Meet the boss: ecostore’s Malcom Rands

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Malcolm Rands’ ecostore products are in more than 2000 outlets in Australia. Malcolm Rands’ ecostore products are in more than 2000 outlets in Australia.
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Malcolm Rands’ ecostore products are in more than 2000 outlets in Australia.

Malcolm Rands’ ecostore products are in more than 2000 outlets in Australia.

He may be based over the ditch in New Zealand, but Malcolm Rands’ business success is keenly felt here in Australia. The brand he’s worked on since 1993, ecostore, is stocked in more than 2000 Australian stores, including nationally in both Coles and Woolworths.

With turnover of around $33 million, the business has grown exponentially since it began in a small permaculture ecovillage where Rands still spends a lot of time.

“For eight years I learned all the good habits and issues around nasty chemicals. I thought, ‘the rest of the world might like this as well.'”

Getting into the supermarkets was a key part of his success: “Our philosophy has always been to make it easy and pleasurable for people to make a difference. In the end, where you buy your dishwashing liquid, shampoo or laundry powder is not through mail order or a funny little shop, it’s in the supermarkets. We had to be there.” Rands partially credits his success in business to his background in not-for-profits.

“People who successfully run not-for-profits are incredible businesspeople. You have no money, and you don’t even have a team you can tell what to do – you have volunteers … The first day I started a business it was so refreshing. I could make a decision and do it two minutes later, rather than wait two months for it to go through a committee,” he laughs.

Today, with 27 staff, things may not be quite as instant, but he’s comfortable with his role at the helm, where the focus is often on mentoring.

“I want to make sure my team members are the best they can possibly be: I’m not going to dwell on what they’re bad at, that’s a waste of time for everyone. I’m going to help them understand what they’re really good at, and make sure they’re doing that.”

CURRICULUM VITAE

Name: Malcolm Rands

Current position: Co-founder and CEO of ecostore, as well as leader of ecostore’s not-for-profit arm, Fairground Foundation.

Responsibilities: Strategic direction and development of ecostore and the overall running of the business. Also heavily involved in new product development.

Education: Selwyn College, Auckland; University of Auckland (Engineering degree, not completed); Additional training/courses: Alumni, University of Auckland Business School, 2012; Alumni, The Prince of Wales, Business and Sustainability Program, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability, 2014.

Professional associations: Many and varied, including: Founding member of the Environmental Business Network; Member of the voting assembly of Greenpeace;  Board member of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Honourable mentions: Many and varied, including: Winner of two Environmental Awards from the Auckland Regional Council, 2001; Finalist, NZ Entrepreneur of the Year, 2008; Sustainability Champion at the NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards, 2014.

Strength: Because I’ve come from a consensus decision-making model both in my early career and in our ecovillage, I can work as a very collaborative boss. I don’t have a massive ego and have to get my way. We run a flat structure; the great thing with that is that people end up owning their decisions. That’s very motivating.

Weakness: It’s always been that if I understand something I think everyone else will as well. Sometimes I get too far ahead of my team and haven’t explained things well enough, because I assume they’ll know. It’s caused me problems.

Management style and tips: If you want to be successful in the future, you have to look at the way the most successful companies in the world are doing it.

Work motto: Imagine the future, and do it now.

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