Shifting to a leadership mindset

my-best-mistake-20120302-thumbTaking on a new role in a business can be daunting, particularly if you’re stepping into the shoes of the person who built the business.


But as Dave Dane found out, there’s no time to look back once you’ve made that leap.


Dane is the director of Refreshed Lemon Myrtle, which has developed a range of products including deodorant, soap, hand wash, body butter, air freshener, shampoo and conditioner.


Founded in 2002 by Greg Trevena, the business is based in Byron Bay and currently employs four staff. It recently signed off on a licensing deal with its US partner, Tea Tree Therapy.


“Originally, we were hoping to export finished products, but the worldwide economic downturn and subsequent unfavourable exchange rates changed the game during negotiations,” Dane says.


“By the time it got down to the wire, the dollar took off and we needed to find a way – besides export – to get into the US. We thought, why not do a licensing deal?”


The deal will see Refreshed products sold throughout the US, Canada and Mexico.


“This licensing arrangement has made it possible to enter the US market far more easily and cheaply than would have been the case if we tried to establish our own presence,” Dane says.


But before it had its sights set on the US, Refreshed had to assert itself in the local market. However, the business almost didn’t make it, prompting Dane to step up to the plate.


“I sold my two companies that I’d had for 28 years, which I founded. I sold those companies to a competitor and had a three-year non-compete clause in the contract,” Dane says.


“The guy who founded Refreshed Lemon Myrtle had been urging me to join him. I did so one day after the non-compete contract expired.”


Dane was initially hired as a consultant, but his position changed almost overnight when the founder announced his decision to remove himself from the company.


“Two and a half years after I started, the guy who started the company said corporate life was a bit too much and wanted to take a walk,” Dane says.


“I had put way too much time and effort into that company. I couldn’t let it fail, so a few of us purchased the company, with me being the major shareholder.”


“My biggest ‘mistake’ was changing my status from consultant to shareholder and director because of the massive amount of responsibility that involved.”


“A consultant gives advice that can be regarded or discarded. A director gives advice that has to be looked at very carefully, so your status changes considerably.”


“Success had always come easy – I had the Midas touch. Now I had to really, really work hard at success. It’s been quite a shock actually.”


Dane says while he initially felt overwhelmed in his new role, he soon realised the only way to keep the company afloat was to innovate.


“It only makes you more determined once you’ve been successful. The thought of failure makes you more determined, but it’s really difficult to be in business at this time,” he says.


“We’re investing more money into the company and we’re changing networks… We’re focused on pharmacies as opposed to health food [stores], and more focused on the internet.”


The company is aiming for half a million dollars in revenue this year, which, according to Dane, is “quite a bit up on what we’ve been doing”.


“Thirty years ago, you could come up as a grassroots company, but it’s now a very different world to operate in,” he says.


“Make sure you’ve got a really good product. Do your market research very well.”


“You’ve got to be determined… Expect to spend five years building it up to a point where you’re probably just starting to be happy with it all.”


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