Bernard Powell – Reaping huge benefits of having a culture first mantra within his business

Interview with
Bernard Powell
Bernard Powell –  Reaping huge benefits of having a culture first mantra within his business

Bernard Powell, Premier Group International, Premier Culture

Spotting a bright pink forklift in the Premier Group works yard and noticing that the driver is sporting a matching pink wig and star-spangled sunglasses might make you pause and wonder …

Or perhaps during your ‘culture’ visit there you stop to have a chat with daffodil-smothered office workers wearing yellow t-shirts, doing whacky things with bananas …

Are these guys a bit on the crazy side or what?   

Strange but true, this team aren’t actually nuts (well, probably not) – but they are having fun; an intrinsic part of the cheap and cheerful, whatever-makes-you-happy business culture that owner, Bernard Powell encourages in his team of rock stars at Premier Group International.

“We just get crazy ideas then action them straight away!”

Bernard Powell, Premier Group International

Premier Group has grown exponentially over the past decade and is an international player in the paver, brick and schist manufacturing industry. The hard work applied in developing key accounts with Mitre 10, Bunnings and major housing construction companies is evidence of how Bernard and his 60-odd staff operate.

But Premier’s transformation from being run by multitudes of stressed out (and mostly disengaged) people in 2015 to winning Best Workplace in NZ, 2016 was mind-blowing.

How’d it happen?

Believe it or not (and I probably would), Premier Group’s culture success came about from watching a few shoe ads on YouTube.

Zappos Shoes was the first inspiration, then American high flyers like Virgin and South West Airlines, all of whom put culture first in the workplace.  

Revolutionising his business into a ‘culture first’ modus operandi created a movement that pushed Premier Group from a 15-20% staff engagement to a whopping 97% of happy, productive workers who really think they own the place. And they’re cheeky with it.

Bernard’s fine with that. In fact, it’s all part of the grand scheme of things whereby his teams are encouraged to act like shareholders.

Because Bernard reckons that when staff invest their valuable time and energy into a workplace it becomes their raison d’etre, (their ‘reason for being’). And when going to work is fun, rewarding and connected to a higher purpose then service, creativity, innovation, productivity and growth follow. It goes without saying.

Bernard can’t say it enough though. He’s something of a Culture First Guru in his role as passionate keynote speaker and transformative culture mentor for all sorts of businesses, from SME’s of 5 or so employees to bigwig enterprises of 3K+. 

“We are the people who are here to deliver happiness, create raving fans, and to beautify our world, so bring it on! What can we do for ya?”

Bernard Powell, Premier Group International


The first thing Bernard can do for you is show you the money. Want to add 100k to your bottom line? It will happen when your team are working at their best possible level and with a feeling of ownership – you’ll see it in your accounts real quick.

Bernard’s Premier Culture mantra is proof that a culture first philosophy is the way forward - and he made it work in his business pretty much off his own bat:

“If you’ve got enough passion, if you’re reading enough good material from good business people who have made a success and you’re learning those lessons and applying them, it can work.”

Bernard Powell, Premier Group International

However, changing your business culture means facing upheaval. Some staff find it too uncomfortable and will drop out, some might take the mickey, others (probably around 20%) will love it and use it as a tool to work hard and be productive. These people will become your culture leaders.

Bernard offers these gear-shifting, actionable and easy step by step ideas:

  • Have a team meeting
  • Use a whiteboard and write ‘Culture Transformation’ at the top
  • Be honest and admit the culture of your business as it stands isn’t great
  • Ask your staff to contribute to the conversation
  • Tell them from now on you want to train them to act like owners
  • Tell them that as they are investing their lives in the business you want to share KPI's, sales figures and vital statistics with them
  • Lead with questions and resist supplying the answers
  • Ask for solutions
  • Encourage employees to personalise their workspace; colours, trees, cool things that make them happy
  • Teach your team leaders to hire staff based on culture-oriented core values.

Then let your team make mistakes on the way, blame the process, not the person and above all,

“If it’s safe, cheap and cheerful, do it! And if painting the forklift pink makes you happy then

why not, why not, why not?”

Follow Bernard Powell on LinkedIn. Ask to connect and he will, or phone him on 0212285336 and LEAVE A MESSAGE, or email him at

And if you need more help in moving your business from chaos to control visit Craig Oliver at

Or read the show notes from our other amazingly informative, inspirational and gritty podcasts at

So many insights, tips and ideas to be had! Just sit back, listen or read and learn.


Go on, smash through the glass ceiling and move your business from ordinary to extraordinary!


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