Martin Lowe got his start in the workforce sweeping floors in Gisborne in the 1960s, but he is now sweeping in change of a different kind as director of one of the city’s major office supplies companies - Business Applications.
Lowe and business partner Paul Benge have undertaken a significant refit at the company’s city centre location in Gisborne this year.
It is not the first time the firm has achieved milestones in its 30-year history.
Lowe launched the company in 1980 after working his way up at two local businesses, where he found a niche in technology servicing. This work included installing what Lowe believes was Gisborne’s first computer, a Lytton 1231, in 1969.
Today, Business Applications employs 14 staff and provides sales, service and support to a region covering the top of Te Araroa and Hicks Bay on the East Cape to Wairoa south and as far west as Lake Waikaremoana and Matawai.
One of the company’s milestones has led to the establishment of a key business area – Business Applications was one of the first two Casio dealerships in New Zealand and helped to introduce Casio cash registers locally, says Lowe.
“Being involved in the introduction of many types of new technology has kept Business Applications ahead of our competitors over three decades and we have been the first company to install many newly-released products in Gisborne,” he says.
“For example, we installed the first micro computer, mono copier, simul-colour copier and full colour copier in the local district.”
Business Applications has also become accredited under the Carbon Zero scheme, running a fleet of environmentally-friendly Mitsubishi CVT Colt vehicles.
He says one of the company’s strengths is its diverse product range.
The company is segmented into divisions covering photocopiers, computers, point of sale technology and an array of small and home office (SOHO) products.
“We have a 70/30 split, with businesses and schools making up 70 percent [of customers] and 30 percent are SOHO business. Education is important to our company, as the students of today are the workers of tomorrow.
“We cover every product with our own warranty for 12 months. Because we choose to sell the products that we believe in, if the manufacturer does not issue a warranty up to our standards, we will. We don’t want to sell equipment that creates problems for our clients.”
The staff he employs respond positively to the challenges of serving a widely-spread clientele in the region.
“The company owes its success to a good team of staff, quality products and branding, a professional image and most importantly, a loyal client base.” He estimates the business has trained and provided employment for more than 70 people since it began in the 1980s, saying some former staff now run their own businesses.
During the recession, Business Applications ran a “very tight ship” and planned for a return to strong business as the market improved, says Lowe.
“We have remodelled our shop, supporting local businesses and contractors in the process, as this is the best time to sort out change. If people see you are making changes, they know you are proactive and in general will support you.”