Tell me about your beginnings. How did you two come together and what were your respective backgrounds?
Lorraine: John and I were born on opposite sides of the track. I was born into a dysfunctional family. My mum, Mary, tried her best, and she came to faith eventually, but it was pretty hard going as a young child. My mum was married three times. She’s still married to her last husband, Paul—thank God—but a lot of parts of my life were just sad. I was lacking self-confidence. When I was seven, my mum and dad met: my dad was a backslidden Christian, and my mother was an ex-Mormon. Shortly after they met, they found God. We ended up at a Brethren church in Te Awamutu. When they found faith, they completely turned their life around—like, 180 degrees. From that, they realised they needed to get married, which they did, and then they really tried to start building a family around us.
I have an older brother and a younger sister. It’s an astounding story really because my brother and I are full blooded to my mum’s first husband, and she had my sister to her second husband. Paul and Mum were unable to have children, so he adopted us. He’s amazing, just how he’s taken us as his own. He was also 18 and she was 26—with three children—when they got together, which is almost my son’s age and absolutely horrifying! How does an 18-year-old support a woman with three children? That was tough. It wasn’t an easy childhood by any stretch of the imagination. But they really trusted in God, and they turned their life around. My brother and my sister and me—we’re all married. It’s amazing what God can do when he steps into your life, right? When my parents turned their lives around, we started going to a Pentecostal church and that’s essentially where I met John. I was 16 and he was 18. We’re like chalk and cheese, but we’re also like two peas in a pod.
What about you John?
John: When I grew up, Dad was a bank manager and Mum was at home looking after us. Mum prioritised working as a home maker, rather than being in paid employment—it was an effort made by mum and dad to achieve that. I’ve got an older sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother. Everyone was active. I look back and I don’t know how Dad paid for it all, and I don’t how Mum had time for it all! Our home was very safe, loving, and stable. We grew up in a Presbyterian church but probably missed out on quite a bit of the fundamentals. I didn’t want to be there, and I probably wasn’t listening! We lived in Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton, and Te Awamutu up until my teenage years—we moved around a little bit with Dad’s work. My memory of it is not that we were moving often, but I guess four cities is quite a bit.
After school, I studied podiatry. In our final year, we had to do a research paper, and everyone else was studying technical stuff, like what is the correct angle of the subtalar joint during running? It was that kind of research—very scientific. And I chose how to build a successful business through meeting your customer’s needs. To me, it just seemed like the most interesting thing to study. It wasn’t really until afterwards that I looked back and saw what everyone else did and realised mine was the only non-scientific research. That’s a significant moment because for me there’s always been this connection with the customer and serving the customer.
This led to the next significant moment, which was 10 or 15 years later—a big gap—at a church conference. The Scripture was about the talents (Mt 25:14–30). But, in this moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said that there was an increase expected. The point of that was that someone who knows the Father’s heart gets that it’s about increase. I would now describe that increase as making something of God’s good creation.
I had these two experiences as a graduate of podiatry school: realising business is about meeting needs and serving community, and, a decade later, this understanding that it is about increase, not just about holding on to what you’ve got. I had a lot of criticism, even from my family. They’d say, “Oh, you’re just in business to make money.” And when I would share that story about increase, people would assume automatically that I meant money. For me, it never was, but I didn’t have the understanding to explain what I meant. Now, I think I’ve got a very clear understanding of what I mean by increase. I now go right back to God’s instruction in Genesis to fill the earth and make something of God’s good creation.
You two were together six years and then got married just before Lorraine’s 22nd birthday. John was almost 24. Did your business enterprises start prior to marriage?
Lorraine John had already started his business, Foot Mechanics, which was then called Tauranga Sports Podiatry. He’d graduated and started the business and had been in it about six months before we got married. It was a quick turnaround. He decided he’d have a look around New Zealand and see where he thought it would be a cool place to live and bring up a family—I would never have thought that. He moved to Tauranga and started our business here.
For the first couple of years, it was very much John who built the business, and I had a job working for a newspaper. I just want to touch on something—we’ve always had this clarity around our roles. For John and I, there’s never been any tension around who’s doing what and who’s the boss. We established that really early on, and I think that’s what’s helped us do what we do now. When John was building the business, my role was to make enough money to pay the rent and feed us. We just knew that’s what we had to do. But, as we moved further on into business … those roles, as I say it, John’s the big boss, and he makes all the decisions.
John: Lorraine and I have an understanding where, on really big decisions, if one of us has to make the call, it’s me. When I’m in that position of being the final decision maker, I know I do so with Lorraine’s prayer and blessing. She trusts me and I treat those moments with the highest sense of responsibility for her and for our family.
Lorraine: At the end of the day, I also don’t want that responsibility, so it’s always really worked. If I disagree—and we disagree on a lot on things, with robust discussions—often, we’ll come around to my way of thinking. But I think for us, that structure served us really well. There’s never been a competition between the two of us about who’s ultimately in charge.
So, the work you individually do is highly valued but it’s not in competition with one another?
John: Yeah. When Lorraine says we’re two peas in a pod, I would say we’re a couple that overlap each other’s weaknesses. We really could not have chosen a better partner. For example, Lorraine is a networker and a gatherer and a motivator of people. I’m none of those things. I’m happy in my own space, thinking, and I’m all about executing the task. If we work well together, we’ve got [our] weaknesses covered. Though Lorraine had been employed in jobs while I was starting our business, they were still strategic—you know, Lorraine would say, “I’m going to get a job in advertising” to figure that out. At one point, she had a job working at a shoe store because we wanted to understand how footwear retail worked. These jobs were still connected to what we were building together. In this one job at the newspaper, the Bay of Plenty Times, Lorraine got a written warning for something which I’ve never heard of before or since. It was beautiful; we should have kept it. It was for “interdepartmental wandering.” In other words, she’d never be at her desk; she’d be up and talking to people.
Lorraine: Interdepartmental wandering. Who gets a warning for interdepartmental wandering? I got in trouble because I was talking too much. It was very strange.
John: Her boss gave her a warning for that, but this is an example of Lorraine’s gifting. And we’ve needed it this year when we’ve launched a men’s and a women’s NBL basketball team (Bay of Plenty Stingrays and Whai) and started a Basketball Academy—you’ve just got to get a whole lot of people; you can’t do it on your own.
Lorraine: I think the magic is: John and I just have this ability to work well together. We slipstream a lot in between what we do, and we change our hats real quick. So, you know, we’re doing this interview right now. And then, in half an hour’s time, John’s going to be taking Ivy to school, so the dad hat comes on, and we’ll have parenting conversations. Then we’ll switch out of that with another business meeting. We’ve just become good at putting all those roles together, and we know when we need to shift in and out of them and how to do that together. If we’re disagreeing on parenting, that’s about parenting; business stuff never comes into it. Early on with our team at Foot Mechanics, John and I would be in our office with an idea on the table, and we would just be thrashing it out. And our team is sitting there thinking, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening?” And then it’s lunchtime; we’d get up, hold hands, chat like nothing’s wrong, and come back. Our team would also always say to us, “I don’t know how you do that.” I think understanding, loving, embracing, and releasing each other’s giftings has been key.
That requires being able to see the strengths each of you bring.
Lorraine: John has never tried to change me. I’ve seen relationships where one person is saying, “That’s not really that cool about you—can you change that?” You know what I mean? John’s never, ever tried to change me. He’s never tried to say, “Can you just calm down; it’s too much.” Or, “Do we have to have people around? It’s just annoying.” He’s always just completely loved the person that I am. And that is incredibly empowering for someone that’s come from a life like mine. I lacked so much self-confidence and self-belief, and I never thought I would amount to anything really. It’s just been incredible to be partnered to someone like John.