Dion Nash: 'Listen as much as you talk'

INTERNATIONAL MAN OF BUSINESS: Dion Nash has found his way from international cricket to owner of male cosmetics brand Triumph & Disaster.
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INTERNATIONAL MAN OF BUSINESS: Dion Nash has found his way from international cricket to owner of male cosmetics brand Triumph & Disaster.

Dion Nash knows what it is like to start a small company with big ambitions. The former New Zealand cricketer played professional sport until he was 30 and has had a steep learning curve since.

After stints working in marketing for 42 Below vodka and Bacardi, Dion, 42, created male cosmetics brand Triumph & Disaster three years ago. He decided to launch his own business after being offered a job where "you spend more time on a plane than you do with your family".

That was an unattractive prospect - Dion is married to former New Zealand netballer Bernice Mene and they have three children aged 4, 6 and 8 - but he had another reason for wanting to do his own thing.

"I don't take direction very well," he says with a chuckle.

"Coming from a sporting background, I guess you are sort of self-­employed without realising it. I decided that it was now or never - before I was 40 - to get involved and start my own business."

Although small, the company is growing fast. It now employs four full time staff and sells its products to 400 stores worldwide, with a goal of expanding to 600 stores by mid­-2015.

Why male cosmetics?

"Having played cricket, when you're in the sun all day, I sort of knew this industry by industrial exposure to sunscreens and washing it off with soaps and making all the mistakes you can."

While in Brooklyn for his corporate marketing job, he had noticed lots of hipsters using men's products and, having been around men using them in the cricket world, he could see enormous potential - provided the products were successfully positioned to appeal to men.

That's where Triumph & Disaster is different, he says.

"(We're) making it OK to use the products, whereas previously it was a bit icky."

He says the hardest part of his foray into business has been creating sustainable momentum. Every time he gets to a new market, he has to acquaint new clients with a product they've never heard of. Breaking in is a "constant challenge".

"It takes a lot of energy and a lot of effort to get something up and running ­ and it continues to be."

Although the company was his idea, Dion says he has relied on the experience of others.

He has drawn enormous support from Mainfreight founder Bruce Plested - who famously celebrated his 70th birthday in 2012 by giving away $4 million in $1000 bonuses for his staff.

Having experienced the value of mentoring, Dion is happy to share his experience as an ambassador for 2degrees' Building Smarter Business initiative, which will see eight people receive one­-on­-one mentoring from a successful Kiwi businessperson - either Dion, restaurateur Al Brown, fashion designer Kate Sylvester, or Moa Beer CEO Geoff Ross.

Joining 2degrees has helped Dion keep his team better connected.

"It's important, especially as a young business. We're across both hemispheres and multiple time zones so it's important to be accessible regardless of where you are."

Nash says being able to share data and call time, and having both carry over if they aren't used, has also been great.

"We're making significant savings and as a small business, that adds up to us."

Dion says being connected to social media is also "vitally important" because it gives "real time access" to customers.

"It's probably our biggest outlet for marketing and reaching consumers. Getting it right and working it through and understanding it is an ongoing process.

"It's hard work because it's constant and it's ever­changing. We're totally committed to that as well. We believe it's the future.

"It is, in the end, marketing, but in the end it feels like it's more a conversation for us and that's important for us because you've got to listen as much as you talk."