media & PE companies at various times;
– a successful 100% sale to Cigna, the 73rd largest business on the Fortune 500, 10 years post start-up, which then required integration over a two year period.
As NZ’s largest website specifically for the growing 50+ audience, GrownUps enjoyed up to 200,000 monthly visitors and had around 150,000 members interacting with the 10,000 mostly unique articles & content items, a broad array of features and the usual competitions and goodies, all of which aimed to make life better for any visitor or member of the site.
Along with some of these wins, there is also the reality of business life. The really tough stuff. The reality.
Over various businesses there have been countless hands-on, real-life, daily grind experiences including going without pay, hearing ‘No’ countless times, never being able to fully switch off due to running an online 24/7 business, staff trying to defraud the business, hiring in desperation and knowing immediately that we’d made the wrong decision, shareholder challenges, working around the clock, calling people to literally beg them to pay their bills, firing people, laying people off, spending money in the wrong areas and generally regularly questioning what I’m doing it all for.
All the while it has been critical to do my best to practise perseverance and to not give up. Maintaining health & wellbeing, juggling important friendships and of course ensuring a quality family life as best as possible despite what’s going on with work 24/7, has always been at the core.
Since December 2018, I’ve returned full-time to Co-Pilot, working alongside business founders, owners and managers to help them get a better night’s sleep.
As well as providing practical reviews, action plans and implementation, I’m keen to ensure that mistakes I’ve made and learned from during our journey, are ideally not repeated by other businesses, so that owners can achieve success sooner.
I tell it how I see it and seek to pinpoint pain points up front, before looking at a longer term plan to be business ready to grow, change, scale, partner, attract capital, enact a succession plan or sell outright.
May I help you be business ready?