Knook #5: Method
In the majority of venues, airports, hubs and office spaces I’ve been through in the last 18 months, one company has been there too.
Method make beautifully designed recycling bins, and their product has become so pervasive, I’m actually surprised when I don’t see them.
I caught up with India Korner, who started the company with her husband Steven, to find out more about Method.
“Method’s purpose is to empower workplace communities to create a better tomorrow,” says India.
“We’ve designed our bins as part of the modern workspace to bring recycling out into the open plan. We design and manufacture 60 litre bins as the physical product, but we also create resources for our clients, to bring a holistic approach to how businesses handle their waste.
“We’re looking to promote sustainability with a strong design focus, both on interaction with customers and the product.
“We’ve also got young kids ourselves - that’s a pretty simple motivation to make a better tomorrow. We recycle at home so why not get people recycling at work?”
I asked India how Method got started.
“We owned our own waste products business called Total Bins, selling bins and bin liners etc. As we were running Total Bins, we realised that the waste and recycling space would really benefit from some good design. Being in that space allowed waste management to be front of mind.
“My background was in office leasing and Steven’s background was as a product engineer, so we both had the knowledge and insight to know what the customer needed and then execute it really well.”
A real strength in Method’s business journey has been their market research and understanding the waste journey.
“As we were developing the product, we undertook lots of focus groups and interviews. We even did some midnight cleaning shifts to understand what our stakeholders needed. On one of those midnight shifts, Steven saw a cleaner tying bins in a particular way to stop them from slipping into the bin. This led to designing the bag retainer, a key feature of our bin.
“It was also a key aspect of helping embed a focus on functionality and design in Method from the beginning.”
I asked India what unexpected challenges they’ve come up against.
“We’ve always been ambitious but I guess we didn’t think through how quickly Method would take off. We’ve had to remember that we can’t do all of the things one hundred percent of the time. Sometimes we’ve been guilty of trying to do things too fast and we’ve needed to peg it back. So it’s been about learning to say no in order to manage our growth.
“We’ve also had the classic growing pains like cash flow, who to work with and who to work for them. And while our export part of the business has taken off, we’ve also underestimated the sheer volume of work in the UK,” India says.
“Of course, working with your spouse and having a young family brought its own challenges.”
I asked India what she sees as key to their ability to scale quickly.
“We own the tooling but we’re contract manufactured in New Zealand, and we manage our warehousing and freight through third-party logistics. It’s made it much easier to manage growth and scale up because we’re not trying to manage the same levels of stock and all the challenges that come with that.
“For us, the deals themselves were easy with great timing and a good product - great design resonates with our customers. Our first deal was an office building with 12 floors with 2000sqm per floor (24,000 sqm) which was massive. But it reinforced to us that despite our size at the time, a real focus on a well-designed, functional product could get us those big sales.”
I asked India what sales and marketing tools they’ve used to build the brand’s reputation.
“We’re running the business quite bootstrapped - so we have a huge emphasis on targeting and proactively prospecting.
“You’ve got to have passion for your product and for sales. A lot of companies presume that a good product alone will drive growth. In the early days, we did all of the of marketing ourselves, but as we’ve grown we’ve put more investment into that space and now have a marketing team of three - which has ramped our inbound sales leads, built our brand, and played a large role in our content-driven focus. We’ve got a great team of sales people on the ground doing the legwork - so our investment in dedicated salespeople has paid off. We recently moved to the Hubspot CRM system too, which combines sales, marketing and support giving us an invaluable single view of the customer.
“The other thing for us is that high profile customers breed high profile customers. We’ve had some great brands and partners come on board and that’s helped us build credibility.
“We’ve also been willing to adjust our sales strategy depending on which market we are operating in. For example, in Australia, 73% of our sales are direct to the customer, as opposed to resellers, because it’s what works there. But in the UK only 8% of our sales are direct.”
As they’ve grown their export presence, I asked India if they’ve noticed any particular differences in the way that Australia or the UK conduct business.
“I think we’ve realised that international companies don’t bootstrap as much as we do. As Kiwis, we’re typically more careful on where we spend money.
“It’s been quite interesting to see that we’ve still got a way to go in New Zealand around the use of recycled material. We currently use 50 percent recycled material in manufacturing our bins but we’re aiming to move to 100 percent when supply and infrastructure is available. The recycled material story is much more advanced internationally than here.”
I asked India what Method’s focus is going forward.
Says India, “In terms of our export focus, we’re wanting to cement our presence in both Aussie and the UK. We’ve got more deals in New Zealand but less volume so focusing on our higher volume markets makes sense.
“We’d love to tackle the US but as a market they aren’t at the same stage in their recycling journey - the market needs to be ready for it, and we aren’t seeing that yet. But when the time comes, we’ll be looking to expand there.
“For product development, we’re investing more in research and development. We’ve got some great new products in the pipeline, as well as looking to improve our current offering to kick into the next evolution.”
And as for any advice for someone wanting to start their own brand?
“Focus on great design and then on sales. Our product and brand design was a clear focus, and that made our business appear more established.
“In terms of sales, lots of companies will focus on ‘how do we grow’ but presume that sales will look after itself - you have to focus on how you bring in money! It also helps to find some big names that you can use in your sales pitch, which gives you some credibility.
“But ultimately, you need to be willing to take the plunge.”
For more info on Method, visit: https://methodrecycling.com/nz/