Bruce McEwen is the Founder and Managing Director of Zend, and an Owner Manager Programme alumni.
This Kiwi Business Story is based on a podcast from 21 September 2023, and all figures quoted are from that time. You can enjoy the complete podcast here.
How did Zend start?
First of all by picking the phone up and speaking to my lawyer and my accountant… So once I did that paperwork side of things, I actually worked from home from day one, and set up an office in a spare room.
(Bruce’s first client was Auckland Hospital) From my point of view, the risk piece if you like, because I had Auckland Hospital as my first customer, I knew that I was going to get paid. So, security wise, I could actually get out there without having to always look back over my shoulder thinking, ‘Well, how am I going to put food on the table?’ So I was quite lucky in that respect.
What does Zend offer?
Zend sits in the middle between our customer and the courier and transport companies. So we’re B2B. Once we have a business we engage with, we do a review of how they manage their distribution and logistics. We find out what's working well but, more importantly, what isn't working well and what are the problems that they're actually going through – and it's normally quite painful.
There's a challenge around customer service, so Zend is really a customer service business working in the freight logistics space. We have our own sales and account management team, we run our own customer services team, we have our own back office in terms of accounts, our own IT platform, and we handle the whole claims insurance process for our customers.
Our customer sees the courier company – it could be any courier company picking the goods up and delivering them – but they deal with Zend for every single thing. All the customer services, they deal with us, not the freight company. For example, all the billing comes from us on our platform so they're not getting different invoices from different suppliers. We really streamline the process, dealing with about 30 to 40 different courier and transport businesses throughout New Zealand so we're able to give our customers some flexibility.
When did you first hear about The Icehouse?
I heard it through our bank manager at BNZ, as we've been a long-time customer of theirs. Like most things, when you hear about something, then you start noticing it, and suddenly they’re (The Icehouse) everywhere!
I went on a two-day workshop in Christchurch before the earthquakes, which was great, and then in 2010 I went along to a one-day Icehouse event in Auckland. I thought, ‘well, you know what, I'm going to do this.’ So in 2011 I enrolled on the Owner Manager Programme (OMP).
How did you find OMP? And what impact has it had on you?
It was interesting for me because I'd worked for some big corporates and started my own business. So I knew quite a bit – I'd done a lot of other courses – and I was really comfortable about what we were doing. It reinforced that a lot of the things we were doing made sense.
The power of the network, the people, the programme itself, and the subjects covered were great. [The Icehouse] provides a powerful network – to be able to pick the phone up, talk to them if you've got some challenges, but also the people who you met who were doing the subject. You’re able to actually connect with them afterwards. We ended up engaging a business that helped us with our strategic five-year plan at the time, so it’s a resource.
Even today, I still go back and look at some of the manuals that I've got from certain subjects – finance, for example… Little simple things to keep you on track. So it's been great, I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
Has there been a purposeful decision to stay connected to The Icehouse community and your business community?
When you own a business, and you're driving it every single day, sales and existing customers are crucial. A lot of that is about networking and actually getting out of the office and meeting people (if you're in sales, for example) – that's how you earn your money. There's an old saying, ‘your network is your net worth!’ So the more people than the right people, crucially, critically, is really important.