My Week: Simon Konecki of Life water
By Michael Northcott Friday, 06 July 2012
The founder of ethical bottled water company, Life water, on Lehman's, the free market and helping third world countries.
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My routine is incredibly random. To give you a snapshot, it’s a mix of making sure orders are going where they’ve got to go, monitoring production and distribution, speaking to investors because I want to launch some more drinks and get further into the soft drinks market. Today for example, I was working with a designer for the charity side of the business, on a new website.
I literally never stop thinking about the business. I can’t describe the satisfaction of running my own operation compared with working for the man. I was originally an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and I was doing well and earning a lot of money, but I got sick of that greedy and corrupted world.
The best thing about the job is that the business is helping people. People said I was stupid to leave Lehman’s back in 2005, but I would never change the decision I made. We sell around nine or 10 million bottles of water per year, and it is ethical, carbon neutral and our charity ‘drop4drop’ means that for every bottle sold we provide 1000 litres of clean water in Africa or India – so my company is literally helping people across the world every day, which I love. I even think our water is better than Evian – it’s bottled from a British spring water source rather than imported - that’s the beauty of the free market: you can just go in there and take on the leaders.
We’re a small team, but a good team. Everyone who comes and works for us cares about the issues. We tell people what kind of a company we are and what we want to achieve, and they get on board with us. It’s a good place to work – there aren’t any Google-office type luxuries but we definitely make it nice for people.
I don’t really get that excited about the business: I set myself high standards. I don’t think we’ve really achieved all that much yet, but I’ll be more excited when we’re rivalling the big boys. Having millions of people drinking our water is exciting in itself, but I always think of the millions who aren’t drinking it yet.
I travel quite a lot in this job. I went out to India in December and we’re going later in the year, to see the wells and the communities that we’re helping. We’ve done a lot in India in the last 12 months, and this year will be Zambia. I keep a low profile in the development of it all, but I do visit a lot of the places where we’re building wells. We hire local builders to do it so we keep it as unreligious and low profile as possible. These people deserve so much more than water and I don’t want gratitude from them.
The most challenging thing about the job is that I hate letting people down. That’s not something specific about our business but it is the thing I find hardest about it. But it never feels like an actual challenge - just hurdles that you have to overcome. I don’t get down or stressed about it.
If I wasn’t successful or we weren’t growing the business every year, I might think differently and I might be a bit put off, and other people who are employed sometimes say they can’t imagine the stress must be under. But I don’t feel stress like that, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To find out more about Life Water, visit www.life-water.co.uk