In this special feature we talk to this year’s supreme winners of the Champion Canterbury Business Awards about their approach to business success.
A brilliant idea, a handful of talent, a smattering of resources and a sprinkle of revenue might sound like the recipe for a wildly successful business, but in reality there’s much more to it than that.
So, how do you create the perfect recipe for a successful business?
Earlier this year, Canterbury businesses were recognised for their continued hard work and ongoing success at the Champion Canterbury Business Awards. The largest business awards in New Zealand, Champion Canterbury exists to help people better understand the interdependent relationship between sustainable, profitable business and community wellbeing.
At the 14th annual awards, ARANZ Medical was named the medium/large champion producer/manufacturer and also took out the top award for a medium/large enterprise. The Isaac Theatre Royal took home the title of small champion retail/hospitality enterprise and also won the award for supreme small enterprise. Sir Graeme Harrison, of ANZCO, received a special mention for his continued passion and commitment to New Zealand’s agribusiness sector.
“These awards don’t just look at balance sheets, cash flow and profit forecasts,” explains The Chamber’s chief executive officer, Peter Townsend.
“Instead it’s all about the special factors that make the business a valuable contributor to the economy that’s important. It’s really about the role that businesses play in the context of employing people and promoting sustainability and innovation in a diverse economy.”
ARANZ Medical knows a thing or two about innovation, having established a place for itself in both the domestic and international healthcare market.
Specialising in 3D scanning and informatics solutions that transform the clinical assessment processes, ARANZ Medical carries out all of its research, development and manufacturing in Christchurch even though 98 per cent of its products are exported.
Chief executive Dr Bruce Davey has been with the company for 11 years, moving into the role after spending the better part of two decades working in Canada, and says that it took a lot of hard work and determination to achieve such success.
Some of ARANZ Medical’s key innovations include Silhouette, an FDA approved advanced wound surveillance system, and FastSCAN, which enables the customisation of orthotics and prosthetics.
So, what is it that makes a business successful?
According to Bruce, understanding your business’ mission and having a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve is a good place to start.
“There really isn’t a limit to what someone can do with their brand.”
Thinking big isn’t something that should be forgotten either, particularly when it comes to global expansion or exporting.
“We have to use our natural resources in order to grow New Zealand’s economy and to do that we need technology companies, software companies and high-value manufacturing. It’s like Sir Peter Gluckman once said, ‘it’s much easier to ship electrons around the world, than atoms’.”
For Isaac Theatre Royal chief executive Neil Cox, the notion of success comes back to having good, solid business practices.
“The key thing is to deal with clients in the years ahead, it’s the age-old adage really; if your artist is happy, your promoter is happy, their agent is happy, then we’re all happy and hopefully the public are happy too.
“The actual Champion Canterbury award in itself is a recognition of success too, it tells us that we’re doing the right thing and it’s something to build on going forward. It’s like a stamp of approval.”
A successful business can also stand the test of time, says ANZCO founder and chairman Sir Graeme Harrison.
A Cantabrian who spent 13 years offshore but has now settled in back home, Sir Graeme has played a pivotal role in advancing international trade in New Zealand. After working his way up the ranks of the New Zealand meat industry he established ANZCO in 1984 and thanks to his strategic leadership, the company went from strength-to-strength.
With more than a dash of business nous, Sir Graeme defines business success as being able to withstand the shocks and remain in business for a lengthy period.
“ANZCO began life 32 years ago and you can imagine that in an industry that relies on 90 per cent of its turnover from exports, you have to ride the waves of commodity prices and currency fluctuations.”
With eight offshore sales and marketing offices and a restaurant in Tokyo, as well as eleven production sites in New Zealand, and one in Australia, ANZCO has certainly proved its worth over the long term.
What does success look like?
For Bruce and the team at ARANZ Medical, growth is one way of measuring success.
“To us, at our stage, growth is really important both in the physical and financial sense. But so too is problem solving – businesses need to continue to identify issues and do what they can to solve them.
“Within the healthcare sector too, there is that idea of improving the quality of life of people around the world. We say we ‘help people to heal people’ and that is really important.”
To Neil, success looks like happy customers, satisfied staff and content clients.
“It’s all about making sure that when people walk through our front doors, they’re removed from all the chaos outside. And if we can deliver that every time we put on a show, then that’s not bad business.”
How does a business maintain success?
Motivation is key, says Sir Graeme.
“What has kept me motivated really goes right back to the beginning. I came from a farm and was always interested in what happened to the product once it left the farm gate, that’s kept me going.”
For ARANZ Medical, success starts at recruitment level.
“We look for likeminded people who are motivated and want to help our customers. In a way, we’re lucky because in the healthcare space much of what we are doing does have an immediate impact,” says Bruce.
“Take for example, the fact the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken our products to some of the most disadvantaged children in the world, in the likes of Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa in order to find a treatment for a disease similar to leprosy, Buruli Ulcer – that is pretty motivating.”
But it’s not always easy
In the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, both ARANZ Medical and the Isaac Theatre Royal found themselves in similarly difficult situations.
Three days before the devastating 22nd February, 2011 earthquake, ARANZ Medical had signed its single biggest contract. However, with all of its stock locked within the red zone, decisions had to be made very quickly in order to keep business afloat. Not only did stock have to be rescued from the red zone, it also had to be manufactured and delivered, not the easiest of tasks.
“It was pretty stressful for quite a few months, we had no premises and all of our systems were down and we had to make a lot of decisions. That’s still our biggest order to date and the customer also placed two repeat orders, so for us it was all about responding in a time of turmoil to the needs of our customers,” Bruce says.
For the Isaac Theatre Royal, prior to the earthquakes business was positively booming.
A former international marketer for record company EMI, Neil had been in the role of Isaac Theatre Royal general manager for just under two years when the 4th September earthquake struck in 2010.
“So, 2010 was the theatre’s most successful year, ever. It ended beautifully with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Richard O’Brien who created the show, but then the ground moved.”
“Every business went through that stage of not knowing what was going on and for us the game really changed with the continuation of the earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks. That one in December of 2011 was a big game changer – suddenly repairing the theatre was no longer an option and we had to rebuild.”
With shows lined up months in advance, there was a lot of uncertainty for the standalone business, made even more difficult by the fact they were in the middle of the red zone.
However, things did work out for the theatre in the end. Rebuilding on the same footprint, the Theatre Royal Charitable Foundation made the decision to add the Gloucester Room and the Grand Circle Foyer into its new plan, giving the business the opportunity to host additional events.
“We had the opportunity to rebuild as we once were, or take a risk and make the most of what had happened. In doing so, we created a different business model for ourselves and, when we knew we were able to once again become the premium theatre venue in Christchurch, we knew we had to do it well,” Neil says.
Opening its doors in 2014, the theatre now hosts more than 300 performances every year bringing more than 100,000 patrons into the city centre.
Make or break
Although not affected by the Canterbury earthquakes to the same extent as ARANZ Medical and the Isaac Theatre Royal, Sir Graeme and the team at ANZCO have experienced their fair share of make or break moments.
One such moment was when Sir Graeme made the decision to commence his operations in Japan.
“No one had ever taken on the Japanese import and distribution market in regards to meat and the reality is that ANZCO is still the only foreign-based company doing so in that market.”
“But we’ve had our own defining moments here too, particularly when we started Five Star beef in Wakanui, Mid Canterbury. Everyone said a feedlot wouldn’t work in New Zealand and to be fair, they had all failed previously. But we weighed up the risk and it has certainly paid off.”
Sir Graeme says long-term success for a business can’t be built off a single person.
“To survive, your business needs a good team of people and a bit of tenacity. Surround yourself with people who can execute the business’ vision; understanding shareholders, a skilled management team, strong customers and good support service relationships. At the centre of all of that is trusting relationships.”
Much is learned from the process of starting – and running – a business but often a single golden nugget of advice sticks with you. For Bruce, that was when a mentor reminded him to always “delight the customer”.
“You have to create a product that the people want, that they value and that they’re really excited by,” says Bruce.
As for what he would say to others looking to start their own business: ‘good things take time’.
“Within the ARANZ Group we have had three different initiatives that have each taken about seven years to complete, from inception to fruition, so it really is important to hang in there.
“You have to believe in what you’re doing and be motivated by that. However, don’t forget that you’re playing a long game and it’s ok for passion to wane here and there, but if you do realise things are not going to work, then be adaptable and realistic.”
Neil’s advice to others is to never underestimate your contacts.
“It’s not always easy to make them – every business has to cold call, you can’t just fire off a random email, it doesn’t work. You need to know who you’re targeting and look outside the box, step on a plane and shake somebody’s hand. Even if it’s just an introduction, you will bump into that person again and don’t be afraid to contact them. If you keep things professional and have worked well together before, your contacts will always be there.”
“Also, look after your staff and make sure that every worker is proud to be a part of your team.”