Bindi Norwell has led healthcare provider ProCare since early 2021 following four years as the CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand. She is also a board member of merchandising and marketing firm Appliance Connexion, mental health and wellbeing service Fresh Minds, and Chair HQ, and deputy chair of the Auckland branch of the Institute of Directors. Previous director roles have included at national telehealth service Whakarongorau Aotearoa, the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), the Marketing Association, and the Warehouse Group. She lives in Auckland with her husband, Jamie, and two children.

I grew up in a rural area just outside Melbourne. When I was a child, I loved the outdoors and made up my mind that I wanted to work outdoors when I was older.

My two brothers and I grew up riding horses and really learned a lot around caring for animals and the environment from our parents. But we also had a lot of fun. I have a lot of good memories of being on a farm.

I loved school as well and it was there that I was inspired, especially, by studying psychology and grew determined to become a psychologist. 

Bindi Norwell as a toddler growing up in rural Victoria. (Image: Supplied)

But after studying behavioural science at La Trobe University in Melbourne and finishing my degree, I realised that I wasn't patient enough for that. So I changed to business. Psychology is something I’ll maybe go back to later in life, though.

You learn a lot about yourself when you're studying psychology. You need to have a certain amount of patience, and it needs to be really your passion. I found that business was more my passion. 

When I got into the workforce, I was offered the opportunity to do an MBA. It was probably the best thing I ever did because it gave me wonderful grounding and knowledge of business. I loved it. All my friends were out partying every night, and I was working and studying on the weekends a lot of the time so I could complete the master's.

It was really tough. But I really loved when it all came together. It's wonderful that you can learn different parts of business, from sustainability to finance, and you actually get this really good overall view of an organisation and its vision. It made me realise that I love business, I love strategy. I found my passion.

Moving to Melbourne for university was fantastic. Melbourne is a wonderful city and has a great nightlife. I loved the independence, and having to learn to stand up on your own two feet pretty quickly. 

That was a part I actually enjoyed because I'm quite an independent person and I thought, "Okay, I'm off to start in the real world now." Of course, it’s scary when you start, but it was incredibly liberating.

After finishing my MBA, I moved to London. I ended up being there for about 10 years with my boyfriend, now husband, and we did amazing things.

My husband is an avid traveller and has been to about 100 countries. When we were in the UK, we travelled as much as we could.

Every place I’ve ever been to is a bit of an adventure, really. I love Italy and France and some of the places you can go to quite quickly and off the beaten track. Estonia is just out of this world.

I love learning about the culture of places. Years ago, I won a ticket to Guangzhou in a work raffle, and I thought, "Oh, where's Guangzhou?" I ended up having this amazing trip to southern China – probably the best trip I ever had.

I’m instilling that love of travel in my two children. They grew up overseas, which has helped. They don't remember all the places we visited in the UK – but I remember doing a lot of trips around Europe with them. 

Bindi and Jamie Norwell on holiday with their children, Bianca and Max. (Image: Supplied) 

I love being a CEO. In my very first job, my manager gave me this postcard which had, “See you at the top”, written on it. And I've always wanted to be in a leadership position.

Health is a very different industry from real estate, but the fundamentals of leadership don't really change that much. And I love working with great people and empowering a team.

My job is very purpose-led and I really like that. Everyone wants to do a great job and help people. The biggest thing is actually working out that you can't do everything and focus on what you can do and the things that are really going to matter. People are motivated to make a difference and it's amazing to be around that kind of energy.

Sometimes it's really tough. To break things up, I love getting outdoors. I've been very vigilant and have gotten better over the years with turning off my phone for a while and just being with the kids. If you keep blending work and home life, you never really have that space. So I tend to just try to focus on family life when I get home, doing dinner and working out, helping the kids with their day and focusing on them.

I love the culture in New Zealand. It's amazing from a perspective of understanding the heritage and the people, and particularly Māori culture. I also love how people get things done. And there's a lot of humility.

One thing I've learned being in NZ is that people just work together to get things done and are accessible as well and actually genuinely care for others. You can’t beat that.

NZ has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The landscape in Wānaka and Queenstown, in particular, is astounding. 

I’ve learnt how important it is to look after yourself, have balance, and not just survive. We only get to live one life and it's important that we make the most of it. And I really want to spend the time with my kids while they’re still home, before they leave.

As told to Ella Somers. 
This interview has been edited for clarity.