Deirdre dived right in at Wai Comply
Deirdre is someone who is happy to jump in the deep end. She started her role as CEO of a Drinking Water Compliance start-up Wai Comply on 1 April 2020; right at the beginning of the country’s first lockdown. Fortunately, that didn’t faze her. She set her sights on the horizon and got moving immediately.
“Wai Comply is a drinking-water compliance advisory company. Our goal is to generate pure and simple solutions that help our clients achieve sustainable and safe drinking-water compliance practices,” explained Deidre.
“My first quarter plan included developing an external support system beyond the organisation with a mentor. It was especially important in the fast-moving Covid environment. Within days of starting, I applied for a mentor to give me an external sounding board.”
“I needed a sounding board for honest, unbiased feedback on strategy and approaches to building the company and test ideas in a safe environment. Within an organisation, there will always be inbuilt biases that are impossible to overcome.”
The first mentor meeting got things flowing well
Deirdre and her Mentor, Murray Seamark, got into the flow of things at once. Deirdre says they connected from the first meeting.
“Murray’s own business journey shares some parallels with mine. He’s worked within a compliance-driven environment and has led a first-to-market brand.”
Things began just as swimmingly from Murray’s perspective.
“Deirdre was a driven, well-educated, smart woman – I’d have her on my team anytime. But anyone can benefit from a sounding board from time to time. It’s good to have some outside reassurance when you’re growing a business.”
Wai Comply has expertise that meets a rapidly growing demand of increased national and local focus on drinking-water quality. Deirdre is working hard to ensure the company navigates a strong growth path. She was upfront about this with her Business Mentor.
“I left a career in senior management in a corporate environment, with 2000 odd staff and I came to an entrepreneurial environment of two people, where I was number three!
“A big focus was getting some feedback on our growth strategy. I wanted a fresh perspective on our plans for developing new business, building credibility for the organisation and creating strategic relationships. Murray was supportive and affirming. He also shared things he’d learnt on his journey.”
Murray explained, “I’ve also developed a start-up. Along the way I learnt a great deal about the value of relationships and negotiations. I remember that at times we got to the wire, but we refined and diversified, eventually outgrowing our facility and building a new purpose-built one.”
“I’ve enjoyed being able to give Deirdre the benefits of my experience and perhaps save her some learning time.”
“Murray provided a wealth of insight by stepping me through what those first few years would feel like; what to expect and anticipate," said Deirdre.
“He was able to say, ‘This is okay, this is normal; it’s the usual growing pains of a business.”
“He reminds me not to sweat the small stuff and challenges me to think about things over ten years and ask, will this thing be material then?”
“Murray supported my decision to start Te Reo Māori as part of our organisational commitment and core values in supporting mātauranga Māori and Te Mana o Te Wai.”
Wai Comply has moved to a new level
“I had to figure out how to build something from very little. I’m a self-starter, but it was scary. There was nothing to manage, so you had to be resourceful and determined.”
Deirdre says being clear about the support you need has helped her get the most from mentoring.
“I don't need to check in with my Murray all the time, but sometimes I need to work through something, and it's good to have him there. We click on our approach. He enjoys keeping things at a strategic level.”
Deirdre has taken Wai Comply to the next stage of growth. The company now has ten staff and operates at a national scale.
The journey is fulfilling
Deirdre says she’s also developed personally. “My mindset has grown. I don’t expect everything to be perfect and I don’t expect to win everything. Instead, it’s about letting everyone win. Big corporates can bully and call the shots. In small business, I win: you win: we both win.”
Murray has found mentoring equally rewarding.
“I get the satisfaction of adding value to someone else’s dream and knowing that there’s benefit in my hard experience.
“I was semi-retired – my world got very small. Through mentoring, I donate and add value. I love to see small business thrive – it’s the underpinning of our economy.
“I like to help others and show that the journey matters as much as the destination.”