Succession as a discipline
You could say that Mark Robinson and Brett Avery are too young to know any
better. The family friends have been in business almost nine years now – and
are still learning new things each day. Avery Robinson Ltd was formed in 1997
to bid for the license to import and distribute the unique UK-based Dyson
Vacuum cleaners in New Zealand. The young duo (at the time 25 and 26) beat
their more established rivals, some of whom import hundreds of electronics
brands, by being singular in their focus: they promised to work, breathe and
sleep no brand other than Dyson. The determination has paid off. Dyson is now a
market leader in the $49 million floor-care market, with approximately 30%
share; Avery Robinson employs 18 staff; and it has single-handedly reversed the
declining value in the premium vacuum cleaner market. “Retailers loved having
Dyson enter the market because it injected some life and value into a declining
category,” says Mark. As with TDC, the first few years of life for Avery
Robinson were a grinding effort by the pair who did everything, from sales and
shipping to customer support and logistics. But as the sales grew, so has the
sophistication of the business. Two crucial decisions have meant that growth
has been “exponential” without being wobbly or out of control.
“First we decided to automate as many of the tasks as possible, so we very soon
established reporting, inventory, customer care and accounting systems,” says
“Second, we’ve focused on getting the right staff almost before we’ve really
needed to. That’s meant that we can delegate tasks to qualified and trained
This “invest as you grow” approach has won the admiration of one of their
professional advisors, John Kirkwood, a lawyer with Hesketh Henry. “I see Avery
Robinson as a great example of how getting the system and procedures correct at
the beginning can lead to a very significant business within a short number of
years. It’s a great example of succession planning in its broadest sense.” To
Brett and Mark the idea of calling what they do “succession planning” is a bit
like saying Daniel Carter practices “projectile aeronautics”.
“You can call it what you like, we call it good business practice,” says Brett.
“We think we need to ensure the business is well managed because that’s a good
way to run a business.”
This high standard of management was the first thing Hayes Knight
noticed when they took over as accountants for the company a couple of years
ago. The Business Advisory Team observed that it was great to go to a client monthly board meeting where they have
formal agendas, minutes and a monthly reporting pack. The team also commented that it was pretty obvious why
they had been successful.
The future for Avery Robinson is bright. The systems put in place now, mean the
company can continue to grow to an estimated 40-50% of the market (as it is in
Australia and the UK). Last year Dyson invested over $144 million and has over
350 engineers working full time on research and development ensuring lots of
very exciting times ahead.
As with TDC and SnowPlanet, the Avery Robinson story is linked by one
over-arching theme. By employing systems, staff and careful investment, the
three companies have managed their spectacular growth without getting the speed
wobbles. At Succeed, we’d call it good succession planning. Others might just
call it cool.