Kiwi Business Story: Owner Manager Programme – Stephen Doecke

Posted by Sequoya Harvey on Jun 22, 2022 10:00:00 AM

In loving memory of Stephen Doecke, a loved partner of The Icehouse and OMP40 Alumni.

This Kiwi Business Story is based on a Podcast from June 8, 2020, and all figures quoted are from that time. You can enjoy the complete Podcast here. 

Kiwi Business Story_Stephen Doecke

Stephen Doecke comes from a business background, growing up in a private enterprise in Australia with various family interests in Tourism, Business, Commercial and Rural Properties.

Having established his own Earth Moving business at 26, he eventually held a senior role for a Top 100 Company in South Australia in the same industry. Through his achievements, he was offered a role as an underwriter for a leading insurance company, eventually being responsible for Northern Queensland before being asked to move to New Zealand. Since living in New Zealand, he has held senior roles in insurance and business development for major insurance brokering firms in Christchurch and Marlborough.

How did you get involved with The Icehouse?

I was on the Japanese New Zealand Business Council on the exec, and we had a conference in Tauranga. I happened to be sitting across the table from this guy from Auckland, going on about this thing called The Icehouse and how good it was and how they set the world on fire and pull everything together. His name's Andy Hamilton. I just commented I said, well, why don't you get your ass out of Auckland, and into the regions where we really need you if you're that good. He just turned around and said, well you organise it down in Blenheim, and we'll be there. So that was a bit of a challenge. I wasn't going to let him beat me. About three months later, we had our first Achieving Business Growth programme with Leith Oliver. 

Then you started supporting your clients to go through workshops, and then our leadership program. Give us a bit of insight into the IQM scholarships?

When I first met Andy, I was working for one of the corporate American companies and I just thought I want to go out and run my own. After being in business for 12 months myself, weighing up all the pros and cons and just delving deeper. While insurance is necessary for business and people, to me something was missing. I came to realise that fire, floods and earthquakes aren't the major factors, it’s poor management and poor leadership. I thought, if I really want to do the right thing for my clients, I thought I should look at The Icehouse in a more serious matter, and it sort of grew from there.

 I sat down with a couple of local business people who I've got a lot of time for. We just threw everything on the table. What did we want to achieve? What was the end result, what was the return on investment and a whole range of things. That is how we came up with the IQM, which IQ stands for intelligence and M for Marlborough. It was established to help create an environment where the business people of Marlborough have access to the programs such as The Icehouse. 

I believe that a better business person will create a better business, which will go on and create a better community. We set out and six years ago, we sent our first recipient there. So far, we've sent five people onto the Owner Manager Programme (OMP), and 15 people onto Leadership Development Programme (LDP). We've also had various people on two-day workshops that The Icehouse has. Through one of the contractors at The Icehouse, we run our own Leadership program for our client’s staff, and we've had over 100 people attend that. Effectively, once you've completed The Icehouse programs, you want to go further or maintain momentum.  

How did you find OMP40?

My business got to a level where I was eligible. If you're going to be promoting something, you got to know what it's about. It was interesting, I was probably at a bit of a loss that I wasn't your standard insurance broker, and I couldn't work out why this butcher from rural South Australia who happened to marry a kiwi and managed to end up here, how this seems so right and yet nobody else was doing it. I did OMP, met some cool people and came back and I rebranded and changed myself from a broker to a partner because that's what I wanted to be.

How has it been being an insurance broker with a difference?

There's going to be some people that see this and go, him again. There's going to be some people that go hey, that's an interesting concept. I don't want to be the broker for everybody. I want to be a partner for some people. At the end of the day, if you want to be successful, if you want to be more than a transaction, give us a call.  

People ask, even brokers in my group, why do you do this? I haven't always been successful. I've been a butcher by trade, I made money out of that.

You see these businesses that are struggling, that they're going to go home and tell the kids that they can't play a sport this season because they can't afford it, whatever the case may be. Now that kills you. You can read all your self-help books and all these programmes that even The Icehouse put on. Until you experience waking up at two o'clock in the morning in a cold sweat, wondering how you're going to pay for something, you have no idea. Part of everything that I do is to help my clients avoid that.

I sent one guy on the LDP, and he was buzzed. It's almost as if he bathed in LSD. He was going on and on. I turned to his wife and said, look have you seen a difference in him? and she started to cry. She knew that her family and her kids and her house and everything else was safe.

Stephen Doecke Scholarship

For the past five years, Stephen Doecke, as the director and owner of Asset Insurance Partners, had been supporting his clients and community in Blenheim by awarding Icehouse programme scholarships.

Why? Stephen believed that by improving the capability of SME owners and their teams, they not only grow themselves, but also the local economy and, in turn, power New Zealand’s SME growth – the backbone of New Zealand's economy.

Sadly, Stephen passed away this year after a long battle with illness. We not only appreciate what Stephen has done for his customers and The Icehouse, we want to emulate it and honour it.

The Icehouse is launching the first annual Stephen Doecke scholarship in 2022 to celebrate the great man himself, and the incredible relationship we have with Stephen and Asset Insurance Partners.

Stephen perfectly embody The Icehouse’s values; inclusive and supportive, passionate about New Zealand SME businesses, community, and upskilling its leaders, wrapped up with steel, resilience, and that word again, grit.

The Icehouse is offering scholarships for business owners which will go towards one of our Owner Manager Programmes.

The scholarship will be awarded to an owner who has made a significant contribution to their region or community – echoing Stephen’s passion for ‘giving back’ to his clients and community to upskill and build business capability.

If you would like to donate to this yearly scholarship to help continue the great work Stephen started, or would like to apply for the scholarship itself, please contact Gareth Bayliss at for more details.

Topics: Owner Manager Programme, Leadership Development Programme, Blenheim

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