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We have some incredible business coaching clients on our books, doing all kinds of great things – we swear we learn more from them than they do from us at times! We work with clients at all levels in all industries, clients who are rocking their field, clients who are making their mark on NZ and some making their mark on the world. To inspire you we have decided to share some of their stories in a regular Q&A.
This time we talked to CEO of Kotahi, David Ross. Kotahi is doing innovative things in the freight management industry. By pooling New Zealand’s freight needs, they are able to match supply and demand to get products delivered around the world using ocean freight in a more efficient way than previously available.
Read David’s Q&A below…
Q. Tell us about your business in ten words…
A. Kotahi collaborates with exporters, importers and industry partners to create a secure, sustainable export-oriented supply chain which drives greater efficiency for customers and partners.
Q. Why did you start it and what was your aim with it?
A. Kotahi was the vision of Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms who realised, through experience, that exporters needed to work together to create a sustainable and efficient export supply chain that will keep New Zealand competitive on the world stage. We are an export nation and we need to compete against nations that have big ships on their main trade routes.
Q. Who is a leader that you learnt something incredibly valuable from and what were the lessons you learnt from them?
A. I learnt a lot from leaders I worked with at Fonterra, in Asia in the 1990s and 2000s – people like Dr Ong Poh Seng, Mark Wynne and Alan Fitzsimmons. The importance of determining your competitive advantage, absolute focus on delivering the enablers of it, keeping the message simple and consistent for the team, and then creating the climate for success through empowerment, encouraging innovative solutions and of course recognition! It sounds like four different things, but they are linked and it is the consistency and alignment that is the key to success.
Q. Think about the worst boss you’ve ever had – what did you learn from their style of leadership?
A. I’ve been fortunate, no disasters here. Ultimately I’ve judged each boss on how much effort they’ve put in to developing me and generally making my work experience a positive one. It is also linked to the feeling of trust between you and your boss. You remember these types of feelings longer than any business result. Ultimately people matter and it’s important to reflect on this in critical moments in day-to-day business.
Q. What is a mantra you live by and why?
A. Collaboration is the new form of competitive advantage. I’ve seen how amazing that can be in what we are achieving at Kotahi with customers and partners. We need to drive this further throughout our organisation.
Q. What has been your biggest learning in business to date and why? How has it affected you going forward?
A. The two biggest impacts on an organisation’s performance are its strategy / influence of category disruptors (especially if you didn’t see one coming) and culture. Creating a climate for success is strongly related to Employee Engagement, which in turn is highly linked to culture – the way people actually behave within the organisation. Which brings us back to a focus on people – no surprise really!
Q. If you were 21 years old again and could do any career you wanted, what would you be and why?
A. The future for New Zealand’s prosperity will be taking primary industry exports up the value chain. With environmental issues the world is facing, consumers will have an increasing expectation around a genuine sustainability story behind premium brands and will be looking at what New Zealand brands do in this space. Agricultural entrepreneurs with a true environmental science bent will be a valuable asset to New Zealand in the future. So if there was a degree in Sustainable Agricultural Business and Science and I’d be amongst the first to graduate.
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