Bartercard New Zealand CEO John Scott takes on Australia, combining trans-Tasman operations, bridging the gap for networking across the ditch.
Contrary to his new title, John Scott is taking off his CEO cap and stepping back into his apprentice shoes as he enters a new market.
“As with anything when you take over a new business, or get involved in it, you have to go in with an open mind and open eyes,” he explains, “You have to be present, spend time with people, listen to their concerns and watch and learn.”
Though John confesses it is all very exciting, he is refraining from the ‘guns blazing’ approach “you have to look at what is sustainable,” he says. “It’s not about imposing – it’s about empowering.”
Having been CEO of Bartercard NZ for the past five years and having had extensive involvement in business finance and data, John knows a thing or two about the systems in place and how it all operates however he is very aware that there will still be a transition phase and Australia is a very different market.
“I’m not going to go in and rush any decisions, we are going to do a proper 90-day review.
“You always have uncertainty with transition, the key thing is to not make the mistake that Australia is the same market as New Zealand. You’re dealing with a very different culture, a very different business climate and a different approach to members. As a result, I almost have to be an apprentice again and learn and be guided by the team in Australia.”
No one likes spending money
Admittedly we are all a little Dutch, as the saying goes, when it comes to spending money. Wanting to hold onto cash is universal and that’s why people love a good old-fashioned barter. Exchanging goods or services between one company to another is often a win-win, until the company you’re bartering with doesn’t have anything you need at the time – cue Bartercard.
Bartercard is essentially business to business networking.
By being a member of Bartercard, you’re gaining customers that may have otherwise looked the other way, but due to the comradery between members, not only can you gain new customers, you can potentially gain new goods or service suppliers, if not, you now have accumulated trade dollars to spend elsewhere when you need to.
Bartercard has 24,000 businesses onboard and 55,000 cardholders throughout Australia, New Zealand, China, the UK, the USA, France, India, South Africa, Thailand with Israel due to come onboard this year. The question you need to be asking yourself, is how often do you have resources going to waste?
Staff being under-utilised, a hotel room left empty, a restaurant below full capacity? Bartercard utilises that downtime and spare capacity. By using it in trade you are effectively getting something you would have otherwise never had. Creating new business without having to put rooms or tables (as an example) up at discounted rates.
“We are all about you growing sales without discounting,” John clarifies, “it then allows you to reinvest those sales into other areas.”
Through Bartercard, your sales can grow around 10 percent in the first 12 months. Once you become a member you are not then left to your own devices; Bartercard continuously offer networking events and trade show opportunities to further increase your reach, as well as providing free advertising nationally and internationally.
“It’s not about doing a hundred percent of your business through Bartercard, we are talking maybe only five percent of your business, it’s complementary to your cash business. But if you do it properly, it then means you improve your margins and returns on the cash business that you have, because you’re conserving cash and investing it in the areas that you want it to go into.
It’s important to note that for all taxation and accounting purposes one trade dollar is equivalent to one New Zealand dollar. It is a well-recognised and accepted method of payment.
Every new member of Bartercard receives an interest-free line of credit, so trading with other members can begin immediately.
As a means of connecting businesses and expanding networks, John wants to make the process as easy as possible, which is why combining New Zealand and Australian operations was the obvious choice.
“A lot of the business is being done across the trans-Tasman and we want our members to be able to, more easily, facilitate that across the two economies. It’s a simplification of the model, what do members want more from us and how do we provide that for them?”
It takes more than one
It’s not often you’ll hear from a CEO, stepping into a greater role, that they ultimately want to achieve redundancy. “I want to develop successors, but more importantly, if I do my job properly my role won’t exist.”
He says this because, by empowering his staff to give it their all, there will be no hierarchy, it’ll be an even playing field utilising the best of finances, technology and innovation.
John holds his team in New Zealand in high regard and says he is only a very small piece of the puzzle that is Bartercard. The Kiwi ingenuity gene, he says, is alive and well and he is eager to see what can be unlocked in Australia.
“I’m very humble about the opportunity and the trust that has been put in me by the board, clearly they recognise the innovation that we have over here and our new approaches, and because we have done it in very lean way, they want to similar things done in Australia.
It’s a huge testament to the team over here, I am just the figurehead, it’s all credit to them.”
His team are responsible for hundreds of initiatives within Bartercard including building Bartercard’s Marketplace to simplify and expand trading across their network, which they managed to complete in under three months. “All I had to do was push go,” John says, clearly beaming with pride from the result.
Marketplace has been wildly popular among members within New Zealand, so much so that, come Easter, it will be launched in Australia as well.
“My style of leadership is you invert the pyramid and I’m at the bottom. It’s about getting the right people and giving them the right resources and empowering them to get on and do their job.”
John’s home-base remains in Auckland and you’ll believe him when he says splitting his time evenly between both countries is going smoothly. “I just think because of the time differences it is working very well, but you have to make sure to eat well and exercise and have some down time and be sure to measure and pace yourself.”
Sounding like he seems to have it all worked out he jokes, “the theory is great the reality might be totally different,”– the scale of the job he is undertaking clearly not having any effect on his humour.
His wife and two daughters are aware that it will be a busy few months while John is finding his feet and adapting to the new lifestyle.
John laughs that his family don’t really miss him too much; he arrived home recently to a house full of his daughter’s friends who were practicing for The Royal Family Varsity Crew auditions (a dance group), and they barely batted an eyelid when he walked through the door.
“When you’re busy with your own dreams, life goes on as usual,” he continues. “We realise it is a great opportunity and we will just take it as it comes.”
It’s exciting times for the Bartercard network, John is already in the process of developing a shared service model to support the requirements of the enlarged business and digital transformation will remain a key focus.
Members have a lot to look forward to in the coming months and years.
Admittedly John’s a bit biased, because he truly believes in the power of his product. His enthusiasm for not only the company but the people within it was apparent from the moment our conversation began.
It’s a big job, no one is denying that, but John has managed to utilise the time difference, and replacing his office chair for the golden sands of Surfers Paradise is accumulating no complaints, “Welcome to my new office,” he muses.
By Natalia Rietveld