Born and raised in East Auckland, Daniel Barker initially went to AUT to complete a Bachelor of Health Sciences. “I didn’t fall in love with it,” he told SupermarketNews, “so I decided to leave and work for a year, while I decided what I wanted to do.”

That year off turned into a whole career, one that has seen Barker rise from humble beginnings as a meat assistant at Countdown Botany to become the store manager of Countdown Howick. “When I first started my full-time role, I got really excited about being able to sell stuff that we were told ‘doesn’t sell’,” said Barker.

“It all started when I was meat manager at Countdown Aviemore Drive, and Brett Ashley, the general manager of operations and supply chain, visited and challenged me to come up with a way to sell beef cheeks.” Ever since then, Barker has looked for different ways to sell products not traditionally pushed in the supermarket. “This is what drives me to push the boundaries of what we traditionally do as a business.”

Day-to-day, Barker leads his team with the principle of ‘team first, customer first.’ “I see my team as my customer and adopt the mentality that if they are happy in their role and store, they will do what they can to pass that onto our customers.” When it comes to leadership and team management, Barker cites British entrepreneur Richard Branson as a source of continual inspiration. “A lot of his talks and teachings are not around how to be successful and how to grow your empire,” Barker explained. “They are about how you treat your team and the time you put into them.”

By challenging his team constantly and pushing them to see what they can achieve, Barker ensures that there is always a goal to aim for and a sense of accomplishment in achieving that goal. “Don’t have a plan B,” Barker said. “Plan B is a safety net that teaches us there is another option. If we don’t have a plan B we have one option, and that is to succeed. We don’t fail, we learn. “

Such unwavering, principled thought can perhaps be attributed to Barker’s other great hero – bodybuilder Nathan Williamson. Williamson has discussed managing the complexities of modern life using the vivid metaphor of a clown spinning plates. “We all have plates in our lives, each one representing a certain part of our life,” Barker explained. “When one plate wobbles, we need to put time into it, whether it be family, business or ourselves, and after a while that plate will begin to spin on its own for a while. But for us to be successful as well as get a good work life balance, all plates must be spinning at once.”

Despite his driven work ethic, Barker is not one to undervalue leisure time. When he’s not spinning the plates at work, he enjoys a spot of touch rugby in the summer and tending to his hobby of Lego (the adult stuff, he was quick to point out). He also loves to travel, with Fiji and Australia top of his list, as well as America.

Later this year, he’ll be taking a well-earned trip to the West Coast of the USA. “Retail is such a fast-paced industry, if you blink, you miss it. I have brought this into my personal life: enjoy the moment, don’t sweat the little things and always look forward.”