Stewart Moore is the CEO and founder of EarthCheck, a global business advisory group which specialises in sustainable tourism. The company, which has its headquarters in South Bank, helps businesses, communities and governments to plan, design, construct and operate clean, safe, prosperous and healthy places for travellers and locals to visit, live, work and play.
“There are two key parts to our business,” Stewart explains. “Our business advisory group that specialises in strategic planning, business development and marketing, and our certification team which focuses on benchmarking and certifying tourism operations. Our teams also work together to guide the design and construction of sustainable buildings and the responsible management of tourism destinations.”
EarthCheck was recently awarded the HSBC Award for Doing Business in Asia at the 2018 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards.
“We currently work in more than 70 countries, in seven languages and across 32 sectors,” adds Stewart, who has his sights set on continuing to spread the EarthCheck message across the world.
“We have an office in Amsterdam and Playa del Carmen in Mexico and we are just in the process of opening new offices in Barcelona and Beijing.”
How did you get the idea to start your business?
EarthCheck is a patented scientific program for benchmarking and certification which was originally developed by the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism (CRCST) in Queensland. When the CRCST finished its research contract with the Commonwealth Government, in 2011, the business and all its research assets was purchased through a management buyout – of which I was a part of.
How many employees do you have?
The majority of our team is in Brisbane, where we have about 32 full-time equivalent employees. We also have auditors across the world and a wide number of sales partners.
How did you raise capital to finance your venture?
We had to bootstrap the company ourselves and raise our own funds, as you do when you have a start-up!
What value do you place in business plans?
I am a firm advocate for three things:
- Have a clear vision for your company – understand your point of difference and where you want to position the business.
- Get the business basics right in the first instance – don’t try to over complicate things.
- Surround yourself with very smart people.
What is your professional background?
I started out life as a bartender and went on to study regional and town planning, finance and economics. I worked in the health, tourism, planning and consulting sectors before I started at EarthCheck. I can still mix a mean cocktail.
Where is your business located and why?
We were located in the city for more than 15 years before we moved to South Bank. South Bank is a perfect fit for us and a wonderful environment to do business.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning a small business?
It’s exciting to find and train young people and then see them go out and take on the world. Some of our staff has moved on to unbelievable jobs in New York, London and Beijing.
Our clients are spread across the world and we love to both visit and learn from them.
What is the biggest challenge in running this type of business?
Finding, motivating and keeping good staff is always a challenge. Managing and embracing change can also be demanding. There isn’t one business I know that is not struggling with the speed of change in the economy, as well as the rapidly changing expectations of clients and consumers. The most important client is the one you currently have, and a key goal for us is delivering top quality service and support.
How do you market your business?
We do a lot of social media as well as host and attend international sales and research forums and events. We work closely with our international clients and sales partners to promote our services and products. EarthCheck has won a number of international business awards, which has helped build our credibility.
What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
Finding a commercially savvy accountant and solicitor which you can rely on.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
We have a not-for-profit research centre (EarthCheck Research Institute) and we work with a panel of six research centres across the world. This helps us stay up-to-date on new developments, particularly from a scientific and research perspective. We also work very closely with our clients who are at the coal face and are in a better position to understand what is happening.
From whom do you seek business advice?
We have established some strong commercial partnerships with a variety of businesses across the world. Our sales partners and our clients are our eyes and ears in market. They are commercially grounded and are in a better position to track market trends and provide advice on business opportunities.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Five years’ time?
In a year’s time, we will have new offices in Spain and Beijing.
In five years’ time we will be a completely different company. This includes new international partnerships, negotiated agreements with major infrastructure and asset owners together with a new CEO and global management team.
What are the greatest lessons you have learned in business?
Stay grounded and bed down your business plan early. Don’t over complicate things. Be clear on what business you are in, establish a strong and loyal management team, and keep close to your clients. Cash is always king
How do you manage risk?
We continually map the risk in front of us and have a dedicated risk management strategy, which we are constantly updating.
What three things should someone consider before starting a business?
- You need to have passion and belief for what you are doing and you need a clear vision matched with drive and tenacity.
- Surround yourself with smart staff, trusted business advisors and loyal partners.
- Keep to the fundamentals – have a basic business plan and stick to it.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have learnt Mandarin. We are now in the ‘Asian Century’ and you need to be able to speak the language and understand Chinese culture and cultural nuances in order to embrace it.
EarthCheck at a glance
No. of employees (Brisbane)
Years of operation