Welcome to My Net Worth, our regular column on the lives and motivations of our country’s top business, legal and political people, in their own words. 

Gráinne Troute is a professional director with experience of operating businesses in tourism, hospitality and retail, having held senior roles including general manager of corporate services for SkyCity and managing director of McDonald’s Restaurants (NZ).

My parents couldn’t decide where to live. So, really, for all of my childhood, we – there were five of us – moved between Ireland and New Zealand every few years.

What that gave me was the ability to land, make friends and establish myself – to cope with all those things that are hard for a kid, like figuring out how things worked.

As a result of that there's something different in how I am compared with people who've gone to the same school, lived in the same suburb and grown up in the same place. It’s just different.  

I started off doing fine arts and had an idea of being a creative in an advertising agency. It turned out that wasn't really me.

Rather than have a clear picture of where I wanted to be career wise, it’s generally come down to somebody saying to me, “Hey, I think you'd be really good at this”, or, “Have you thought of this?”, or, “There's an opportunity here, I think you should give this a go”.

The opportunity came up with McDonald's, which was growing really fast in New Zealand at the time, to come in and set up a human resources department. I stayed there for 14 years.

And because we were growing so fast, again it was a case of someone saying, “Somebody needs to look after comms”. I just said, “Yeah, I'll take that on”.

When the [managing director] job at McDonald’s came up, I initially said no. And then my main boss, who was going to run the Nordic region, asked me. I saw how he worked. He used to be on the road all the time. I was, at that stage, in my 30s. And he was in his late 40s, early 50s. I saw the job as being how he did it. He told me, “Nobody thinks for a moment that you will do it the same way, you're going to do it completely differently”.

Grainne Troute (at front right) in 1998 with colleagues from McDonalds


When you're the CEO of a business you walk around with a sign over your head, and in my case, it was a McDonald's sign. In [chief executive] Nigel Morrison’s case, it was a SkyCity sign. When you're a member of the management team, you are one of the team and you're associated, but it's not you. You can be yourself.

I don't think you can be everything. I found that, for me, the priority was kids and a full-on career, instead of my social life. You can’t just see your friends all the time.

Early on in my career, restructuring was particularly tough. The lesson for me, really, was: it is just business. As long as there's a clear rationale, the person doesn't have to agree with the fact that you’re restructuring their job.

My objective has always been that if I’m walking down the street a year later and see someone coming from the other direction, we can stop and have a chat.

I’m really keen on yoga – I find it helps me to balance and centre.

I’m doing a couple of university papers as a hobby. There are things that have always interested me –  largely English literature and philosophy. You can read all you like but it’s nice to have a structure and be able to say, “This is the latest thinking on this”.

If you are studying something you are back in the same seat as everyone else. It helps you recognise you don’t know everything, and you don’t have to.

The last thing I splurged on was a Workshop jacket and a pair of shoes. I like Helen Cherry, classy but beautiful tailoring, and Kate Sylvester. I like dresses, so anyone who does nice dresses.

As told to Victoria Young. 
This interview has been edited for clarity.