Saying goodbye to numbers

Ecoya and Trilogy CEO Stephen Sinclair.
Ecoya and Trilogy CEO Stephen Sinclair.

Stephen Sinclair has a long and interesting CV. Currently chief executive officer of personal care and home fragrance brands Trilogy and NZX-listed Ecoya, he's a founding director at venture capital firm The Business Bakery. Sinclair was promoted from Ecoya’s chief operating officer to CEO last October - swapping numbers for leadership having been CFO at Empower, Netco and 42 Below.

He chatted to Unlimited about leadership, saying goodbye to numbers and his plans for the year ahead.  

What are the most important qualities in a leader?

I believe the most important qualities are ensuring that you have the right team to support you in setting and delivering on strategy. Whilst being directive and confident in your decision making, you need to ensure that your strategy is inclusive and your team buys in to the business direction and strategy. You should also be willing to take calculated risks to enhance and grow your business.

Who inspires you?

There is not one person in particular who inspires me. I am inspired by motivation to succeed and achieve. I like being surrounded by people who have the same goals and work ethic, people who want to achieve something out of each day and not just sit back and wait for something to happen.

Do you have a mentor?  

I do not have one mentor in particular. There are a number of people who have been influential in moulding my career. During my time at global accountancy firm PwC, I learned a lot from one manager in particular. He is a very straight thinking person who helped me focus on the key issues and not to over-complicate problem solving. Post-PwC the person who has taught me the most is one of my business partners, Grant Baker. I have learned important every day commercial skills in the 14 years I have worked with Grant. We have achieved a huge amount working together over this time and I thrive on Grant's motivation to succeed.

You were a numbers man for many years, how have you found the shift to CEO?

My career has developed and moved away from number-crunching in the early days to a broader commercial focus. My financial roles at Empower, 42 Below and Ecoya have all been very hands on and commercial, so that has placed me in good stead for a CEO role. I have not found the shift to CEO to be a particularly big challenge for me. The biggest challenge now is to continue to create 'eco-luxe' home fragrance and personal care products that people love, lead the team to achieve growth at home and abroad, and have some fun along the way.

What did 2012 teach you? 

Investment and innovation is vital to building brands and achieving growth and success. We invested in our brands, new products, retail and online which has laid the groundwork for continued growth in 2013. At Ecoya, we introduced our new Madison Jar which has more burn time, more fragrance throw and offers even more value for customers. This has been a hit with customers and sales have gone gangbusters. At Trilogy, we launched Rosehip Oil Antioxidant+ which is such a big seller that now, every 60 seconds, someone in the world is buying a bottle on Trilogy Rosehip Oil. So, 2012 was a successful  year – we did what we said we were going to do and there’s a real sense of achievement that goes with that. That said, we want to achieve even bigger and better things in 2013.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?  

To always simplify your thinking. Business is about simple strategy and focus. Over-complicating matters risks missing the simple piece of strategy that you need to deliver the best results. Ensure you have the right team to deliver your business strategy.