Carol Boustead Gibb is the Managing Director of CBG Research, a major independent provider of public sector research services in New Zealand. Alongside her business partner Dr Barry Gribben, Carol established the business to provide national policy makers and managers with high-quality, practical research to improve decision-making and help deliver better quality outcomes.
Business Type: Public Sector Research
Number of Staff: 450-500
Current Business Situation: Managing accelerated growth due to Covid-19
Relationship with The Icehouse: Owner Manager Programme Alumni
‘Carol is super smart, extremely driven and makes things happen quickly. She is extraordinarily generous and has a never-say-die attitude to everything. She believes our team can do anything and as a result so do we.’
Tell us about yourself and why you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I’m from the Lake District in England and have been in New Zealand for 20 years. I have a ITU nursing and health research background and first came over as part of a research fellow exchange.
Having worked as a clinical trials coordinator for a pharmacogenetics unit in the UK, I was approached by the Department of General Practice at Auckland Medical School. The position gave me the opportunity I was really looking for, sowed a seed of completing research in the wider health sector, and that’s how my story began.
Tell us about your role?
I’m the Managing Director, having established the business in 1997. CBG was created in response to a request for proposal from ACC. This provided a first contract opportunity.
I love research, health systems, the law and technology. Half my time is spent leading and directing teams for REACH Aotearoa Healthstat, and coordinating the large-scale population studies side of the business. The other half is working on the business 2.5 days per week – business development and driving new innovations.
How does 2021 look for you compared to 2020?
We were approached by the Ministry of Health in 2020 to see if we would be interested in providing contact tracing and calling services for COVID 19.
Everything changed from there. The business has grown by 150% in 18 months. We now have a calling team of 300 full-time equivalents who are part of the National Contact Tracing System that supports the public health units. The team are on stand by for live calling from eight in the morning till nine at night.
That was part of the reason I chose to do the Owner Manager Programme. During the very first lockdown we were forced to grow at speed. It was unearned growth and we all know what that means – a lot of cost involved. I think I probably just stalled on where to from here? What does the world look like? What should I be doing?
I could see a lot of opportunities and I could see the changing landscape. Normally I run towards that and have done for the past few years. This time I felt I was just standing looking at it, asking myself If I had the energy? Do I want to give it the time? So I wanted to get re-energised and get clear about our direction.
What are currently your biggest challenges?
Reinventing face-to-face interviewing to be safe in the face of Delta has been a game changer. When you enter a household to complete interviews, the indoor risk is high, even with PPE.
Coping with the changing demands of the different alert levels is also demanding. We are nationwide. At alert level 2, for example, we had to go back out into field, start visiting households again and interviewers must be fully vaccinated and meet the latest health and safety protocols.
We are also facing backlogs of missed surveys. The surveys are continuous, so run for 52 weeks of the year. For every lockdown we have to catch up with a reduced workforce.
So that's really hard, and we were finding it increasingly hard to attract good people to the workforce and retain them. We run multiple trials of systems that will allow us to virtually recruit, connect and interview but there just aren’t the people out there looking for the jobs at the moment.
We're now a very sizeable company and I'm still two minds about that. We're really, really lucky. We've got a solid core team and they're fantastic, and I love working with them.
What kind of support have you received from The Icehouse and are you looking to keep working with them?
I did OMP 52 between February and June 2021. Even though I’ve only just finished, I am eternally grateful to The Icehouse for the experience. It helped me connect to great people in accounting, IT and new business development, and a fabulous network who show care and support with lots of sharing of ideas and experiences.
Deb Shepherd, Chris Woods and Raewyn Goodwin have all been checking in to see how we are going and I absolutely never, ever, want to leave The Icehouse network! I feel like I have found my fit and anything is possible.
How have things changed since working with The Icehouse?
We have grown and changed to systems that are appropriate to our size, the business direction is clear and we are on track to reach the potential of several new ventures within the business.
We have the right supports in place – advisors, lawyers, business accountants and I have the support of the OMP network.
A big one was understanding that unearned growth isn’t a negative, and any costs incurred are to be expected. It’s about knowing what to do differently in the future.
Another example was our IP. We had no trademarks, had developed all these new software technologies, and it never occurred to me that we really needed to protect those.
Before OMP we were running a dairy and suddenly we're running a supermarket! It was great having my eyes opened to the advantages of engaging a business accountant, so now we work with Frank Accounting.
I love systems, and putting new systems in place has energised me. We didn't have a way of rostering the calling teams. We manage teams of up to 500 callers and now we have an effective way of communicating with them and organising the shifts.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are struggling/looking for help?
Every day I ask myself, ‘What are the top three things I can do today that I can apply to the business to make a difference? Are we ready? is it a priority?’
And keep going! This is a time for resilience and planning – this will end and the world will need its entrepreneurs more than ever. There will be opportunities to find new ways of doing things and the recovering world will be ready to accept and embrace change. Get ready, and get excited!
Follow the link for more information on CBG Research and its range of research products and services.