'The Fat Duck' — where financial discipline creates the headspace to focus on people & community.

Cam and Selina own and operate the highly respected ‘The Fat Duck’ of Te Anau and the land of adventurous journeys has proven equally true in business. Since their purchase on Queen’s Birthday in 2016, the community-loving couple have focused, and sometimes cringed, their way through an adventure in rapid learning and growth.

The relationship between personal & financial discipline.

Despite the post-COVID economic climate, the last financial year has exceeded Cam and Selina’s year-on-year progress. Their profit margin has risen beyond what they once dared to imagine, and they have more time to focus on family, friends, and community.

Selina admits that they started with no business skills and limited leadership abilities. She began in what she thought would be a computer-centred career while in Invercargill. What occurred was eleven years of working in the often brutal and unforgiving Super Yacht industry in Europe. Selina mastered the role of Chief Stewardess, but not finance or leadership.

In the early 2000s, Cam trained as a chef at what was then CPIT in Christchurch and went on to work in the “big kitchen” environment at the Crowne Plaza. At nineteen-years-old, Cam entered the Super Yacht industry, refined his skills in London, and returned to the Superyachts as head chef. He knew how to cook, but in retrospect, he knows he struggled with some hot-headedness and ill-discipline.

The Kiwis would meet and as “a vehicle for family” they searched for a Kiwi business on Trade Me.

Selina did the due diligence while Cam was in anchor in the Caribbean.

Cam openly describes his need to transform from a ‘passionate chef’ into someone broader and more people-focused. He credits his wife Selina most of all.

She spent heaps of time putting out my fires. I learned a lot from Selina’s people skills and patience.

Cam’s desire to become a better ‘people-person’ did not “smack him in the face” it was more like an ongoing discussion and a growing awareness that grew from his responsibilities as a spouse, a father, and a business owner. The most important roles in his life had to mature together.

Initially, asking for help was difficult.

"As a coach, James can be confronting. Our numbers were not as good as I thought, and he exposed my lack of financial knowledge and discipline."

Now, Cam and Selina’s financial discipline lurks beneath everything that brings them the most joy. They’ve come a long way since the summer they worked 7 days, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with thirty-five staff, and were exhaustingly poor for time with family and community.

It is real progress to improve your profit margin, open 5 pm to late (5 not 7 days a week) and find that your business is more about your team than you. The community reputation The Fat Duck enjoys has become undeniable.


The importance of sharing personal & financial discipline.

Cam and Selina’s headspace matured with experience. They began to see what a finance-orientated business can achieve.

"We learned that being ‘numbers’ people is not mutually exclusive with being ‘people’ people."

On the contrary, Cam and Selina embraced their responsibility to be financially literate for the sake of their team and town as well as for themselves.

At the heart of Cam and Selina’s story is the tight relationship between personal and relational growth alongside financial discipline.

An ‘Open Book’ style of managing (OBM) has helped shape the culture at The Fat Duck and improved numbers that had been ignored. An open approach to finance means they contribute to the learning of even the most transient staff.

"Everyone learns from one another, and everyone get involved in the numbers of the business."

Now, Cam prefers a less obvious hierarchical structure, a far cry from his single-minded days. He has learned to “see the other side” and value the experience and participation of others.

The relationship between attracting & retaining staff with values & principles.

 The Fat Duck’s first Guiding Principle is, 

learn to hit the curve ball.

The principle came from the Super Yacht years, and while a Gastropub demands a more structured business model, Cam and Selina were forced to learn adaptability. Their ability to hit the curve ball during the worst of COVID became legendary in Te Anau.

Nevertheless, their ability to hit a curve ball has come with the understanding that strong reference points are required.

The Super Yacht model preferred a ‘replacement’ rather than a nurturing leadership style, which would never work in a sensitive business in a small town. Attracting and retaining talent has remained paramount. Selina claims it’s important to,

… know what you offer and then stand by it and shout it out.

For Selina, leading people begins with a well documented mission, values, and guiding principles. While some of The Fat Duck’s values represent behaviour that is easy to pursue, others require planning and deliberate action. Selina admits that personal, cultural, and business values are a struggle to achieve – at least consistently – but she stands by the need to define your workplace even when the details seem impossibly aspirational. Selina and her team understand their shared direction.

Decisions such as allowing community organisations to use The Fat Duck as a venue during closing hours are easy for the whole team to make and understand. Those decisions are embedded in their mission and values.

Cam and Selina look confident and relaxed for parents of two young boys. They talk about the joy of raising sons in a great town and despite their ‘adventure’ they are most proud of having a business that puts their people on the stage, and in such a way that places deep roots in their community.


Cam & Selina's factors of Success:

  1. Alter your headspace and understand that financial discipline underscores people and community success.
  2. Get a coach. Your books are not as good as you think. A coach will open your business world and mind.
  3. Digitalise your business.
  4. Take on the responsibility of your team and make your business more about them than you.
  5. Wherever you are, take your community seriously and engage. Give back as much as you can.