After having spent pretty much his whole working life at Heinz Wattie’s, in 2015 Shane Webby decided the timing was perfect to give his career a new turn, and joined sales and merchandising firm Twin Agencies as their new general manager.
He now owns the majority of the company, with the rest, interestingly enough, being owned by key staff members. “Having a team that is so passionate about our brands is one of our secret weapons,” he said.
Webby grew up on his family’s dairy farm in the Waikato but, as much as he enjoyed helping out, farming wasn’t his life’s calling. Encouraged by his parents, he left the small town of Matamata and enrolled in a four-year Bachelor of Management Studies degree at Waikato University, majoring in Economics and Marketing. Right after uni, while he was still figuring out what to do, a space management job at Progressive paved the way to a possible career path.
“As much as many graduates do, I knew I wanted to work in marketing or management, and to be honest I didn’t really know FMCG sales existed,” he said. “My experience at Progressive helped me get an understanding of all the behind-the-scenes action going on between retailers and suppliers to actually get a product on a shelf, and I really liked the impact I could have on supermarkets, which therefore influences what people buy.”
One year later, Webby joined Heinz Wattie’s and, over the 16 years that followed, has filled different sales roles within it. His career led him to key account manager positions, including six years as Progressive account lead, and time as head of International Business, before he moved on to his final role of head of sales, which he held for the following six years.
In 2015, when Twin Agencies’ founder Wayne Sands offered him the chance to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning his own business, Webby seized it and bought the majority of the company. It proved to be a winning bet, as last year the SMA agency was recognised by Coalface Consulting as number one overall customer satisfaction, against pretty big fishes such as Heinz Wattie’s, Coke and Fonterra.
“We’ve got a couple of unique things here. We do focus on NZ brands only and we don’t have a big book of brands, only eight. In addition, we really value our pool of merchandisers. On top of that, we have our ‘area managers’ who service the stores, and our key account teams, all capable, dedicated and passionate. It’s important for our brands and for us to make sure we’re delivering to our customers’ needs, every day”.
Although Twin Agencies are not actively looking for new brands to add, Webby likes to catch up with small, emerging business owners.
“There are so many of them who are trying hard. Having a little bit of insight, I can maybe help give them some assistance,” he said. “A bit of advice would be ‘think big’, think how you can scale it, and make sure you’re talking to your consumers, get to know your end user.”
Recently, Webby has been elected to the FGC’s Board and hopes to make a difference, raising the voice of small-medium NZ businesses and SMAs in particular.
As wise men say, though, man shall not live by work alone; Webby has four kids, three boys and a girl, who was named Sienna after the Italian Tuscan town he and his wife had fallen in love with. “My kids sort of grew with me through those Wattie’s days, and I might say moving away has been interesting for them too because they are now allowed to buy other products,” Webby said, laughing. “They’re really passionate about our fantastic brands, the current favourite being, of course, Whittaker’s.”