While in his first job as a patisserie chef, Rickwood baked sweet treats and pastries, he now develops recipes of a different kind – which form the base for HP’s success in the consumer and printing markets.
As both country manager of HP’s imaging and printing group (IPG) and the vendor’s national consumer sales manager, Rickwood is in charge of making sure the company has the right mix of ingredients to win in some of the most hotly contested market sectors.
Rickwood started his career in the consumer retail market in 1995 when he swapped his chef’s hat for a sales job at Bond & Bond.
But this was only after he had enjoyed a successful career as a patisserie chef during which he gained an expert apprenticeship, the equivalent of a master’s degree and worked at Auckland’s Sheraton Hotel (now the Langham).
Other achievements included a six-month stint in Germany and France before returning home to join Woolworths, where he helped implement the supermarket chain’s traditional European bread section.
However, the long hours and relative loneliness of being a chef took their toll and in 1995 Rickwood was ready for a change. “One day I thought I don’t want to do this anymore. I was walking down Newmarket and there was sign in the window [at Bond & Bond] for a salesperson so I thought I would give something completely different a go. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.”
Rickwood took to his new profession with great gusto and was the number-three salesperson at the store within four months. Before long he was promoted to the position of assistant buyer for brown goods, based at the retail chain’s head office after it merged with Noel Leeming. “After a year or so I became product manager of that category.”
Following this, Rickwood had a very short stint at Minolta and JVC distributor Hagemeyer. “I was there for about a week and they dissolved themselves!” he says.
The Minolta and JVC agencies were then acquired by Tech Pacific, where Rickwood became product manager for these brands for the next two years.
He then joined his first tier-one vendor, Sony, where he was an account manager for two years. “Sony is a really exciting place to work and I honed a lot of the skills I have now.”
This was followed by four-and-a-half years at Microsoft, two of which were spent in New Zealand as an account manager, predominantly for retail, while the rest of the time Rickwood worked in Australia as an account manager and then consumer sales manager. “During my time at Microsoft, we launched products like Halo 2 and 3, Xbox 360, Office 2007 and Vista into the retail channel. It was an exciting time.”
Rickwood then decided to return to New Zealand as he wanted to raise his young family here and subsequently joined HP as national consumer sales manager in May 2007.
In July he also officially became country manager of the imaging and printing group (IPG), having held this role in a caretaker capacity since February.
Although the two roles have different focuses, Rickwood believes having one person across both the consumer division and the IPG is beneficial.
With a mostly retail-focussed background, he had to get his head around the printing business fast, especially the commercial side of the group. “HP plays in all aspects of printing. I might not be across it in depth, but we’ve got experts in all of those fields. For me it is all about making sure we are heading in the right direction and we are all steering the same ship.”
One such expert Rickwood relies on is IPG commercial enterprise manager Hamish Patterson. “[He is] a fantastic manager who looks after the commercial business.”
However, Rickwood adds the differences between the retail and commercial sides of the business are not that great, as both are centred on relationships. “In retail, it is all about partnerships, honesty, integrity and making sure you are both on a path to a common goal. In commercial it is about that as well – it is about telling them what our goals are and making sure we are collaboratively talking about what we should be doing.”
The very competitive nature of the printing and consumer markets makes them fun and exciting environments, says Rickwood. “There are a lot of players out there. It makes you think a bit more and it keeps you grounded.”
While HP is the market share leader in most categories in these sectors, it cannot afford to be complacent, says Rickwood. “You can’t be number one forever if you are complacent. Being number one is not as easy as people think – you have 10 other vendors trying to take you down. [This] makes us think ahead as a team about what our competitors are doing.”
Acknowledging that the current tough economic climate has resulted in a decline in spending, especially in the consumer market, Rickwood believes the year will end on a more positive note. “I think a lot of people are waiting for the election to be over. I see the next few months being pretty tough, [but] I think we will be OK.”
Describing himself as very ambitious, he enjoys working with like-minded people at HP. “The beauty of people at HP is that they are very driven – you don’t work at a company like HP if you are not. Every single person in my team is driven, which makes my job easier.”
He manages a team of 20 across the consumer and IPG divisions and says he is driven by their success. “What drives me as a manager is making sure they have the right skill sets and direction to progress in their own careers.”
During his career, Rickwood has had guidance from mentors who helped him progress and he advises others to do the same. “That’s really important – pick someone to help [you] get to the next step.”
While HP and Microsoft have been good environments in which to build a corporate career, Rickwood would ultimately like to manage a smaller organisation through change and growth. “That is something I’m definitely looking at from a long-term perspective.”
At home on Auckland’s Waiheke Island, Rickwood enjoys keeping things simple. “Because I am surrounded in technology [at work], I like to go home and not be surrounded in technology. I like to get back to basics and relax a little bit.”
Waiheke is also a great place to raise children and reminds Rickwood and his wife of their country roots, he says. “It is almost like the New Zealand of old – we know all our neighbours and kids play in the bush.”
To relax, Rickwood enjoys camping, sailing, fishing and entertaining. “We have barbecues in summer and dinner parties in winter. The weekends are about relaxing and spending time with friends and family.”
Q + A
What is your favourite gadget?
My universal remote.
What is your favourite website?
What is your favourite sport?
Wouldn’t be a true Kiwi if I didn’t say rugby.
What is your favourite cocktail?
Martini – shaken and stirred. James Bond is way too fussy!
If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
What has been the most important advance in technology?
That would have to be the notebook PC.
What book is on your bedside table?
Hotel Honolulu by Paul Theroux. A book about a rundown hotel teeming with life (most of it low) on an island paradise tarnished by greed and lust.
If you were not in technology, what would you be doing?
Landscape gardening…. Don’t ask why, it’s just what it is!
Who is/was your mentor?
I have had many mentors over the years. One of my main mentors was David McLean from Microsoft Australia who taught me about the importance of work/life balance and leading by example.