Dwayne Martens: One of my employees was shopping in Officeworks one day. She was talking to the cashier and Howard overheard their conversation. He approached her and said, “I do smoothie packs” and told her he was interested in açaí. They got chatting and Lena came back to the office and said: “You have to meet this person!” I was young and not at the best stage in my business and needed experience to draw from. So I met up with Howard and it was perfect timing.
Howard Barkhan: The universe brought us together about three years ago. I met one of Dwayne’s employees sending off a parcel of açaí smoothie. I was in the smoothie business too, but had never heard of açaí so I got talking to her and after a few minutes she recognised my experience and insisted I meet her boss, Dwayne. That afternoon he called me for a meeting. We met the next day and the rest, as they say, is history.
A rock and a hard body
DM: Howard is a very good friend who I trust. He’s also been there, done that: he’s started a business, launched it onto the stock exchange, gone through big business, and lost it all as well. He’s able to give a third person perspective on the company, and he respects and supports what I do. He’s also not afraid to tell me when I’m doing something wrong. I need to draw on his experience if I want to become a strong, reputable businessman.
HB: Dwayne’s passion and energy is infectious and spending time working with him and achieving set objectives is highly gratifying. Dwayne is a mine of knowledge when it comes to health and I’m pretty much an exercise freak, so I grab any information he shares. The one thing that was missing from my life was stretching. Dwayne introduced me to it and it now forms part of my daily routine and has made such an incredible difference to me physically. Working with a young, dynamic entrepreneur helps to keep my fire burning.
It’s not personal
DM: I’m the visionary of the business and that’s my focus and my strength. We needed accountability with staff, because when we get someone in, we invest in them. Howard came in and helped me see that, when you’re hiring, you’re gaining IP and experience, which is such a powerful thing. I’ve now got people who ask the hard questions [for me].
HB: Essentially, Dwayne had the wrong people in the business. The company was trading on the brink of insolvency so we had to cut a lot of people. Dwayne is a very gentle soul and he found it difficult to manage the situation. He has a partner in Brisbane (the managing director and chief operating officer), who we put in charge of those resources so he could come down harder on them. It took the personal side out of things for Dwayne.
We now have A-grade people coming to us because this is the new dawn of enterprise
DM: I understand money makes the world go round, but I also understand this business needs to be something I’m proud of. We now have A-grade people coming to us because this is the new dawn of enterprise; doing good, ethical business. People really enjoy working in this kind of company. I’m surrounded by people who live and breathe our values, which means we have integrity and a strong purpose behind what we do.
HB: Make sure you employ the best person for a particular job and trust them to perform. Most entrepreneurs in young businesses want to be a part of every decision, which reduces the time they should be spending on more important contributions. We’ve now got the right people ‘on the bus’ as I call it; a great group of people who fit our culture. It’s showing in the results we’re generating.