Fast mover's thrill is to mentor others

Successful Bizzone founder as committed to helping the homeless as to her bottom line.

Having to run her father's firm at age 26 was a key experience for Sarah Trotman.
Having to run her father's firm at age 26 was a key experience for Sarah Trotman.

Describe your childhood.

I grew up in Silverstream in Wellington and attended St Michaels Primary and St Mary's College. Mum and Dad were great role models and standards were very high in our household. I have four siblings who I think are all significantly more intelligent than me!

What is your first memory of being a leader?

I was 26 and working for my father when he was in a serious accident, which immediately took him out of the business altogether. One day I was his right-hand woman, the next day I was the CEO and the buck stopped with me. Being responsible for 25-plus staff and a multi-million dollar business at only 26 was exhilarating but challenging.

Tell us about someone who has been a mentor to you.

The late Sir James Fletcher was a champion of the free Business Mentor Programme when I was the CEO. We grew the programme by 70 per cent to mentor 5000 businesses per year. Sir James gave me great guidance in managing that sort of fast-paced high growth.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

The Deloitte Fast 50 recognising my business, Bizzone, as the fastest growing business in New Zealand, 100 per cent owned by a woman.

What was a low moment and how did you deal with it?

Taking my business model into Australia undercapitalised and being hit by the global financial crisis at the same time. Entrepreneurs live in the future, in the space of what is possible, so it hurt to have my ambitious global plans stopped in their tracks. I would not have recovered so quickly if not for the support of family, close friends and some loyal business suppliers and associates. I owe a debt of gratitude to my business bank, too.

What annoys you?

People who are not prepared to take a risk, as well as those who adopt the "tall poppy syndrome" for people that do.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.

I was a territorial soldier, so quite capable of digging trenches in the pouring rain at three in the morning!

How would your colleagues describe you?

I think most would describe me as ambitious for my projects and, those I mentor, as strategic, courageous, fast-moving and mobilising. Others may describe me as demanding, impatient and intolerant of "average".

Who is a leader you admire?

I believe Sir Ron Carter is our greatest living New Zealander. Sir Ron has built a business that has generated significant wealth for New Zealand and many jobs for New Zealanders. He is also an individual who encourages New Zealanders to be all they can be, which is his greatest gift to the country.

What do you think will be an important business issue in the next decade?

The next generation of New Zealand business leaders coming through are deeply committed to doing good; for people and the environment. They will choose to work for and lead organisations that are committed to similar values and they will be uncompromising.

What would you most like to be remembered for?

For my commitment to the social fabric of our country, mentoring business owners in New Zealand, supporting people out of homelessness through the Lifewise Big Sleepout and as a great mum, albeit one that can't cook.

Who is a New Zealand leader you think has the 'Blake Factor'?

Derek Handley, new Adjunct Executive Professor at AUT University Business School. Derek recognises the importance of looking after people and the environment as well as the bottom line. His commitment to Richard Branson and The BTeam is admirable. I like, too, that he's prepared to encourage and support the next generation of business leaders.

What is the best part about being a Blake Leader?

The Sir Peter Blake Trust supporters and recognised leaders are outstanding, highly respected individuals but they are also very real. They are risk-takers who have experienced both the highs and lows of being courageous and are a trusted family of sage confidantes.

Sarah Trotman

Sarah Trotman is the Director of Business Relations at AUT Business School, where she oversees the AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards, student leadership initiatives and other industry engagement strategies. She has been chief executive of the Business Mentor Programme, championed by the late Sir James Fletcher, and an advocate for the nation's business owners. A former territorial soldier, Ms Trotman also commits her time to a number of community initiatives, such as the Lifewise Big Sleepout for the homeless, as well as mentoring business owners and individuals. In 2006, she received a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award and is now a director of the Business Excellence Foundation and a trustee for the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

- NZ Herald

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