Catherine Leonard is the Office Manager at Nagle Contracting, an agricultural company based in Methven in Canterbury. She runs the business with partner Patrick Nagle and Uncle and Aunt, Mark and Nicky Robinson.
Business Type: Agriculture
Number of employees: 4 full-time (rising to 12 during the peak summer months)
Current Business Situation: Accelerated growth – three years ahead of current five-year plan
Relationship with The Icehouse: Taking Your Business Forward Alumni
‘TYBF has enabled us to get ahead in future proofing our business with our own thoughts and opinions.’ Patrick Nagle, Co-owner
How did you arrive at Nagle Contracting?
We started the business in May 2019 and we provide services to make feed for livestock. The main reason we have the business is that my partner, Patrick, who is Irish, is obsessed with silage! I followed him into this but I’m really passionate about it and it’s probably the best thing that I’ve ever done.
How did you choose this type of business?
Patrick was a contractor for a few years and then he got this mad idea that we should start our own contracting business. He wasn’t stoked about where he was at the time – he'd been offered opportunities to invest in businesses in the past but they hadn’t come to anything.
He handed in his notice, but we really weren't sure what he was going to do next. The phone didn’t stop ringing as customers began requesting his services or asking what he was doing. We were shopping for tractors on the Sunday morning and Nagle Contracting began.
What are currently your biggest challenges?
Work can be seasonal and we need to budget for that and that obviously has an impact on our decision-making. There’s a lot of driving around managing existing customers and sourcing new ones, but we're very lucky as we've got a great support base and extremely loyal customers.
My Aunt and Uncle invested in the business and they are experienced business people. They know what they’re doing and are great background support – providing a shoulder to cry on at five o'clock in the morning when we don’t know which way is up or down!
We’ve done really well in our first two full seasons. We had a five-year plan of where we wanted to be and we're there at that year two. So we’ve grown quickly.
What kind of support have you received from The Icehouse and are you looking to keep working with them?
I was talking to Kirsty Naish, my accountant, and she sent me an email about applying for a Xero scholarship to do Taking Your Business Forward (we’ve been Xero customers since day one). She said The Icehouse are really good and I think you should apply.
To be honest, I didn't think anything of it until Bryar (Stewart, Community Manager) rang me and said, ‘You've been accepted’. I did a lot of investigating in between that time and decided that even if I didn't get the scholarship, TYBF was something I wanted to do.
I did TYBF 3 from February to April 2021 with Josie Adlam and I was worried! I knew about the day-to-day running of the business, but I was going to mix with a heap of experienced small business owners and I was sure I was going to be in over my head. I didn’t need to worry because the support from the first session was so encouraging.
It's very well compartmentalised and the support you get from everyone in the course is just great. Every interaction was very positive.
How have things changed since working with The Icehouse?
I learnt so much and came out thinking that everything is going to work out if you take care of every aspect of the business. The finance and budgeting sessions were great and I enjoyed Kevin D’Ambros-Smith’s session around unlocking your competitive advantage.
Josie’s favourite thing was asking, ‘Who are you?’, ‘Who are you in your business?’ and ‘What is your business?’. It sounds obvious but when you hear it from experienced people you take notice and get thinking. The Icehouse have a great way of just making sure that you're paying attention to absolutely everything.
I loved Josie’s check-ins and her 90-day plan have just been absolutely invaluable because it forces you to stick to the bigger plan.
What TYBF really gave me was the confidence to generate my own ideas and thoughts and bring them to the table. It's given me the ability to have greater input in the planning of the future of the business, rather than just having one person responsible for coming up with the ideas and me agreeing.
We’re budgeting for the summer and because our season starts in September, I can be confident about understanding our possible threats – and strengths and weaknesses, whether it’s around logistics or finances, and just being able to plan for every situation.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are considering the Taking Your Business Forward programme?
As an agricultural contractor, we don't fit into many boxes, and I wasn’t sure how TYBF could be relevant to our business. My advice would be no matter who you are or what you're doing, definitely do it. You can input the things you’ve learnt straight into your business and what that means is that you’ll get your business to where you want it to be much quicker.
Contact Nagle Contracting for more information on its products and services.