Today, I share with you my decision to step down as CEO of Soda after six incredibly rewarding years at the helm. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to have led an organisation that has made a significant difference to countless business owners and entrepreneurs, not only in the Waikato but throughout New Zealand.

Working alongside remarkable individuals and teams has been an absolute joy. This decision was not made lightly, but I have always been guided by the belief that one should leave when the time is right. Today, I wholeheartedly believe that now is the right time to step aside and pass the reins to someone new.

This decision to step down at year-end is not due to a lack of enthusiasm but reflects my belief that Soda is ready to soar to new heights independently of me. I am confident that the time is right, and that Soda will continue to go from strength to strength for a multitude of reasons.

Why am I so confident?

1. The Team

Our team is exceptionally strong, passionate about what they do, and dedicated to those they serve. They possess the capabilities needed to guide the organisation seamlessly into this next chapter. Throughout this year, I have witnessed team members naturally stepping into leadership roles across our organisation. As such, I have found myself in the role of a coach, cheerleader, and most often, the weekly coffee-order extraordinaire.

2. The Board

I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with two exceptional Chairs and an extremely supportive group of Directors during my tenure. Having such commercially focused, diverse perspectives, and depth of specialty expertise has been invaluable in shaping Soda's success over the past six years. Each has brought their unique leadership styles and unwavering support. I extend heartfelt thanks to Dr Andy West (current Chair), Graham Gaylard (past Chair), Rob Heebink, Kim Hill, and John Wilkinson. Your vision and encouragement to always think big and punch above our weight, while never losing sight of putting the well-being of individuals first (clients and team) has been significant. I know that Andy, Kim, and John will continue to actively guide Soda into an exciting and positive future. We could not have achieved half of what we have over the past six years without this united and aligned leadership. Thank you.

3. The Strategy

With a robust and tested strategy in place, we remain steadfast in our commitment to enhancing the strength and profile of businesses throughout the Waikato. We continue to collaborate closely with numerous stakeholders in our community, and this collaborative spirit is our secret advantage as a region. I extend my gratitude to all our corporate partners, government agencies, and local providers who make this possible.

4. Funding

In the face of challenges presented by a pandemic and evolving government funding policies, Soda has continued to secure robust funding. This financial stability has empowered Soda to continually invest in its talented team and prioritise customer needs through the creation and implementation of innovative programmes and collaborative efforts. Soda is committed to working closely within its network to ensure that vital business growth support is channelled to where it can make the most significant impact and extend its reach. This collaborative approach with strategic partners will further amplify and leverage our influence.

On behalf of Soda, I also want to express our gratitude to MBIE and Callaghan Innovation for their unwavering support and continued backing of our mission. Additionally, we extend our sincere appreciation to all the mentors and corporate partners who have played a pivotal role in supporting the entrepreneurs and businesses we work with. Special thanks to ASB, Gallagher Group, Deloitte, Norris Ward McKinnon, Minter Ellison Rudd Watt and Tompkins Wake for their generous pro bono hours and advice. Your contributions have enabled us to drive our mission forward and making a real impact in the business community.

From a personal perspective, I see this transition as akin to a parent realising their child is ready to spread their wings and fly solo. It's time to prepare Soda for its next chapter, welcoming new energy and perspectives for even greater success. As for me, I plan to take a few months off to attend to personal matters. I am moving house after over a year-long renovation, and I have another ultramarathon to complete before the year is through. My next career move is still taking shape, but I can confidently say that Soda has set a high standard for what I seek in future challenges, teams, and Boards I work with.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has been part of my journey and Soda's incredible growth over the last six years. Your unwavering support, passion, and dedication to our shared mission have been instrumental. Know that I leave with immense pride in all we've achieved together. I eagerly look forward to witnessing Soda continue to thrive and make an even greater positive impact.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your CEO; it is now time to hand over the baton. I will be cheering you all on from the sidelines.