Three inspiring Kiwi Leadership Development Programme Alumni discuss their LDP highlights in this Kiwi Business Story special.
Shayne Forrest, General Manager for Marketing and Commercial at the iconic Hobbiton Movie Set, Justin Daly, Operations Manager of Hamilton-based automotive specialists SD European, and Jess Williams, HR Manager & Admin Support at Firstflex Cables, explain the impact LDP has had on their businesses and career development.
Shayne Forrest: The Icehouse was recommended to us by Jason Macklow at Good George Brewing (who supplies our exclusive beverages in The Green Dragon Inn). He did the Owner Manager Programme himself and spoke very highly of it and The Icehouse in general.
I’d always intended to do the Leadership Development Programme and the opportunity came up in 2019 after I put the business case forward to the CEO and the Board. It was approved, and they agreed to send me on the programme, which was fantastic.
The key areas I learned about were around communication and leadership. I've been able to call on so many of those skills as we've gone through this present situation, where it’s been imperative to reassure the team and just be upfront and honest and transparent – to deliver a little bit of certainty in these uncertain times.
You go away with a lot of tips and tricks and the LDP covers so many different areas but in great detail. I've always been heavily involved in the marketing and development side of businesses, so that's been very handy as we've developed products specifically for the domestic market.
Part of the engagement strategy is to attract more repeat customers, who will then come back with people that may not have experienced us before. You also get little refreshers on things that you’re doing and sometimes it’s just reassuring to hear that you’re doing the right things in the right way.
Another big LDP takeaway was financial literacy. Those intensive LDP financial modules turned out to be very helpful, and the timing couldn’t have been any better as they coincided with our strategy around how we were going to scale the business during COVID.
Staying on top of the finances after such a short, sharp change within our business and the world we're operating in, and then using that new-found information going forward, has been invaluable.
Justin Daly: We have a virtual CFO, Ralph Blackburn, who comes into SD European once a week and gives us some tutoring and mentoring to help us in the business. He suggested we do some sort of leadership course to get us to the next level and he recommended The Icehouse and LDP as it had a good reputation.
I did the LDP in 2020 with the last block in November. We started in July 2020 and thanks to Covid it was touch-and-go whether it was going to start at all, but The Icehouse did a fantastic job in bringing it all together and I would definitely do more courses in the future.
I was scared going into block one, but once I got in there the jitters went away and I felt very comfortable. LDP was great and has made such a difference to the business.
It showed me areas where we needed to improve our processes to become more efficient and not waste time. I also learned a lot about more effective communication between staff and customers – actively promoting and marketing ourselves on social media and even the small stuff, like why having tidier work areas improves productivity.
On the leadership side, I discovered from the group feedback that I’m firm but fair and that I do listen! What I really loved was the networking opportunities and listening to the speakers and hearing of their experiences. Everyone has different businesses, but the problems are often similar, which makes you feel that you’re not alone and that the decisions you make often are good decisions.
In the next three to five years I would like to see all our parts for sale online as well as franchising our workshop as I feel we have created an excellent model.
Jess Williams: I did LDP 37, which ran from September to November 2019. I’m the sixth person from Firstflex to complete the programme and we plan on sending two more employees this year.
The facilitators were knowledgeable and engaging, you learn about all other aspects of the business and how every department in a business is important. I’m not going to lie – the presentation was very hard, but Maryse (Dinan, Customer Growth Partner) and Jo (Clayton, Programme Facilitator) were fantastic support in helping me to get through it.
There are also additional programmes available to employees after completing LDP, something a couple of employees have expressed interest in.
When colleagues come back from LDP they make gradual changes, rather than instant ones. They think and approach situations and tasks differently without realising and, as I’ve grown, I’ve done the same. I’ve slowly transitioned from thinking like an advisor to thinking like a manager and focus more on future improvements and long-term solutions, rather quick fixes.
I’m not as involved in other areas of the business as some of my colleagues and have often thought of my role as ‘just HR’ but after going on LDP, I realised that my role is important. In any business, people are very important and if you don’t have good people who are happy and healthy, the business won’t be as successful as it could or should be.
If you are given the opportunity to attend LDP, definitely take it up – it was an amazing experience. Being away from work helped as I was able to solely focus on getting the most out of the course without work distractions. Without realising, I’ve started working differently – I now think of HR ideas and initiatives rather than waiting for senior management to tell me theirs.
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