Here's a story to warm the heart of all concerned: the entrepreneur, his wife, the neighbour and his accountant. It goes like this: A guy runs a small glass repair firm. His next-door neighbour comes over one Friday night with a business question. Five years later, they are running one of the largest and most innovative glass repair firms in New Zealand.
Asset Management Network is a Wellington-based company which combines the resources of some 60 small glazing businesses around the country to offer a single point of contact service to customers, particularly in the corporate world.
It is the brain-child of Mike and Sue Anders, owners of Mike's Glass, and their neighbours Brent and Eve Hayden, owners of Hayden Consulting, a management consulting firm.
"Mike and Sue were asked to have a look at a nationwide service for State Insurance's glazing requirements. So they came to us for advice, one thing led to another and we decided to do it together," explains Brent.
The neighbours have used their combined expertise to set up the network of glaziers to provide a 24-7 service with a centralised call centre, personalised service, single invoice process and quality guarantees.
"What we are able to do is centre the enthusiasm of all those individual business owners, groom that support and present it in the boardrooms of Queen Street or Lambton Quay or wherever it is that we are talking to national or international corporates. That in turns gives the glazier more time to get out on the job and fewer ties in the office," says Brent.
Set up in December 2002, AMN won the contract to provide flat glazing for IAG New Zealand Limited (State and NZI brands). It has since added other customers including GSB Supplycorp (which is responsible for tenders and procurements for government departments) and currently handles around 20,000 transactions a year. Two years ago the company branched out into the auto glass market, forming a joint venture with Novus New Zealand.
So where's the succession lesson? There are at least two. First, AMN has spread its risk by sourcing customers from multiple sectors and across the nation. That's a smart move, especially in tough economic times. What's more, corporate customers, although hard to win, are good payers and they look good on the CV. AMN is building brand value and the kind of secure cash base that a buyer will value.
Second, AMN has addressed a key problem inherent in any fast growing SME: governance. Through the Business Mentor Network, the shareholders invited Martin Lenart to take on the role of independent chairperson.
"He gave us the perspective of somebody not working in the business on a day-to-day basis and also introduced some rigour to our self evaluation and board reporting, says Brent."
The move has been a success and has also provided the company with an easy solution to Mike Anders' wish to sell his shareholding - he sold them to Martin.
Now that's succession planning at work.