The Work Life Balancing Act – One Man’s Story

Spend a few minutes talking to Nic Paterson, co-founder and majority owner of the Number 8 Retail Group, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that life is good for the 45 year-old fitness fanatic and father of three from the North Shore. His enthusiasm for both work and family life is infectious – which is a good thing when you consider the business has grown from a single petrol station in 1993 to a company that employs over 600 people across 80 locations throughout New Zealand, Queensland and Hong Kong in 2015. He’s a busy guy.

Even if you’re not familiar with the Number 8 Retail Group by name, there’s a good chance you’ll know the franchised brands they operate in New Zealand. They include Fix convenience stores, Burgerfuel restaurants, Jester’s Pies outlets, many BP and Caltex service stations and some 50 Subway restaurants. If ever anyone had an excuse to tip the work/life balance in favour of work, it’d be Nic – but that’s not how he sees things.

“It was a decision I made very early on in life – and especially later when the kids came along – I decided that my kids and my wife would always come first. The most enjoyment I get out of life is when I’m with them. That’s the way I’ve always been” he says.

It’s a simple recipe for Paterson – figure out what is most important in life and put those things first, no matter what.

“I love work, I go to work and enjoy it and I have really good people around me, but the first thing that goes in my diary each week is what my kids have got on and what my wife has got on. In fact, I put work third, because behind the kids and my wife, there’s me” Paterson says of his approach to the work/life balancing act many of us get wrong.

He admits quite frankly that if he’s not able to get out and do the things that make him feel good in his body and mind, then he’s not going to be able to make the best decisions at work or at home.

“I’m pretty fit” he casually remarks before proceeding to mention the various Ironman events he’s participated in. “I believe that to be good as a dad, husband and businessperson you’ve got to be a good leader who has clear thoughts. My best thoughts come when I’m actually not in the office, they come when I’m out and about either with the kids or running or cycling.”

He goes on to say that being able to adapt when you realise the balance has gone askew is another skill that’s vitally important to maintaining balance. When work does occasionally get on top of him, it’s his ability to realise this and act on it that allows him to pull things back into some form of equilibrium.

“I’m a very values driven person and I know when things aren’t going right inside me and I can make little adjustments to fix it. I know what balance means to me.”

You get the feeling talking to Nic that he’s built his businesses around a family model so that, in fact, going to work isn’t so much a job, as it is a coming home.

“We’re very much a family business”, Nic says of Number8. “We’ve got my brother, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, my three sons work in our business, I have nieces and nephews all working with us.”

He tries to extend that family feel across the business and reckons that in order to get the best out of people, you have to create an environment where people actually enjoy coming to work each day.

“If your team are happy, they’re going to do a much better job for you. As a leader it’s up to me to try and make them happy. We have a pretty cool office set up with games and pool tables because we want them to have fun. We want work to be a cool place to come, not a drag for them. You don’t want them to wake up in the morning and think ‘aww jeez I’ve got to go to work’”, Paterson grins.

And what of the future for Nic Paterson? It looks very much like a case of ‘why change a good thing?’

“We’ve got a pretty good balance at the moment. We’ve got a lot of good brands that we work with and all of them have got growth potential. I suppose at some stage I might look at stepping back a bit, but at the moment it’s fun and it’s good and the balance is there.”

Nic Paterson joined Ben Fahey, BNZ’s Head of Commercial & Growth Markets for a Q&A session at the 2015 Deloitte Festival of Fast Growth of which BNZ is a proud sponsor. BNZ is also proud to bank 26 of the 50 fastest growing companies in New Zealand this year. Congratulations to everyone on the 2015 Deloitte Fast 50 Index.