Perusing Renaissance CEO Richard Webb’s curriculum vitae reveals a background in the FMCG industry — something which also features in the CV of his colleague Bronwyn Sinclair, the company’s chief distribution officer and also a recent Coffee Break interviewee.
Readers could be forgiven for thinking such a background is a prerequisite for working at the company, but for Webb, it was one of the early fields of work in a career that would take him into many industries in several nations.
An expat American, Webb’s early career was hallmarked by roles in the food and beverage sector, including engineering for a major brewery - Anheuser-Busch - and subsequently for Pepsi. And, this all happened by the time he reached the age of 26.
Webb says Pepsi was an innovative and supportive organisation, providing one of the best possible places of employment in the 1980s.
“By the time I was 26 I was in charge of the engineering for Pepsi in New York. It was an early exposure to a large geographic territory.
“Pepsi was ranked one of the best employers to work for by Fortune magazine six of the eight years I was working there. It was a fascinating time.”
The cola giant sent him to Singapore and while there he was head-hunted by Lion Nathan. Being recruited by the brewery gave him his first taste of life downunder, with a move to Australia in 1989.
He enjoyed Sydney so much he wanted to stay longer than the three-year work permit he had been granted, which called for some creative thinking.
“I found out there was a way to stay in the country if I created 45 jobs. Then I could become a permanent resident.”
He started a company in the food industry to help create these jobs and was successful in extending his stay. He than worked as a director at design company The Inspiration Room and because it had customers in New Zealand, he made several visits here.
He also counts among his CEO roles stints at Citect and Australian web intelligence provider Red Sheriff. After leaving Citect in 2006, he founded Australian-based business incubator Red Ocean.
Webb says Citect has some similarities to Renaissance.
“That was a publicly listed company that was very similar to Renaissance in terms of staff numbers and revenue streams, but it operated in 80 countries and Renaissance is focused on the New Zealand market.”
After joining Citect in 2004, he changed the way it sold business-focused products.
“We built the company up to the point where we were approached by a French conglomerate called Snider Electrics and acquired by them.
“This is my third stint as CEO at a publicly listed company. I think there is an amazing future for Renaissance on a number of fronts.”
Webb says Renaissance will be selling more IT offerings to companies in the food and beverage sector he knows so well, and in other new markets.
“We are strong in government and education, but we have scope to go into other industry verticals, whether they be food, beverage, medical or financial services.”
He is also researching retail sites to get ideas for its Magnum Mac stores.
“We are looking at launching a new website aimed at taking new concepts in retail to market.”
The new leadership team at Renaissance has concluded a major restructure of the business, and Webb is positive about the company’s future.
“We have a range of new products, such as IP appliances, that we are developing organically in house that we expect to release to the market this year. We’re also planing to rebrand how we present the company to the market and changing the look and feel of our 11 retail stores.
“I am having a ball right now and I have had some great experiences.”
Having done business North America and Asia, Webb has adjusted to the style of doing business in the Australian and New Zealand markets.
“We speak the same language but there are subtle cultural differences. The best thing we can do is understand those differences.”
When he is not in the office, Webb’s love of outdoor sports keeps him busy and he reckons New Zealand is the perfect country to indulge in these pursuits.
“I am a sailor and recently tried stand-up paddling. I also do surfing and snowboarding, so I am really looking forward to the winter season starting.”
He also plays tennis and golf when he gets the chance.
Webb played rugby union at university in the US, due to the influence of a Kiwi roommate.
“I played in an old boy’s tournament in Sydney a year ago that was fun, even though I broke a couple of ribs.”
He has four children ranging in age from 14 to 26. Two live in Sydney while the other two are in the US.
“I am back in Sydney a lot so I catch up with them then,” says Webb.