Self-employment is a New Zealand institution.

From the pen of Richard Toon

Self-employment is a New Zealand institution. 28% of our GDP is produced by enterprises with less than 20 people and 96 % of those enterprises are independently owned, not owned by others. (* MBIE website.) Some started after hours of meticulous planning, some from being presented with an opportunity and some out of necessity. My business journey was a mix of all those and much more. They say “business is business” and emotions should not enter into business decisions. Easier said than done. When an individual has everything on the line, when you’re trying to provide for your family and face the fair of failure, when you have the lows of losing a deal and the highs of reaching a lofty goal, emotion and business are intrinsically mixed.

The only way I know of sharing those emotions and lessons is to tell a little of my business story.  I tell my boys that “life is a marathon not a sprint” but when I look back it seems that I did a hell of a lot of sprinting sometimes to “catch up”, sometimes to “keep up” and sometimes to “make the pace”.

After graduating Hawera High School with four subjects in school cert. and a sixth form certificate I joined and spent 7 and half years in the NZ police starting my training as a Cadet at the age of 17 and graduating at the age of 18.  Three years on the beat and incident cars in Wellington and then four years as a Detective in the Wellington CIB.  Looking back now it seems so young to be doing the sorts of things that Police people do.  I had always wanted to be a Policeman but had also studied Accounting and Commercial Practice at High School so obviously had an interest in business.  Newly married and working long hours doing shift work and always returning back from leave for court cases I decided it was not the hard work and long hours that was a problem it was that financially I was making little progress. 

So back up to my hometown of Hawera we went to purchase a Dairy.  It’s the one on the South Road heading out of Hawera on the left. So just turned 25, married with two stepsons and a baby on the way we moved into the house at the back of the Dairy on 17 December.  The one thing I remember about the day we started in the Dairy is not knowing the price of a loaf of bread.  There were Kutas, half Kutas, white, brown, sliced thick and thin.  It made crime scenes seem easy.  So we bumbled our way through the first year having a baby on the way.  Times change as Jamie was born at 10.30 am and I was back rolling ice creams at 1 pm.  Feels embarrassing admitting that now as the young Mums and Dads of today make so much time to enjoy that time of their lives and rightly so, its placed at the top of list of important times in yours and your children’s life.  But I remember just thinking it was my job to provide, so rightly but probably looking back now wrongly, I was rolling ice creams a few short hours after one of the biggest event of my life. We had great fun in the Dairy but after three and a half years of working 100+ hour weeks and having another baby due, I was looking for more time with the family and something that could take me into the future.  As lots of ex cops do I got my Private Investigators license and after selling the Dairy moved to New Plymouth.  I never liked private investigations it was lonely and offered very little job satisfaction and because of that I had no drive to grow it into a proper business.  Apart from that it can’t have been very lucrative as my wife said “we have a little savings, fifty bucks to be exact, I’m going to spend it on a fifth birthday so what are we going to do? “ There is a saying I have heard over the years that says “show me a man with a mortgage and I’ll show you a man that wants to work”. So I continued with the investigations, worked for a guy opening his Dairy in the morning from 6 am till he came in at 8 am and then out of pure desperation answered an advert in the paper that ended up to be a 100% commission job to sell Life Insurance for NZI life………..ekkkk.  I’m going to call it a very well thought out plan coming nicely to fruition…..”yeah right”…