NZBusiness caught up with CarbonClick CEO and entrepreneur Dave Rouse recently for his take on the current business climate, and to share some hard-earned advice.
With his youthful looks and boundless energy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dave Rouse is fresh out of university.
But for all his 39 years, this entrepreneur has more business mileage under his belt than men or women twice his age. Dave’s resumé includes everything from tech start-ups and software companies to thriving auto repair workshops.
His commitment, passion and pride towards his earlier business ventures earned him the supreme gong in the inaugural David Awards in 2008 – the business awards that acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of business owners in overcoming adversity.
In more recent years Dave has enjoyed the benefits of more solid financial resources and has channelled his funds and energies into philanthropic and social causes through initiatives such as CarbonClick. He admits to being motivated by the opportunity to do good for others, and to give something back to the business community.
“I’ve been lucky with the businesses I’ve owned and managed – most have performed really well,” he says. “But I’ve also had my knock-backs and seen some large amounts of money get swallowed up. Which, to be honest, gave me a new appreciation for money.
“It also made me think that if I’m going to give money away, it’s better to give it to a charity.”
This realisation, along with the birth of his son, motivated Dave to co-found Seacleaners Trust. He didn’t want his son to inherit a polluted planet – a planet which he believes other generations have lost touch with.
“It’s also good for your mental health – living in a concrete jungle and sitting in front of a TV or computer screen is no way to grow up.”
So how did his association with CarbonClick come about?
Dave has always wanted to give back to the business community and had busied himself with various boards and angel investment programs over several years. But when a golden opportunity came up to invest in carbon offsetting specialist CarbonClick, he saw it as a chance to “jump back in the hot seat” to fight global climate change.
“Carbon is the measurement unit, but there are a lot of projects which go far beyond carbon to improve biodiversity and social outcomes, and help encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint.”
A chance to reflect
Of course, with the arrival of a massive distraction called Covid-19, the world’s focus on addressing climate change has understandably temporarily diminished. But Dave can still see positives through all this disruption.
“Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to reflect. It has also pretty much put us all in the same team. I believe around 80 percent of the world’s businesses have struggled as a result of the pandemic, so now we’re all united in fighting a war. We’ve also got a once in a lifetime opportunity to make some real positive changes.”
He refers to climate change as ‘the Titanic’. “We were on a course to crash into the iceberg before. Now we have a unique chance, with the Titanic almost parked up, to change direction.
“There are also still a lot of business owners out there who need supporting. They’re our fallen soldiers, and businesses that have done OK through the pandemic have a moral obligation to help them out.”
Dave would like to see more support directed at the business community through special funding that would provide leadership and guidance for struggling business owners.
He predicts a number of technologies and opportunities leading businesses forward in the ‘new normal’ – changes to technologies such as fintech and e-commerce, for example, which has already proven to be the case overseas.
The convenience market will also accelerate, he says. “There’ll be a continuation of the drive towards localisation and online shopping. Supermarkets will start to become distribution centres, the energy sector will become increasingly disrupted with the move to electric vehicles, and the uptake of EVs will accelerate over the next five years.”
On lessons, advice and meditation
Ask Dave Rouse what has been the best piece of business advice he’s been given in his illustrious business career and he’ll reply, “That’s easy, ‘don’t take advice’!”
But there’s a serious message behind that seemingly flippant response. “It’s easy to be guided or misguided by one dominant advisor,” he explains. “If you end up with the wrong advisor, their best skills or teachings may not be transferable to what you’re doing.
“However, you do need to seek ideas. I use my mentors as an ideas pool to form my own strategies. Their advice is another card I put on the table to play – but it may not be a card that gets played.
“When I give people advice I tell them ‘this is not advice, this is an idea’. Form your own opinion – you know your business better than anybody else. Take some time out to assess everything and think outside the square.”
Dave admits that business has taught him the need to let your team make their own mistakes. “Like me, they’re on a journey too, and just like I’ve learned from my mistakes, they too must learn from theirs. If you’re at the centre of every decision you end up building a business around you, rather than building a scalable business.”
As mentioned earlier, today it’s CarbonClick and his desire for a more sustainable planet that drives Dave the most. He views it as his moral obligation.
“We have a ticking time bomb on our hands and we don’t have the luxury of waiting around.
“Businesses have an obligation to reduce their carbon footprint now. Conscious consumers want to actively participate in business’s sustainability journey. By offsetting carbon at point-of-sale, and combining that with a business’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint – that’s a powerful combination. Those customers then align better with those businesses – there’s more loyalty and conversion.”
So next time you’re at an e-commerce checkout look for the green button or tick-box and begin to reduce your carbon footprint, he says.
Meanwhile, if you’re personally finding the pandemic overly stressful, Dave recommends meditation as a way of getting through these challenging times and preserving your mental health.
“I’ve found meditation, delivered through an app called Headspace, helped me to grasp the bigger picture and make decisions. It also helps you to view Covid as a challenge, rather than a problem.”