Kiwi Business Story: Regional Programme Special

Posted by Ben Whittacker-Cook on Dec 15, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Meet four fantastic Alumni – this time from the Hawke’s Bay and the Bay of Plenty who have successfully completed The Icehouse Effective Leadership Programme, Owner Operator Programme and Business Owner Programme. These regional programmes are specifically designed for owners and senior leaders needing to get an edge on the local competition and establish a platform for national growth.

Mark Witkowski is Construction Foreman for Gemco Construction Ltd, part of the Gemco Group (ELP), Kelly Thomsen and Diana (Di) Ketel are the co-owners, founders and directors of Bookkeepers NZ (OOP) and Aaron Harvey is Operations Manager at Rapid Lawn (BOP). 

Regional Programme Special

Mark Witkowski: Darren Diack is the Managing Director at Gemco and he approached me about doing ELP in 2019. He basically said ‘would you like to go on it?’ – it really was as simple as that. 

I read through the programme information, and it was all a bit of a no-brainer for me. I’ve always thought that the more information and knowledge you can gain from other parties that can help you with your career, the better. The construction industry can be quite pressured at times, so anything that can help share and control the load is so valuable. 
ELP was just fantastic and the facilitators, like Michaela [Vodanovich] were great. I was a fairly active member of the group, as I’m a big believer in that you get out what you put in! The coaches were very responsive to any questions or issues and always came back with ‘good’ answers which not only got you thinking but also took you in other directions. 
The sessions around staff, planning and goal-setting were great because it wasn’t just about setting goals but putting in place what you need to achieve them. The team management profile project was pretty revealing because it reiterated that I’m completely in the right career! I love my job, and the constant problem-solving that’s required as a site manager is something I relish.  
Kelly Thomsen: The workshops have really opened our eyes to the different ways of doing things in our business. We thought that we had a pretty good structure in our business but now, after starting OOP, we are finely tuning this to work as a more productive structure! 
We’ve always had a great team culture and we’re learning how to adapt what we do to make it even better, it’s been about getting the reassurance that it’s okay to put procedures in place and keep people accountable. 
Being able to delegate and how that links to being more effective in our roles as managers is something else that we’ve really gained. We can be owners and managers and separate ourselves to get the freedom to work on the business. It's given us those tools to be able to grow our business, and not be in it as much as we used to be. 
Di Ketel: OOP has also taken us out of our comfort zone. As accountants and bookkeepers, we like to sit at our desks and get on with our work. Getting out there and talking to people is one thing, but then talking to people and being effective is something else entirely. 
We’re with our clients on such a regular basis that many of them feel like family. OOP has been invaluable in teaching us to have more meaningful, robust conversations about where their businesses are at, where they’re heading and working through problems. We've gained a lot of tools to be able to face those things and work more effectively with our clients. 
There have also been a lot of introductions for new work, which has been extremely useful. We’re already working with other businesses that are on the programme and we haven't had to sell ourselves in any way because they can see that our value is already there. 
Kelly Thomsen: Michaela, for example, has a wealth of knowledge. She helps us keep perspective, and keeps us very real in our business. The first thing she said to us was, ‘You're doing a fantastic job, but you need to pay yourselves properly.’ She’s helped us understand our value and our knowledge from the outset and how to communicate that effectively. 
She's also helped us identify the key questions. Who is our ideal client? How do we work with those ideal clients so we can grow the business? What does success look like? How do we achieve it?, and then putting a plan in place to do that.   
Aaron HarveyI’m probably a little different than the other Business Owner Programme participants because I don't take ownership of the business until later in 2021. There’s a certain direction that I would like to go with the business, so addressing how we can do things differently was really useful.  
I’d never done a business course before, but Daryl French, our business advisor, knew The Icehouse and recommended BOP. That was in 2020. I have been off the tools for a little while now and most of my day is managing operations, so BOP seemed perfect.

My job is probably more general management at this stage and the staff management side is very important. We have close to 30 staff and I picked up some really good tools around managing staff properly, building morale and the importance of keeping good people.  
The sales and marketing advice was really good, particularly around social media. The reality is you really need a specialised person within that industry, because it's an industry in its own right. We tried tapping into the social side through some of the younger team members but you really need to employ experts in that field to do it properly. All this will tie in with our new website which we’ll be launching soon.  
Jamie (Brock) was our facilitator. I found him very knowledgeable in his field, easy to talk to and he explained things clearly. I can’t recommend Jamie and BOP highly enough.  

Click on the link for more Kiwi Business Stories.

Topics: Owner Operator Programme, Effective Leadership Programme, Business Owner Programme, Mark Witkowski, Gemco, Rapid Lawn, Aaron Harvey, Kiwi Business Stories, Bookkeepers NZ

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