Mark Smith - Managing Director & Owner
My first real full time job was as a market green grocer in England (I only lasted 6 weeks as a trainee accountant).
Load the truck the night before, get up at 3am the next day put Donna Summer in the tape deck and drive to a market town in the Norfolk, Suffolk or Cambridge area.
I started working Saturdays at Sheringham, this involved getting up at 3am and push biking 6 miles to their yard. We would then drive to Sheringham, set up our stall, sell fruit and veg all day, pack up and go home, I got home about 7pm that night. I was 15 and my paper round hadn’t taught me enough about what work ethic meant I guess this is why I didn’t get a phone call to come to work the next week. But I would call the guy every Friday night, till one week they were short staffed and so he gave me another go. I made the decision that day that I would never mess up another opportunity in my life.
I moved to New Zealand in 1993, my mother was a kiwi and she had recently died so I wanted to see her side of the world. I decided on the plane that I wanted to get into sales.
My first job in Auckland was for a company called Cobra imports, they employed me on a commission only basis selling koala bear rucksacks and torches with radios in them, they sent me out round industrial estates in Mangere.
I did that for 3 days, I wanted something better.
Next was a job selling advertising for Carlton Publishing, again commission only, luckily here one of the top reps took me under his wing and gave me some sales training, things were looking up until the company went into receivership.
By now my main goal was to own a cellphone, so I decided to approach some cellphone companies and ask them for a job. Cellphone City in Cook St gave me a job, with a salary and commission. I worked in the cell phone industry for the next 10 years.
In August 1999 I brought a rubbish truck for a mate Steve I played pool with at the Empire Tavern (great pub). Steve used to work for a company called Trash Man, they got gobbled up by one of the big players and he didn’t like working for them.
People ask me now why I did that, I did it to give him a job and provide him with an opportunity to work. As I have always been the person that needed the job / opportunity and I was finally in a position to be able to give this to someone else.
I had been working in the corporate industry and the culture and lack of customer focus didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to see if I could grow a business by doing the right thing by the customer and employees, not cutting corners.
Another mate of mine Rodger, also a pool player at the same pub, liked this crazy idea enough to invest in it, both his money and his time. By 2003 we had both chucked in our full time (well paying) jobs and decided to work full time on building this vision, whilst paying ourselves the $15k per year each that the business could afford.
In 2001 we purchased our first box body truck to enable us to offer a recycling service. By providing a mixed recycling bin it made it easier for our customers to recycle more and therefore reduce their waste. We set up our own sorting plant and employed staff to hand sort the recycling to a high standard.
Rodger spent the next 15 years working with me growing the team at Rubbish Direct and left for bigger and better things in 2015. There were a lot of laughs and some good parties along the way.
I’ve learned loads, but most importantly the importance of continually learning, not reacting, and that at the end of the day it is all about people.