speaker Q&A

Emerald Group's Diane Foreman on authenticity, John Key and business as a sport

If you were one of the many reading Diane Foreman's book In the Arena earlier this year, then you will know what an incredible businesswoman she is.

Foreman has grown successful businesses in health, property and of course, award-winning ice creams such as NZ Naturals. You can thank her for bringing Movenpick to our shores, too.

She built globally successful Emerald Foods, sold in June last year. Her accolades include making the top 11 in Forbes' 2014 Asia's Power Businesswoman List, being named 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.

Diane will be speaking at the Nurture Change Business Retreat about how to build a company that takes on the world.

Q. Who is a leader that you learnt something incredibly valuable from and what was the lesson you learnt from them?

A. I admire John Key because he has a wonderful ability to make everyone he encounters feel special and listened to.

I went to the Maori party farewell for their departing co leaders and Tiriana Turia said something like, "Although we didn't always agree, John Key never promised something he couldn't deliver and never delivered something he hadn't promised." I think this is a fantastic lesson in business. Working together and keeping all stakeholders informed is a key to success.

What lesson in business do you try to pass on to others and what does it mean to you?

Business is about integrity and authenticity. You are your business and your business is you. If you don't believe in your product, your people and your brand you should stop immediately. For me this means ensuring that every aspect of my business reflects me and what I stand for.

Who do you think is a great innovator and why?

I think that's an impossible question to answer because innovation happens in so many different ways and you can't compare medical innovations like antibiotics with something like the industrial revolution.

What has been your biggest learning in business to date and why?

Business is like sport - you can only get better if you play with people who are better than you. As a result, I hire very slowly and fire fast to ensure that I only bring on people who are much better than me and that I can learn from to improve my game.

If you were 21 again and could do any career you wanted, what would you be and why?

I would do exactly what I have done. I love business because in most other jobs you are selling time (think doctor, lawyer, accountant) but in business you are creating something which, if you do well, will pay you to have fun and work with awesome people and then you can sell the business. In fact you are creating two incomes from one job.

What are you most excited about in attending the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji?

I am looking forward to meeting other business people who want to be challenged and to hearing the other speakers who have all had amazing experiences they will be sharing. The best thing about conference retreats is that you get a chance to hear about the successes and failures of others and how to emulate their success and avoid the failures.

The Nurture Change Business Retreat is for business owners, senior managers and entrepreneurs looking for new ideas, space to think on their business, inspiration, relaxation and connection with others from the business community. The Business Retreat runs November 2 to 6 at the 5-star InterContinental Fiji and features more than 12 incredible speakers across business, health and wellness, plus other activities. Details online at www.nurturechange.com

Nurture Change and Fairfax are giving away four scholarships worth around $4500 each. Each scholarship covers airfares for one person, four nights accommodation, including breakfast, lunch & dinner (excluding drinks), access to the speakers, health and wellness and morning fitness sessions and question and answer sessions with business leaders. We have one scholarship in each of the following four categories: under 25s, education, innovation and general (i.e. open to any business). To enter applicants need to email businessday@fairfaxmedia.co.nz explaining in 250 words why they deserve to be awarded a scholarship. Entries close Midday, Monday, July 18, 2016. Only one entry per person. Winners must be available to depart New Zealand from either Auckland or Christchurch on November 2, 2016 and return on November 6, 2016. If you have already bought a ticket and win a scholarship, we will refund you in full. For full terms and conditions go to Stuff.co.nz.

As initially published on Stuff.co.nz and in the Sunday Star Times.

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