Toby McCartney left school with no qualifications, but he did take a strong work ethic; one which he used to build one of the most exciting businesses in construction today. Toby tells us how his daughter inspired him to get started with reusing waste plastic for road construction and why he helps other budding entrepreneurs realise their dreams.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
The day that sparked my vision for MacRebur was at my six-year-old daughter's school assembly. She is a real eco-warrior, and during the assembly, when asked what lives in our oceans, her answer was: "waste plastic".
I've always been compelled to find the answer to a problem, so when the question of plastic waste came up, I wanted to find a solution.
I remembered when I was volunteering in India and saw locals take the plastic waste and melt it to use as a makeshift pothole filler. I realised there was something in it and said to my two friends – and co-founders of MacRebur – "I've got this crazy idea for a company". Six years later, here we are!
What kind of work does your role involve?
My work as a CEO is nothing like what you would imagine. Every day is different, and I do whatever it takes to help grow the business. One day I'm bagging up products for shipping and figuring out transportation logistics. The next, I'm talking with local authorities or speaking at an event.
Out of all the different roles I have at MacRebur, I particularly enjoy public speaking. As an entrepreneur, I'm passionate about working with aspiring business people to help them on their way to creating their own successful businesses.
What gets you excited about your industry?
What is so exciting about this industry is the potential to solve the problem of waste plastic. Plastic waste is a massive problem across the globe, especially in the construction industry. It's exciting to be able to play a part in helping to resolve these issues. MacRebur disrupts for good, and we hope to have an impact on reducing the amount of waste plastic finding its way to landfill.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I didn't gain anything from school, and I walked away with no qualifications to my name. However, one thing I did walk away with was the memory of my school's motto. On my uniform, there was a badge with the Latin words: 'nil sine magnor labour', or: 'nothing without hard work', and that's always something I've always kept in my mind throughout my life. No matter what you do, you will never have success without putting in the work.
I'm also inspired by Richard Branson, who believes in the phrase: 'dare to dream'. For him, the sky is the limit, literally.
What's the best way to support aspiring leaders in your field?
It's so important for people that are in a position to help others to do just that. Helping others through the cycle of creating their own business is something I find really rewarding, and I often work with universities, joining environmental panels or giving keynote presentations to students.
Whilst time is the biggest commodity for any entrepreneur, giving up some of your time to help others is the best thing you can do.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I get all of my news digitally, with apps for The Times, The Telegraph and the BBC on my phone. I also have alerts set up to keep me up to date with any breaking news in the industry.
MacRebur has recently expanded into the US, so I keep up-to-date with any updates from across the Atlantic too.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
For me, the most challenging situation I've learnt to overcome is making sure to take time off work.
With so much going on at MacRebur, it can be difficult not to work even when you've organised time away. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I always have the best ideas when I'm away from work.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
First off – a red 1969 Mustang!
Once I'm driving around in my red Mustang, the main aim would be securing MacRebur's legacy.
Hopefully, the legacy would lead to all waste plastic being utilised rather than sent to landfills, with a signed and sealed document that the UK government would use local waste plastics in local roads.
What do you see as the key ingredients for failure?
I don't believe in failure. There is no failure, just feedback, and you can use the feedback to do better next time.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
My one wish would be to succeed with the thing we're striving for: that the construction industry will provide a real solution for waste plastic.
On a broader scale, I hope that we meet the targets set for becoming a carbon-neutral world. Politics often plays into environmental issues. With the plastic problem getting worse, I hope that the world's leaders can put politics aside and use the resources available to tackle climate change.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I have to say my new book, Business ReLOVEution, for this! It's been 18 years in the making and has always been something I've wanted to do.
A book for budding entrepreneurs, it is organised into 20 principles to help establish a successful business that disrupts for good. It was inspired by the statistic that only 8% of people who study business go on to start a business.
Another book I'd recommend that changed my life is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki, which helps change people's mindsets from being an employee to working for themselves.
How should people connect with you?
People can find me easily on LinkedIn, but I'm more than happy for people to email me directly if they want to get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org - whether it's about a business partnership or simply for advice.
I've never been shy to ask for help when I need it – it's how I've got to where I am today – so I welcome anyone to send me a quick email and get in touch!
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