All Xero Gravity episodes
Hosted by Elizabeth Ü
Geoff Ross is one of New Zealand’s most successful serial entrepreneurs – Liz sat down and talked with him about things that maybe you wouldn't expect. Geoff shares some gritty details and hard-earned lessons:
“When you’re in your business – and I was there myself! – you feel quite lost and alone and you don’t know those options until you’ve been through it a few times.” And for someone who doesn’t want anything to do with politics, Geoff’s also got some ambitious ideas about how New Zealand, as a country, could do better at being an environmental leader.
Taking your company public is hard and Geoff really opened up about what that means. Have a listen, it's so refreshing to hear someone as successful as Geoff just cut the bull and honestly share his story with us. This is episode #83.
Host: Elizabeth Ü [EU]
Guest: Geoff Ross [GR]
Crew: Alice Brine [A]
EU: Clearly you can't always say yes, and not everyone deserves a yes, but there's got to be a better way to say no. What's a better way to say no?
GR: I would love to know the answer to that, but I don't. That's probably one of my biggest failings, is that I find it really difficult to say no. You do get a lot of requests saying, "Hey, I'm starting a water brand, can I get your views on this?" You can't really give anyone any quality insight in 20 minutes over a cup of coffee, really, well I can't anyway. I'm not that smart, you know? Business is bloody hard, really hard, so to expect someone to kind of come up with a genius idea within 20 minutes over a cup of coffee is pretty difficult.
EU: Even when they come and you're sitting with them over coffee and they really want some insight, I mean clearly you're such a successful entrepreneur, and as an investor as well you've probably got your phone ringing all the time with people wanting your advice or your insight. What are those nuggets that you can leave them with after 20 minutes?
GR: Your brain needs to have a genuine story and genuine credentials and it needs to be bloody good, you know. It can't just be there because you've seen a gap in the market and you've created something for it, that's not good enough. It's got to come from a genuine place.
EU: What does genuine mean to you? How do you know something's genuine versus like just some hunch you had?
GR: Look, typically my space is branded consumer goods, like you said, beer, we're now in skin care, fragrance, so it's got to have a reason for being. The reason for Trilogy is that natural skin care, that all of us are starting to realise that skin is like other organs in our body, you know, absorbs a huge amount of what we put next to it. In fact, skin absorbs something like 60% of what you rub into it, actually goes into your body. Why on earth would you start rubbing a whole bunch of chemicals over yourself every day? That's, over the long-term, that's not going to be good for you.
EU: How do you even know that you're rubbing chemicals into yourself?
GR: That's right.
EU: There's not a lot that's actually listed on the labels.
GR: No no, that's another big topic, don't get me started on that. Food and beverage labelling in Australia and New Zealand is really quite weak compared to other countries, we need to upgrade there because people are getting round some of those issues.
EU: How involved have you been in any legislation around labelling or any campaigning to bring more?
GR: Very, very general, other than just ... Look, it's hard enough building your own business, let alone kind of changing government regulations and things like that. That's something to do in my kind of latter years, you know? Yeah, at the moment I'm hopefully young enough to still be building businesses.
EU: Earlier you mentioned that one of the most important things for you, and the learnings that you discussed in the book as well is making sure that you're hiring people to cover the areas where you're not as strong, so who are the people in your life that have helped you be that antennae?
GR: Well my wife has always been a really, really strong influence, you know, right from the start and a great sounding board and a great thinker. She's a great reader and a great absorber of information, so actually if my antenna isn't out there, you know, whose is? Two huge influences for me have been my two business partners who got involved quite early in 42 Below, Grant Baker and Steven Sinclair. In all our businesses, we've typically done stuff together since then. That was, we got first involved in 2002, we were all incredibly different.
EU: How did you meet?
GR: I was working in an ad agency trying to build 42 Below, kind of at night or on the weekend. I was running out of cash and I kind of wrote the last cheque out of the family chequebook that I could possibly do.
EU: Did everyone in the family know you were doing that?
GR: No, actually, so I got caught out there.
EU: What happened?
GR: Well look, it was a little embarrassing, so I actually had to ... It was bloody embarrassing, actually. I had to borrow money off a mate, and you know, completely disclosed it to my wife actually. When you're up against it and you're selling vodka and you're needing to make more, you've got this weird concept called cash flow, which I didn't fully understand. The more you sell, the more actually you have to spend.
EU: Right, in fact the bigger the deal that you get with a retailer the more trouble you're in, because suddenly you have to buy all of this inventory.
GR: Yeah, so I'd made kind of my last promise to my wife that I wouldn't drain the family coffers any further, but as a business grows it still needed more funding, so that's when I went to a mate. When that got ‘fessed up to my wife that that's happened, then, being in debt to the bank's one thing, being in debt to a friend is another again. How I met Grant and Steve was, because I needed funding, and a young guy I'd employed said, "Oh, you should speak to these two guys, they've just made a bunch of money, they've built a company and sold it." He introduced me to Grant and Steve, and Grant was from the classic sales background and management background, Steve was from a financial background, I was from a marketing background. Thankfully they took an interest in 42 Below, we got together, in the first six months we kind of all banged heads and possibly could have exploded, but-
EU: Banged heads in a bad way, it's not like putting your heads together?
GR: Yeah, no, in a bad ... Well not in a bad way, but we were quite different, you know? Grant and I, I thought I knew about sales but once, after working with Grant for a while I realised I didn't. Grant maybe thought he knew about brands and the power of brands, and perhaps he learned it all off me as well, and then I didn't know anything about finance so Steve helped out a lot there. Within six months we kind of developed a bit of respect for each other I think in what we can all bring. We've grown a lot since then.
EU: I imagine it was Steve's influence that led to your listing in the company in the New Zealand Stock Exchange, and in the States it's very rare that a company that's not enormous would list on the stock exchange and, I mean I think for me one of the stories that's been particularly poignant is the story of Ben and Jerry's, and how they initially ... You know, they started with a direct public offering and then ultimately were listed in a public exchange, and that ended badly for, well I was going to say everyone involved but that's not true. I think Unilever won in that case, but the founders were crushed that this business that so many of their initial supporters and fans had invested their personal money into this, suddenly they were forced to sell to this much larger multinational corporation that did not hold the same values that they did.
Have you ever regretted listing any of your ... I mean, Moa Brewing Company, Trilogy, they're all listed publicly, so have you ever had any regrets about that?
GR: Yes, many, and yeah, look, Grant was quite ambitious, always has been. It was actually his idea to list, and obviously then Steve put a huge amount of work around making it less really, really. In New Zealand, the typical steps in growth capital come from you know, your own money, friends and family, angels, VC, private equity, then listing, you know? You're right, and you don't list until you're huge typically in the States and in other countries. In New Zealand, the VC private equity market is small, almost nonexistent. Certainly it was way back when 42 Below listed. We went from kind of zero to a hundred real quick, and when we listed it was an outrageous, audacious move because we were tiny and going straight to listing was a bold step, and we were bloody lucky with timing because in late 03 the markets were relatively buoyant and we got it away, we were fully subscribed.
EU: How much of the equity did you have to give up at that point?
GR: Around 40%, it was.
EU: You were still majority shareholders?
GR: Yeah, amongst the three of us, yes, yeah we were, yep. Onto another question, have I regretting listing, yeah, listing is the bugger with ... There's pros and cons. Obviously you can create good amounts of capital and growth capital, and the listed market is kind of like a grown-up version of crowdfunding really, it does gather ... People do appreciate good stories, and they get future growth in the listed markets, and VC people kind of rip your arm off and hold you to kind of deals that had it pretty tough really, whereas the listed environment, you can get people who understand future value and are prepared to invest to get there.
EU: What kind of stories did you have to tell at that point when you were investing the first time?
GR: Growth stories, you know, like it's revealing the opportunity, your strategy to get there and your ability to execute. People say, "Okay, yeah, I can see kind of vodka growing worldwide, I can see vodka from New Zealand, yeah, that stacks up. I can see your ability to go via that route to market with that proposition, yeah, I can see that working and yeah, you guys look and sound like you know what you're doing. I'll put a few bucks your way, you know?
EU: Did you make any promises as far as timeline or how many x return?
GR: We didn't with 42 Below, you didn't have to, you now do when you list a company. You have to give at least the year, you have to give the year, you ran projective statement about that year, and then the following year. They're halfway through one year, you have to give a number for that year and then the following year. With Moa, we had to give statements, future statements. About six months into that, we had a massive change in distribution, and it was a case where we could stay with this and kind of come in at or around our number, but I don't think I, we, we don't think it's right for the long-term future of this business. We think we're in the wrong model.
EU: What did you say to all your shareholders at that point?
GR: Put up your hand, "We stuffed up, going to have to change, and to change we're going to take a backward step," you know? You don't just change and go from one model to another. We're going to be down in our first year.
EU: How did that feel to make that announcement?
GR: Terrible, yeah, shocking. We were crucified, and rightly so, I've got to say.
EU: Crucified, showed up in what way? In the stock price, or actual-
GR: Stock price commentary, commentary, reputation, credibility, you know, all, everyone of those things.
EU: Does that filter through to the actual people who are purchasing your beverages?
GR: A little, a little, people who buy and drink beer are also people who read the business paper, so either, yeah, it hurt. You got up, you know? Regain your credibility and the best way of doing that is you know, growing your brand, growing your business, growing sales and thankfully we've done that.
EU: I would really hope that if you had a lot of your fellow Kiwis invested in the company they would want to see that be a success story, and then start buying more, just to turn the story around.
GR: Our shareholders have been outrageously loyal, really, through that, and by and large has been a few that jumped ship, and fair enough. The shareholders have stuck with us, and yeah, you're right. Some have bought, when the price dipped, they bought at that lower price. In fact, those are the ones who have now done very well.
EU: That's a good story to share, and you hope that that's how it ends up.
EU: Earlier you mentioned that you feel like you have a lot more responsibility when your friends or maybe your fellow Kiwis are invested rather than just the big banks, so how has that changed your attitude toward how you're running the company, or even, well I'll leave it at that.
GR: Look, it's just ever-pleasant really, whether it's a faceless bank or a financial institution or your mum and dad and your mates and your family, which is the case, it's all of those. It's still a responsibility.
EU: How does that responsibility align with the responsibility that you feel that you have to yourself?
GR: No-one wants to be a one-hit wonder, you know, so 42 Below was great, we had a good run.
EU: You're so far from a one-hit wonder.
GR: We're getting there, yeah yeah. I think we all want to do the best we can with whatever route we chose in life, you know? If you chose to build brands, then you wanted to be seen to be doing bloody well at that.
EU: For you, success really means building the brand, so does that mean that everybody knows what it is and everyone knows what it stands for and they choose that first?
GR: Yeah, yeah.
EU: So it's not really about sales, or is it all sales?
GR: Well it is ultimately, that's kind of ... It must be like a musician, they want to create a great sound or a great selection of tunes that they love and their friends love and are played on the coolest stations and at the coolest clubs. Ultimately I guess they want a bunch of sales, record sales as well. There's kind of a mix of all those measures, but personally what is so gratifying is when you see that bottle of Moa with a cool group of people and a great bar. Ideally offshore as well, that's when it’s really rewarding.
EU: In terms of Moa Brewing and the success of a brand, at what point does a craft beer cease to become a craft beer?
GR: I think possibly it could be the world's biggest beer brand and still be perceived as craft, as long as the way it's made, the ingredients and brew style, all those types of things-
EU: At a certain point, you'll get to such a scale that you're having to use more industrial brewing techniques.
GR: Oh, for sure.
EU: There's no getting around that.
GR: No, for sure, for sure. The US has some great example of huge craft beer brands, which I think are still perceived as craft beer, like Sierra Nevada, one of the first, and even brews like Lagunita's, that was sold recently, or half-sold. Goose Island-
EU: They're from where I'm from.
GR: Yeah, yeah, yes. I perceived them at least as craft beer brands, but they are pretty big now.
EU: Savvy consumers, I mean I think of Blue Moon in particular. I mean this is the, "Craft beer" that is made by Coors-Miller. The folks that know are going to say like, "Oh, that's not craft beer," they're not buying it.
GR: Yeah, but okay, that example I would say is not ... I wouldn't put that in the craft camp. Sierra Nevada I probably would still, so I don't know why that definition exists in my mind.
EU: Is it about an attitude? It seems like it's more of a branding thing than a production thing.
GR: Attitude, attitude and taste. Once you drink some really well-made, good-structured, well-hopped brews like Sierra Nevada still is, that's why I call it craft. A bunch of Blue Moon beers I've had personally don't taste a lot different to a bunch of lagers, you know? That's why I kind of put them in the non-craft camp.
EU: It's funny, I was thinking about Blue Moon. The first beer that I attempted to brew myself, I had no idea that there was orange rind in the brew-making process, and the secret ingredient was camomile in that particular batch.
GR: Nice, sounds like a good beer.
EU: It was lovely. Was there anything that you do as a hobby or craft at home that is sort of that kind of, get back to the roots scale?
GR: I do a little bit of cooking, not a lot but it's usually stuff that we catch, so fish or animals. We do a lot of hunting and fishing.
EU: As a hunter and a fisherman, you must be quite concerned about some of the environmental issues that we're facing these days.
GR: Very, very, yeah very. Especially in the ocean because it's a little kind of bit sight unseen, and we do a lot of spear fishing and fishing. My family and I have done since I was a kid, and my father has. You hear the stories and you have the benchmarks and the comparisons, and I've been going, even in my short tenure in the sea I've been going to places where I've been spearfishing at a rock and I first went there maybe 20 years ago, and every time I'd see schools of at least 20 to 60 kingfish. A few years ago that's kind of dropped to about six, you know? Now I go there and sometimes I don't see any at all, or when I do I'll see them in ones and twos. Yeah, there's that side of things, okay? There's the actual species, and while I'm still on that vein you know Maui’s Dolphin in New Zealand, there's only around 50, 55 left. That is dangerously close to being extinct.
EU: Right, I mean, can they even reproduce at that point with an existing?
GR: They can, they reckon they can. It is, it's a tiny population but they reckon there's enough in the gene pool where it can come back. However, how would it be that if we let something go extinct on our watch, do you look at your forefathers and say, "Oh they let that bird go extinct, or they let that," and you think, "How could they do that," you know? That's crazy. It's bloody close to happening on our watch, and that wouldn't be a good thing to tell your children, would it?
EU: No. What do you feel like are the most important things that we could actually do to turn the tide in that regard?
GR: With that, there has been some steps made. There's probably a few more fishing practises in the south of their area that need to be changed, they've made some changes in the north. They probably need to understand what the dolphin does in the winter, so somehow they need to ... They know what it does in the summer because they see it, but in the winter no-one knows where it goes, they need to understand, and if it's in danger in winter. From a business point of view, New Zealand's clean green credentials, it's a naft overused term, but however they are responsible probably I reckon for about 95% of our country's income. If you look at tourism, the biggest ones, we'll go through the biggies. Tourism, dairy, all of our agricultural output, sustainable forestry, fish, horticulture, wine, beer, vodka, they're all linked to our credentials, and it's a nice place to produce food and beverage and tourism. That accounts for yeah, I'd say 90% of our income, so-
EU: Do you think that's endangered?
GR: Yeah, yeah I do. We export that to the world, right? The world looks at New Zealand, and they have perceptions on New Zealand. If they see the Lord of the Rings it's probably a good perception. If they hear our Prime Minister say, "Oh, we'll be a fast follower on climate change, and we're probably going to be not that ambitious with our climate change targets," that's maybe not such a good thing.
EU: You want to see New Zealand really standing in the forefront of that commitment?
GR: Yeah, yeah, well we should, like we're the first country in the world to give women the vote, we are typically a progressive country in new thinking. We're not when it comes to the environment.
EU: Why do you think that's true, with the environment?
GR: The last thing I'd ever want to do is be in politics, so I have a huge amount of respect for everything they achieve, and particularly John Key. However I don't think they've made the connexion between environment and business value, I think they think environment's for a bunch of tree-hugging kind of, sandal-wearing, yknow, long-haired dudes, and that's all really nice and cute and there's kind of some nice creatures out there and some clean streams and that's nice for the postcards and stuff like that, but let's brush that aside and go on and kind of build our economy. I think the economy is really linked to all that stuff.
EU: That's you speaking as an expert brand-builder, I mean you know that New Zealand's brand, regardless of what industry it's exporting is because of that perception that New Zealand is this green, clean, progressive place.
GR: Yeah, you look for unique competitive advantages, right? That's Nirvana for brand builders. What is it that's unique about this brand, or this place that we can tell a story on and build a story on and that others can't? What's ownable within that? Being from New Zealand is a great platform, particularly in food and beer which accounts for most of our income, particularly in tourism. Why wouldn't you want to own it and build it and amplify it and-
EU: What would that actually look like?
GR: Well, I think it would look like being the leader in the environment, you know? This is a crazy outrageous goal, but why wouldn't New Zealand be the first country in the world to be organic, the whole country? I reckon if you did the math on it, looked at the worldwide consumer base, that is moving towards organic and the fact that people pay a premium for organic, and the fact that we're kind of caught in this commodity cycle where our milk is being compared against milk from all over the world, you know, when our milk powder's no different to that from Chile or China or whatever.
EU: Even the big organic dairy brands in the US are importing milk from New Zealand, I mean in powdered form, but I mean we don't even have enough in the States to keep up with demand.
GR: You could start with the region. Why don't we make Hawke’s Bay the first organic region in the world or something?
EU: Is there a nationally mandated definition for organic?
GR: Yeah, it differs from category to category, but in a small country you should be able to make that, you know? That's the benefits of being small and not having Congress and House of Reps and all that kind of stuff to go through.
EU: I wonder if it's also not seen as being as important as it is in other places where the industrial, chemical-agriculture norm is that much worse than what the norm might be here.
GR: Yeah, because the norm here, to be fair the norm here is actually quite good. We're not massively using insecticides and pesticides and all that kind of stuff anyway, however I think there's probably a little bit of misunderstanding. A lot of people think production will drop and all that kind of stuff, and some of the information I've seen is that's not actually the case. We're the best farmers in the world, so wouldn't we be the ... I went to Lankin University and Agricultural University, so many world first in agriculture have come from Lankin or Massey, two universities. What a great challenge for those places, again, we lead the world in farming, we're the first countries in so many new techniques in farming.
EU: Also again, I'm very new here but some of the things that I've been hearing in terms of environmental controversies, like the 1080 which I understand is a poison that gets dropped out in wilderness areas to keep up with what, it's the possums and other pests. What are your thoughts about that?
GR: I'm not a fan of 1080, yeah, just doesn't ... I don't know a heap about the actual chemical compounds within 1080, but would I like that dropped around my house? No, so why would you drop it in the hills down the road, you know? It doesn't feel right to me.
EU: It seems like a classic Rachel Carson moment where we don't actually know what all of the unintended consequences will be of dropping this, we just know like maybe it's going to deal with the possums. What about all the animals that are ... Are there even animals that are eating possums?
GR: Yeah, well no, we don't have big predators but we have a lot of birds who are potentially eating that 1080 drop, well I'm sure they are. The by-catch or the unintended kill rate of other animals, I suspect, is high, and then there's the water as well.
EU: It must end up in the water table.
GR: Yeah, yeah.
EU: Earlier you mentioned that New Zealand is really progressive, but how do you see New Zealand being really progressive, and where do you see that maybe there needs some improvements made?
GR: Yes and no, we're progressive in some ways, like we have been in agriculture and fisheries and some areas we're being quite progressive. We're not really progressive in understanding the value of our environment and those credentials worldwide, we're not very progressive, I guess identifying consumer trends early on. Of course there is exceptions to that.
EU: You mean consumer trends around the world?
GR: Correct, yeah, I mean there's exceptions to that, and there's some beautiful exceptions to that. Actually, up until the last five, ten years, we're not actually a strong entrepreneurial culture. We've largely relied on a few big industries.
EU: Why do you think that is?
GR: Well it's a cultural thing, I don't know why. When I went to school, the bright kids went to work for the banks or become a lawyer and an accountant, you know? Whereas if I go to universities now, the smart, aspiring, motivated graduates actually want to start their own business. It has changed a lot.
EU: Yeah, you mentioned earlier that there is that gap in finance for these earlier startup businesses. Given the history of your businesses and having taken them public, would you recommend that that is still one of the best options for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital?
GR: Going public, it is more suited to being more established. Now of course there's crowdfunding as well, which is relatively new, which I'm really nervous about actually. One of the good things about listing is you need to get your place in shipshape before you list, you know, and disclosures ... If something's up in your business, you know, if there's some kind of change to your business strategy you need to disclose that. In the interests of continuous disclosure you've got to be telling your marketplace all the time what's going on, of a material nature in your business, and that's actually a good thing. You can invest, you can make your decisions to invest or sell your shares based on key information that's coming out. Crowdfunded companies don't need to do that, and your level of information you need to provide is pretty light. I worry that a bunch of people invested in companies that maybe it boomed.
EU: Here's something that it actually brings me back to the whole business of saying no, which is where we started. I don't actually believe most companies do deserve capital, and so I think this is part of what you're getting at. The crowdfunding, if you have a good story, you've got a good brand, you've got a supposedly good product whether or not it's actually launched yet. You can probably sell a bunch of that product on the crowdfunding platform, but if you're going public it's not that forgiving, you know? You might sell stock in the beginning and then as soon as your next reports come out, people aren't going to hold onto that stock if you can't actually show performance. I'm not sure exactly how to ask this question, but there's something about helping those businesses that aren't quite there yet get to that point, because not everyone has gone through business school.
Not everyone knows how to crunch the numbers, not everybody even knows what it means to go public. How do we build awareness about what those options actually are?
GR: There are quite a few options, and when you're in your business, and I was there myself, you feel quite lost and alone and you don't know those options until you've been through it a few times. I guess the key thing, the great thing about New Zealand being small is it's actually easy to call somebody up, you've never met them before in life and say, "Hey, just give me two seconds on the phone, you know, or 20 seconds on the phone about what my options would be, my company's turning over five million, I'm still loss making I think next year, in two years' time, we're going to break through, we'll be in profit. I'm going to need growth capital, what should I do?" The great thing about being a small country is we can all connect really easily. My advice would be, hound people until they return your call and ask them those questions.
EU: When you realised that you're opening the door into your phone ringing off the phone, right?
GR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
EU: There is also something about asking somebody who's just one or two steps ahead of you rather than someone who's way off in the distance.
GR: Yeah but I don't mind, if someone calls me and says, "I've got a business turning over five million, it's still loss making, I believe we're going to break through, I'll have a breakthrough and be profitable, I'll have a huge amount of respect for them. I'll probably take their corner and say, "Shit, good on you, what are you doing," you know? "Well done." If someone calls me and goes, "I got this idea, look, I'm not sure if it'll work. Can I get your thoughts on it?" I'm just going to go, "Look, I don't know if it's a good idea or not, shit, you tell me," you know? I have no idea, if it's especially in a category I don't know anything about how am I going to tell you if it's a great idea or not?
EU: Do your homework before you call and-
GR: Do your homework.
EU: Ask for that mentorship call.
GR: If you really believe it, put your money in and don't come and speak to me and certainly don't come and ask me for money until a shitload of your money, ideally all of it has gone behind your brand.
EU: I always feel like it is the entrepreneur, and what you talked about writing the check when your wife didn't even know, or going into debt and your wife didn't even know. To me that's the riskiest thing, I always feel like the entrepreneur is the one taking the biggest risk, and yet it's always the banks or the venture capitalists that want the biggest return on that investment. Can investing ever be safe?
GR: No, no, there's risk for sure. If you look at a lot of those perceived secure investments, a lot of them have been disasters.
EU: What do you think is the smartest investment that somebody can make? It might not be on the stock market, so this is a trick question.
GR: Okay, well look, my son told me this the other day, and this really ... He asked me that question, that same question. Where his question was, "What investment gives you the greatest return," and so I started to think, "Ooh, probably a technology company, this huge scale." Opportunity in the internet now, look at Xero." He said, "No, the best return on investment has been proven as education."
EU: Oh that's interesting. I read an article in the Economist that did not say that that was true for all fields.
GR: Oh really?
EU: There are specific fields that had a much higher return on investment, I would tend to agree. Part of the whole vision of this podcast is that we're helping showcase a wide variety of what it means to be successful, and that value isn't just financial, or that just climbing the corporate ladder and making your way from the cubicle to the corner office, that's not what most people think of as being successful. I love that sense that education is the best investment that you can make in yourself, just because you'll grow as a person, you'll be a better friend, mentor. You'll be more interesting at the dinner table. I read that you'd had a little bit of trouble recently with some of the ad campaigns as well.
GR: Yeah yeah, that's been ... It's been frustrating actually. When we listed, we had a prospectus, and we kind of borrowed from the Mad Men genre. We had that black and white photography, and people viewed that as misogynist. In fact there was a couple of images in there that were bordering on ... Yeah, there was one particularly that was in retrospect misogynist. I guess in the 1960s, in fact Mad Men the show itself was misogynist. However, we got some hammering for that and then-
EU: How did you feel about that?
GR: Well, knowing, well believing I'm not misogynist and believing that others in Moa aren't either I found it really frustrating, but it was a popular tag to be put on us particularly by people who viewed us as kind of threatening to the craft beer world. The craft beer world is typically created by people who have started brewing, you know in a very small facility and starting to grow with a fantastic beer and a fantastic story and really good brewing ethics. Just because I think we're perceived as a couple of Flash Harrys from Auckland who are coming in, investing in it as like we were seen as a threat or not ... Whereas we're investing in Josh, who was one of the first people to ever start craft brewing in New Zealand. He started in 2002.
EU: You are a threat, and you're on their side?
GR: Yeah yeah, so that was frustrating. I think we're starting to shed that finally.
EU: What have you done inside the company that would, if people knew about it they would be like, "You know, clearly you're supporting women and that growth."
GR: We are, like a bunch of charity work we do is a charity organisation that gives women the opportunity to get really high quality clothing if they have come from an abused family or women's refuge type environment, they need to reestablish themselves into the workforce, they're going to interviews, they don't particularly have a great wardrobe. There's a fantastic charity that provides clothing for those women getting back into the workplace after a bit of a tough time. Dressed for Success is a fantastic charity, so we've done some product support for events and things like that. We do a bunch of stuff like that.
EU: Again, thinking about the future and what your role is in it, you know if you were to look back at the end of your life and say like, "I'm really glad that this is what we did." What would you be remembering?
GR: Brands that far out from me would be a legacy brand, and one ideally that's global would be the big dream, yeah.
EU: Which one's the closest?
GR: I think probably right now at this moment Trilogy, yeah. Trilogy has got the biggest global reputation, and a really, really strong support base. Moa is still relatively young and new.
EU: If Trilogy goes big it's all over the world and people are using it and loving it, how will this have changed the industry?
GR: There are some other natural skin care brands worldwide, and there are even some now from New Zealand, some good ones from New Zealand. However Trilogy was first, Trilogy's the biggest natural skincare brand from New Zealand. In fact it's the biggest skin care brand in New Zealand, full stop. How would that change the industry? I think Trilogy's been a pioneer in the move towards natural, so it's been at the front end of this beer in pulling that category, skincare into natural.
EU: It's putting New Zealand on the map?
GR: It is.
EU: Does Trilogy have a sun protective line?
GR: Yes, yeah.
EU: I imagine you need that quite a bit if you're sailing.
GR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I'm on the Melanoma Foundation so I know a little bit about, Skin protection in New Zealand is a biggie. New Zealand is the world first in something that is not a good thing to be world first in, and that's melanoma.
EU: Well it all again comes back to environmental impact, I mean the fact that there is thinner ozone down here is because of some of the products that have been historically a lot more popular before regulations cracked down on them. It all comes full circle.
GR: Yeah, it does. That ozone, that's a good example though. It is starting to close, it is improving you know, to some extent. The world did get together and get their shit together and fixed the CFC issue, you know, and it's improving.
EU: If New Zealand gets its act together and becomes a world leader in environmental regulations, like you've said that you wanted it to be, what follows from that?
GR: Sell more stuff at a bigger margin, we'll become more profitable as a country. Generally speaking.
EU: I think that there's so much opportunity for some of these smaller brands that aren't just selling commodities in a container, they're actually selling the story in a much more ... I mean that's just a higher margin business, let's face it.
GR: Of course that is, yeah, yeah. A little pot of honey this big that's 30 mils, okay, it's got an amazing story and amazing credentials from this amazing environment is going to have far more margin in it than a kind of a tub of something that's spun out from some big kind of agricultural powerhouse across the other side of the world.
EU: Before we close, I was going to ask you about growing up on the farm, but is there some story that you're really itching to tell that you never got a chance to tell?
GR: Look, I had a very privileged family upbringing you know, on a farm, brother and sister, mum and dad, a beautiful, beautiful community, very supportive, where we all used to hang out. If the school needed a swimming pool all the dads would get together on the weekend and build it, so it was amazing.
EU: Quite idyllic-sounding.
GR: It was amazing, an amazing time. I was very lucky, my dad was a do-er and I guess you would define him today as an entrepreneur. He was one of the first into deer farming, one of the first into growing squash, we grew sweet corn from the supermarkets, and somehow I ended up trapping possums, skinning possums and I loved making a bit of money from that, and then I do that in the winter, in the summer I'd catch eels.
EU: That was your first taste of entrepreneurship, is selling possum fur?
GR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I kind of did quite well at it, you know? I didn't have many traps so yeah, I realise I couldn't get a lot of possums, but the ones I got I could skin them really well and pig them out well and get a high price. They listed the price per skins of the different trappers in the local little paper, and I noticed one day my skins were the highest value in our area. I was a 12-year-old kid, so that was kind of a little rewarding moment.
EU: Anything else you want to add before we close?
GR: Big ups to zero, you know? Huge respect for Rod, and he's got to be one of our great success stories from New Zealand, yeah.
EU: Thank you so much for this conversation, and I do want to finish up with our question countdown, this is five quick questions and five quick answers, are you ready?
GR: Yep, okay.
EU: What business book or idea has made the biggest impact on your life and why?
GR: Good to Great, it's about being bloody great.
EU: You've taken that idea to heart, clearly. What's the one thing you can't live without?
GR: Getting underwater, free diving.
EU: What's the most useful app on your phone right now?
GR: WeChat, put it on in China.
EU: In one sentence, what's the greatest lesson you've learned throughout your business journey?
GR: Harder, faster, sooner.
EU: Harder, faster, sooner, and finally, what skill do you want to enhance this year?
GR: Social media.
EU: Oh, you want to get better at social media, excellent. Well thank you again, this has really been a quite insightful hour that we've had here, and can't wait to share your story with our listeners.
GR: Thanks Elizabeth, cheers, thank you.
EU: Alice is offering to do your social for you. She's actually really good at it.
GR: Oh great, oh great.
EU: We'll see if your phone rings off the hook now that you've told everyone that they should just call till they get through.
GR: Speaking of social media, speaking of Alice, okay, here we go.
A: That was fantastic.
EU: I know, we need to take a selfie, for social media purposes.
A: Oh totally, you're going to take the selfie …
GR: Okay, flick it around.
EU: Alice will teach you how it's done, she's the expert.
A: If you get in, oh yeah, it looks kind of officey, doesn't it? Ready?
GR: Okay, yeah.
A: One, two, yes, I think it needs one of these to make it look cooler.
EU: You gonna filter it?
GR: Oh yeah, all right, okay.
A: Yes, you always do that.
GR: Okay, okay, nice, yeah, that is-
A: I like this one.
GR: Ah yep.
A: Okay, cool.
EU: All right, one, two, three.
A: That's my selfie face.
A: I always just do like, "Very excited."
EU: Well we are, this has been so great. Thanks so much for everything.
GR: Pleasure, pleasure.
A: I'm so looking forward to...
EU: Beautiful, I mean such good, such good… [audio fades out]