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There is a touch of Clint Eastwood about John Hynds.

The one-time Entrepreneur of the Year and founder of Hynds Pipe Systems has a rugged and confident charm - but just like Eastwood's 'Dirty Harry' he admits that "a man's gotta know his limitations."

This insight has been behind the success of Hynds' handing over the direct management of his company, albeit with some reservations and a little bit of pain.

"The impetus really came when I looked at the returns from my efforts. I started the company in 1973 as a contractor building retaining walls. I originally had four others involved but fired them as they didn't fit with what I wanted to achieve. For years I drove myself hard and kept a tight control. A decade on I was really nowhere near achieving my aspirations." Inspired by Team New Zealand's success in 1995, John says a light went on in his head: he needed to pull his red socks up. To become a national pipe maker and distributor, Hynds needed to make some major changes. Not the least of which were handing over and letting go. "I knew that the starting point of 'team' was having a vision, setting a goal and point of focus. As a 'control freak' the ability to delegate was something I certainly wasn't born with."

The learning curve changed John's perception of his company and his style. He now sees the company as it really is - an entity in its own right. "My role and responsibility was not as an owner but as a caretaker who needs to protect it and do the best by it. To do this I had to put in place the structures, systems and disciplines where I could become redundant." That meant creating some room for others to grow. "If I didn't give my eldest son Adrian (now managing director), my other son Aaron, and key business unit general managers like Malcolm Meacham, Peter Carroll, Peter Goldsmith and Rhys Langston room to establish their own reputations and skills, they'd be off. Learning and practicing trust - and allowing our people to be 'empowered' - had to come quick and has been difficult."

And his communication style became more 'team' oriented. "You have to develop empathy and adjust what you say to people. There was a lot of 'panel beating' and repairs along the way from people troubled by change."

Now, as chairman, John watches over a group of companies that are highly diversified, award winning, and employing over 500 people. Since the changes, business volumes have been up by 25% and performance significantly improved.

He still has a tendency to move from this role to more management-focussed issues but, in his mind, quickly pulls himself up. He initially thought he would have more of a 'coaching' role in the company but finds his present 'wise mentor' role is what his team actually want and will listen to. Moving to a stand-alone office well away from the company should cement this role and allow him the space to become a roving ambassador, spending more time with clients and the team.

John admits the transition has taken time, patience and a certain swallowing of pride. But he remains the rebel, albeit now with a much larger and more rewarding cause.

For years I drove myself hard and kept a tight control. A decade on I was really nowhere near achieving my aspirations / JOHN HYNDS


Starting as a one-person contractor, The Hynds Group is one of New Zealand's leading manufacturers and suppliers of over 11,000 infrastructure-related products and services for the civil construction and rural sectors. From Hynds Pipe Systems a number of other businesses have been created including Hynds Environmental Systems Limited to develop and market stormwater and wastewater treatment systems. In addition, Hygrade Products Limited, an importer of quality made drainage-related products and a 50/50 joint venture in Waters & Farr (a Wanganui-based plastic pipe manufacturer) complete the group picture.

Chairman: Founder John Hynds is now off-site and tries his best to act as 'wise mentor'
ASB creating futures.