I grew up as the youngest of three kids in a close family, south of the river in a suburb of Perth called Kardinya where I went to a local primary and high school.
I loved school and was a keen learner, however my passion at that early age was sport. At the age of just six I started sailing and by seven my love of the sport saw me racing single-person catamarans and dinghies at every available opportunity.
My parents instilled a strong work ethic in me and I worked three jobs whilst in upper school and university: as a coaching co-ordinator and sailing instructor at various WA yacht clubs and selling suits in a men’s clothing retailer. It was partly because I enjoyed what I was doing and partly to fund my way through my studies.
I attended the University of Western Australia and combined my interest in business with my love of sport, undertaking and completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in marketing and physical education.
I also added a fourth job to my schedule during this time as an instructor at the university gym – admittedly to fund my sailing habit by which point included national and international competitions. It was during his time as the gym instructor I met my wife Fiona with whom I have now been married to for 22 years and have two beautiful daughters with.
I’m still very active in sports. Most of my time away from work is spent either with family, cycling or pursuing a recently renewed interest in laser (dinghy) sailing.
I have always had an interest in business, brands and getting the best out of people. I had to choose between a career path of business or sailing. In the 90’s the sport didn’t have the profile or opportunities it does now, so I chose business!
My first job after university was with Procter and Gamble as a sales representative selling hair-care, health-care and cosmetics products. This is where my interest in product based businesses started. P&G invest heavily in their people and in training development and they really taught me to know ‘what good looks like’. It was a great start to my career in the industry.
My six years with P&G took me to Melbourne where I managed the Coles supermarkets account. From there it was a move to Sydney for a role at Arnott’s/Campbell’s managing the national Woolworths account.
Following this I moved back to Perth for family reasons to join Metcash as the General Manager of Food and Grocery. This provided a role that was autonomous and offered even greater opportunity to learn and grow. After four years leading the West Australian business, I was picked to lead the transformation program (Project Diamond) in Sydney. This included attending INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France in preparation for the role.
I became CEO of Mrs Mac’s five years ago. I was drawn to the company because I believed I could make a significant difference with my recent experience in business transformation and would bring a refreshed strategy and direction. Being a family owned business, I also saw an opportunity to work in a different environment to a large corporation and the Board was keen to support innovation and growth via heavy investment.
I have two pieces of advice I have carried through from my early days at Procter & Gamble. The first being: ‘keep things simple’ and ‘it’s all about people – find good people, invest in them and look after them’. We are like every other business out there; we make great pies, rolls and other products, but it is all about our people.
It’s a very rewarding role. As you would expect with a CEO role, most days are filled with a variety of activities, such as continued communication with staff, customers and other stakeholders, through to factory visits to view production and equipment installations.
There’s no typical day. Some days can begin with extensive product sampling of both Mrs Mac’s and competitors’ products and may end with cheering on my AFL team, the Fremantle Dockers, at our wonderful partnership venue OPTUS Stadium. Mrs Mac’s has partnered with WA’s OPTUS Stadium as their official pie and roll supplier and fans can now enjoy a range of Mrs Mac’s products at branded retail sites at the venue, including the Dardanup Pie, developed exclusively for the stadium. It’s increased the profile of Mrs Mac’s not just in WA, but across the country and allowed us to work with even more local growers and suppliers.
Another area I’ve found particularly rewarding has been seeing the progression of our people and the recent period of growth over the past few years. This has been driven both by meeting the ever-changing needs of consumers and by driving existing or new business harder.
It has also been very satisfying seeing the investment in recent projects coming to fruition, which is driving further growth and increased cooking capabilities all as a highly sustainable business. These investments will see significant reductions in waste with increased focus on recyclable packaging and clean recipes.
Mrs Mac’s has a fantastic brand and incredible distribution reach across Australia and New Zealand for a company of our size. We also have a lot of innovation and market development work in the pipeline that I am excited about.
One of those has been the New Zealand market and we have been fortunate enough to get a range of Mrs Mac’s products in Foodstuffs and Countdown stores. There are massive growth opportunities for the business with that market and this has been working incredibly well for us so far. Mrs Mac’s has a fantastic name in New Zealand and we’re looking forward to seeing that grow.
This article originally appeared in the August/September issue of C&I Retailing Magazine, which can be read in full here.