Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) with Richard Macdonald - Episode 3 of Better Business, Better Life
Updated: Mar 8
The 3 Tips from Richard Macdonald
1. It's important to let go, expand your networks and expand your reading
2. Step out onto other influences
3. Identify strengths and weaknesses and delegate tasks
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF PODCAST:
So Welcome to the next episode of better business better life. Today I'm here with Richard MacDonald, who is a very dear friend of mine. We've known each other for a long, long time throughout our business dealings. And he's going to talk about one of my favourite subjects today simplicity. So welcome, Richard.
Great to be here, Debra. Thank you.
Now our podcast is kind of aimed at business owners who've got an established business, they employ staff, they may have been going for, you know, five to 25 years, they went into the business very much looking for more freedom, more profit, more time to spend with their loved ones and their passions, and possibly have found themselves not achieving that. So we're here to share our experiences, our tips and our tools around how they can actually create a better business, which will lead to a better life. So I understand that you started your first business back in 1976 as a teenager, and since then you've had seven businesses. Would you like to tell us a bit about your journey and how you've got to where you are now.
Certainly the common theme is, for me, adding value to raw products. First was the amazing, especially fibre of Kashmir, mohair, and we developed a new fibre which was called cashkaro, the cross between an angora goat and a feral goat. And it was very pioneering very entrepreneurial, so suddenly put a value on the humble goat. And those were crazy days of big highs and big lows and working long hours. But the good news is, decades later, New Zealand is exporting about $200 million worth of goat products that's milk, fibre and meat, the next the next move for me was to take a corporate role for three years in Europe in that sector, which was animal embryos and genetic transplants and it was something I knew nothing about. But I quickly learned to hire the best people to do the technical work that I knew nothing about my school was bringing together people to get the results and the outcomes I wanted. And it was a complicated projects, including a country that was completely locked up and ostracised that was South Africa and building a hub in Harari, smuggling genetic material across from the Popo river from South Africa to Zimbabwe and then building a protocol to remove this animal embryos and legally taking them to a surrogate operation in northern France. I did that for three years. And I it was stimulating and exhausting. But very, very, very interesting. And I saw an opportunity in Europe that I hadn't appreciated in New Zealand and that was bottled water. So something I learned is while you have your corporate job and your steady income, work even harder in your downtime or your annual leave and start another business so I imported two containers of the brand name New Zealand natural water from Kaiapoi, near Christchurch to Europe, one to Holland and one to England. And I learned about distribution of water and the hospitality trade and all the other cogs that make distribution of food and beverages work. And so that was the catalyst to come back to New Zealand in 1990. And purchase in 1991 a business have been going since 1861.
Alexander's, and they were producing mineral water. They call it aerated water, and a range of soft drinks and cordial or some flavoured drinks. And that's when I first relaunched Alexander's as, as the owner of the brand and other brands of water. So I've been involved in the water industry since 1991. It's been complicated and difficult. And I've had some really difficult years, but the next major change was seeing the ability to transform it into sustainable and that is moving out of single use bottles and finding swap of bottle options. Yeah.
And that's actually I'm going to have the event Centre at The Common you supply those big bottles to us for the centre there, which is fantastic. Okay, so we're gonna talk a little bit in a moment about how you simplify the business and created a more sustainable business. But before we do that, can you just tell me a little bit about what would you say have been your professional and personal successes recently? It's been a tough year for everybody. But what do you say have been your two things that have happened this year?
I haven't had a lockdown owning an essential business low lockdown. So getting really close to the clients was just bolts of a love affair. They love the product being delivered reliably seven days a week regardless of what's happening and society and and the political sphere. So you had an amazing opportunity to get really close to them, they depend on you, you obviously want the business and the revenue from it. So that's been a huge, a huge learning curve of loving the client more than ever.
and you said to me before that you had a client that actually throughout that period of tough times, experienced your service and wanted to get more from you because of that. Is that right? Yes. Tell us a little about that.
The core business model is a 20 litre bottle of water, which is quite heavy, and it's beautiful alkaline water from Riverhead. The fact that I was getting so close to the clients, I was often being told, could you please produce a smaller bottle but it must be a sustainable swappable option. So that was the catalyst a during tough times of 2020 to introduce a smaller bottle of the same product as so many people living in apartments or older people and rest homes can't manage 20 litres. Yeah, even though they love the product, they wanted a smaller solution. And that's something we've now been able to do.
So what are you What's the solution?
Small identical water, same branding, but a smaller container. There's also steam cleaned and reused again.
Fantastic, okay. And a personal success in the last year?
Is being able to manage I travelled widely last year, even though we had COVID, I just took the rest, there's no medical insurance if you have a virus issue. And there is a obviously a risk I this personal success was to be able to travel for up to 12 weeks last year out of out of Auckland in New Zealand and do important things for me for personal development and looking at new business opportunities and trends and staying safe. And by masking up, I stayed safe. And I had my lungs x rayed before Christmas, and they're completely healthy and normal.
Excellent. Good to hear. So that's right. So you were telling me that you know you spent quite a bit of time travelling in a year when most of us were confined to our own country. And you were able to run your business from mobile phone. Now I have to say most of the entrepreneurs when I first start working with them, they really fear that letting go going around holiday going away for a period of time worried that the business will actually fail. So tell me a bit about how you managed to do that travel and still run a business a fairly substantial business, right?
Well, the people are too nervous or concerned to leave Tom, they need to take a chill pill because New Zealand is blessed. And Steven Joyce was the catalyst about 12 years ago to have an incredible fibre network. So we have very good Wi Fi compared to all other countries from the far north to the far south. So the entrepreneur can leave home. And it's critical, obviously to have good data reception. And I found it surprisingly easy to manage your business on your mobile phone.
But you must have good people on the ground here though, right? Because in order to do that you have got to trust in the people that you're employing.
Well, there's two parts of having a business at some point in the past and the same sector being bottled water. I've had very complicated sophisticated factories, I now have a very simple system, which is far easier to manage less moving parts good people, that simple systems. I'm a huge believer in the KISS philosophy, which you often hear about. Yep. And your role. Keep it simple, stupid. Yeah, it really does work. So I, I worship the KISS principle, keep it simple and have a system by texting and occasionally talking to people or running it anywhere in the world.
So if I'm right, you went from having quite a large kind of factory and warehouse down in Christchurch, and then you move that operation up to river river head is it up here in Auckland, and it's a much smaller, much more compact operation, infinitely more sustainable? Can you just explain, I suppose a couple of things for me, first of all, why did you decide to do that? And what was the process you went through to think about how you could simplify it? And then what has been some of the challenges that you've had in in terms of implementing that?
Great question it's really important in your life to to take time out to read and to talk to people and to expand your networks. And I became very aware in about 2012 that people were ready to move on from single use bottles to a more sustainable model and a very sustainable model as one that a bottle that's re used hundreds of times. Yeah, and that's how I transitioned the business. I physically brought nothing from Christchurch I started luxury in a Greenfield with a completely new way of looking at that as everything is sustainable re-used and no warehouses so vans come in with empty bottles, they're inspected, steam cleaned, refilled and placed straight back in a van no double handling.
So just in time and double handling
time so you need reliable equipment that is never going to let you down to back up the Justin time. Yes, the carbon footprint is absolutely minimal and I believe my brand of water sold and hackery throughout Auckland is the lowest carbon footprint in Australasia because the fact is only 19 kilometres away. Yeah. And it's the bottles reused and reused.
Fantastic. Okay. And so what's What challenges do you do you have? Because you had this idea, you obviously did some industry or or some research around what the trends were in the industry, you had this idea you decided to start a new plant up here. What were the biggest challenges do you think you in terms of trying to simplify things now,
The biggest challenge we as entrepreneurs or as have is not a lack of ideas and clever, clever thinking as a market. So for me, I had to go to some San Paulo in Brazil for four days to a launch of a nother sustainable water system. And by showing that initiative, I came back and spoke to the senior person and Huckleberry this has always given me the cold shoulder. And I said what I've seen in Brazil, last week is just a revolutionary, you must take me seriously. And that was the catalyst to finally get Huckleberry to, to swap their income and brand for my brand, and with trebled sales. It's a win win for, for Huckleberry Finn for ourselves.
Fantastic. Okay. And what has been the outcome then of having a simplified business, in terms of your life in terms of you know, being the owner of the business? What does that look like now?
They have far more freedom, and you learn quickly to manage things remotely, and always have got a good team on the ground, try and hire people that are sincere and genuine, undergoing to stand that stand strong with initiative for a number of years, you don't want to train people and lose them quickly.
So how do you keep them engaged? And how do you because I mean, honestly, trying to keep hold of staff these days is a tough one, right? People very quickly decide that they want to move on unless they've got a real core belief in what the company is doing. So how do you go about finding those right people?
Well, one of the one of the people you and I know, when he was 17, he was drinking alkaline water and raving about us. And so I've said to him some years ago, I'd love you to work for me. And he now does alternate works, which alternate weeks, which suits has other business activities, and another as an older person who's has no income from us commercial real estate business loves alkaline water as they're both very, very loyal. And I have other people on standby.
Yep. So they've bought into the whole vision of what you're trying to do,
Which is sustainable carbon footprint, and they love drinking beautiful water.
Excellent. Okay. So part of this podcast series is about, you know, sharing our experiences, but also giving some tips and tools and things. If you had to give sort of three tips to our listeners about what they could do to simplify their business to get a better life. What would they be? What are the three kind of key things that you'd like to impart?
It's important, they let go and expand their networks expand their reading and look at the bigger picture and the the cliche, the helicopter view. So often, my entrepreneurial colleagues, associates and friends become so locked in their business that they they don't put their head up to take any fresh ideas, and it all becomes a huge burden to them. So they need to take the time to step out into other influences.
But they would probably say but I'm so busy working in the business I've got all this stuff I have to do. I'm fighting fires. So how did you create that time in that space to do that?
Well, like here, I do some consultancy, and I'm very blunt, brutal and blunt with them. And I will say this is insane. You're going to kill yourself if you don't delegate and get some fresh ideas and new thinking around what you don't.
Yeah. So within EOS, we talk about delegating elevate and we don't we very much look at the the especially the owner of the business and the leadership team and say hey, look, what are all the things that you are doing that a you you know, you don't love we're not very good at and how could you actually delegate those other people to elevate you to your, your highest potential, which is your unique ability, the things that you can do that really add value to the business. So do you make specific time to work on your business?
Okay, how do you find the time then what do you do to make sure that you don't get caught up in that day to day stuff?
I work the opposite way I do other stuff all the time and a little bit of business. Okay, thanks. I've reverse completely around. And, by energies focus on talking to the clients every week on work with the clients and they love it. Okay, fantastic. And you learn about your own team members and how they like them, and they're getting to know their stories.
Yep. Okay, next tip, what else would you recommend for for business owners who perhaps are struggling to let go and struggling to, you know, lift themselves out of that day to day.
So it's really important to identify your strengths and weaknesses and for many entrepreneurs, weaknesses, administration, accountancy, taxation, so always delegate that and find an accountant that's a little feral. And I have someone who's come from Greymouth, and a fantastic because they have that little bit of fairness to them. And I've introduced that, that accountant to someone else that you and I know and who saved that business and had amazing innovative thinking. So never go to your professional advisors that you went to school with, or you went to university with or you know, from a sports club, go and find professional advisors that are completely different to the kind of person you would like to socialise, or go fishing with.
So filling your weaknesses by having people who are a little bit different to you who can actually challenge your thinking, perhaps introduce new ideas, your thought off?
Yes, if you have if you went to someone from your social circle, they're more than likely going to be Yes, women, yes men, going to someone with a bit of the feral gene, they're going to challenge you and, and it's a great way of moving forward and not wasting your time on for example, accountancy or tax returns when you're far better to be the real entrepreneur.
So how do you make sure they're not to fereral though? How do you know the person that you're entrusting your business to, actually has your best interests at heart?
Well, It's something that you learn with the charity in life, you become very good at judging people, even before you talk to them. And obviously, once you've talked to someone, you can work out their strengths and weaknesses and get the balance right.
Yep. Okay, great. One last final tip. And I often ask my, my, my guests. Yeah. Have you read any good books recently? Is there any good TED Talks, any good documentaries that you could recommend? For people who are listening in?
The book I've just read was finished in November. And we're ready to pause for me to give you the author's name, but it's post spent the post pandemic world and the author is an Indian ethnicity. Read someone and he will look it up his cnn slot, and he's incredibly bright and a true entrepreneur, and he looks at the world post the Trump defeat. So it was finished in November and plotting the next five years forward. And he doesn't go into technical details about viruses, but comments very wisely, that they will always mutate. And within days of rereading it, suddenly, there was a massive new mutation and South Africa, the United Kingdom that swept Well, that's exactly what he predicted. Right? He talks about robots replacing the trucking transport industry identify certain countries with the biggest single employment is truck driving. Yep. So in 10 years time, there's going to be massive disruption, as robotic trucks take over from human driven trucks.
So it's very much like if you had children or mental house of plot their future and the changing trends of the world.
So what does the future hold for you? Do you think?
More of the same? Just, it's, I can continue in a business like this. Well, and you and I have a role model who's now over 80. I would like to be in a similar situation. Keep very active right into your 80s.
Yep. Okay. And so if people want to get hold of your products and services, like where would they find them? We put about Huckleberry obviously. Is that the best place
It's prime client for the 20 litre swap of bottles. Yep. You get all of 20 litres of water for only $14 and pay a deposit on the bottle which is refundable. So it's a simple business model and it has a great experience drinking beautiful alkaline water with a pH of nine.
Tell me what you do with your spare time. You know, you think about simplifying the business and it creates more spare time I know that you help other businesses. What else do you like to do
Like you I love mentoring as a volunteer, but I am ruthless with whom I dislike to mentor and I don't sit and talk to them at coffee shops we go biking, walking, stand up paddleboarding. Yeah. And having great arguments. And I find that excellent exercising and mentoring. It's a great combination for me.
Fantastic. Okay, one last little thing for our listeners before you go. What do you think the the future of the world looks like? What's next you know what's this year got in store for us and beyond this year.
We live it the most amazing one I've just overwhelmed with the innovation and the talent of the young New Zealanders. I've spent a good part of last year in America the same talent as their to the youth of the world have so much going for them, they are so smart, they're so connected. And New Zealand because we have fantastic data transfer, high speed into this, we're so connected. So the world has never been a better place to live. I know there's a couple of small challenges, but they're insignificant compared to the optimism that I have for the young people.
And you've just got back from America. So what were things like over there?
Was the most amazing time to travel there when there was empty spaces everywhere, there's a ball that you've probably can all relate to outside and Wall Street, and I've seen it many times, and there's usually 500 people lining up to touch a certain part of the anatomy. And in November there were four people. So it's a great time to travel for four empty airports and empty public facilities. Luckily, the number of Smithsonian Institute's have opened in beautiful Washington, DC, and that was a great time to go back into the museums. And I couldn't there was extra time to travel. Okay, I kept safe. We were masked up all the time. And that interacted with hundreds of protesters from the left the right to the middle and engaged with them. But I always had a mask on and my friends did too and none of us were sick.
And how was quarantine coming back into the country?
Can we change the subject?
Okay, go to a nice place to wrap up there then perhaps. Being told what to do we hate that, don't we? Oh, well, you're back. You're safe, which is absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing. So openly your experiences, I'm sure that our listeners will find it very interesting. And I wish you more simplicity and more freedom at the next couple of years.
Thank you, Deborah. Good luck for 2021 for you.
Thank you very much.