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
"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
For years I drove myself hard and kept a tight control. A decade on I was
really nowhere near achieving my aspirations / JOHN HYNDS
HYNDS PIPE SYSTEMS
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
Chairman: Founder John Hynds is now off-site and tries his best to act as 'wise