Six years ago Kerikeri company Scottronic Technologies was for sale. McCreedy saw the newspaper ad and snapped it up, thus taking himself and his young family from Hamilton to the booming Bay of Islands.
Now, he deals with a fast-growing business in a contrasting region of Auckland-style prosperity and sophistication, coupled with Northland poverty.
Scottronic Technologies was started around 15 years ago by local man Keith Scott who made taxi meters. Scott then branched into technology, eventually selling off the IT division 10 years ago to focus on his taxi meters.
As owner and director McCreedy describes his business as “standard reseller stuff”, with a focus on small business, though it does serve some schools and local councils.
“We are general up here. We do a bit of anything. Our focus is the professions [such as] lawyers and accountants; your core computer supply and servicing – things surrounding that. The service is the main part. You sell the hardware, but its more about service up here,” he says.
His company covers the area from Kawakawa north, through to Cape Reinga.
“We have at least a day, sometimes two days a week in Kaitaia. We pick the cream of the customers that we want to look after, those with reasonably-sized networks.”
The Microsoft silver-certified partner tends to “stick with standardised solutions”. It’s other brands include Ultra, HP, Arch, Kyocera, Oki and D-Link.
“We are pretty conservative in products. We evaluate their suitability for the environment up here and sometimes it’s an interesting mix. We did a lot of investigation into Cyberguard firewalls. They suit the small business environment, being flexible and cost effective,” McCreedy says.
A focus of the business in recent years has been support agreements and contracts.
“We now have a core of 30 or so customers contracted to us. The next step is getting into more managed services – automate the day-to-day maintenance tasks, backups, Windows updates, general maintenance stuff so we don’t have to manually do it,” he explains.
Broadband is no longer a challenge, but rather educating the small businesses who “don’t do IT very well” into accepting a need to use technology and have it serviced efficiently through such contracts.
“We have run a variety of customer education events and we run a local technology show here – a yearly event where we set aside a day and have our suppliers give presentations to customers. We also have a monthly breakfast session with our customers. It’s education, not sales-orientated, we pick a topic and talk about it.”
Raised in Hamilton, the former Computerland technician went to Fonterra rolling out Oracle on Citrix servers, before working in London, Europe, China and finally Sydney, carrying out contracting roles.
After six years’ ownership McCreedy currently employs 12 staff and they are typically Microsoft-qualified. A couple of younger staff were recruited from the local polytechnic and the one in Whangarei and are working on their certification.
“I tend to be in all sides of the business. Sometimes I am in a sales role, though we have a sales manager. There’s a group of customers that I am the account rep for.
“I’m also on the scheduling side of things, working out who needs to go where. At this stage of the month, there’s also billing and invoicing two to three days a month.”
McCreedy says he does not aim to make millions, but rather provide good service and let both himself and staff enjoy a good lifestyle in the ‘Winterless North’, with McCreedy himself being into boating and fishing.
“We realise everybody moves up here for a reason,” he says.
“When we need people, I am able to find them. Often people move from Auckland, if not further afield. People have to want to come up here and settle and sometimes they don’t realise what’s involved.”
However, many staff members stay around, with some having been there longer than McCreedy.
“I give them some ownership of different areas of the company. People respond to being given the opportunity to do things their way. Jenny in the shop downstairs has been with us 10 years and she basically owns the shop, deciding the stock, staffing and layout.”
McCreedy advises anyone thinking of moving north to visit and really assess its lifestyle, rather than realising after a year they miss the shops and nightlife of Auckland.
As a growing town Kerikeri living costs have increased to Auckland levels, though wages and charge-out rates have too.
“It’s the growing pains of Kerikeri: you have to make that transition from a small town business that does not charge much, to offering quality and full service at higher prices. You are in trouble if you raise standards without prices, as you are if you raise prices without standards. I think a lot of businesses in Kerikeri have faced that challenge,” McCreedy adds.