Bell-curve peak for Hamilton's Elite

Bell-curve peak for Hamilton's Elite

uch has been the growth of Hamilton-based Elite Business Systems, early next year the company is moving to a new building north of the city in Te Rapa.

Situated in the new Trinity Heights Business Park, Elite’s 1000 square-metre headquarters promises to be “the best IT building set-up in the Waikato”.

The custom-built centre will also feature an enticing 300-square-metre mezzanine area aimed at showcasing the company.

“We want it to be a drop-in centre for the ICT community. We are not just an IT company,” explains general manager Max Davies.

Elite Business Systems was started 19 years ago by husband-and-wife team Tony and Trish Kirton. It is presently located in Tristram Street in central Hamilton.

Davies joined some years later as a computer systems manager with the understanding he would buy a share of the business.

He had previously worked for OTS Computers, Rolls Industries and Hamilton’s Crystal Glass Industries. It was there, after promotion from the workshop to the office, he developed a passion for computing.

In 2003 Davies and business partner Roger Salisbury bought Elite, continuing its growth that was helped by a commitment to customer service.

Last year, following other buy-outs, Elite Business Systems bought Apex Computers in Tauranga, giving Elite 45 team members – double that of five years ago.

The company has a broad range of offerings covering computer networking, business telephony, data and voice cabling, mobile, accounting and ASP hosting.

Vendors include Microsoft, HP, Siemens, Panasonic, MYOB Exonet, Vodafone, Telstra-Clear, Citrix, Allied Telesyn, Trend Micro, Canon and Molex.

What sets the business apart, says Davies, is “we are a most unusual company,” a comment picked up in a customer survey.

“We try to make the customer experience incredible and give a wow factor. Around the client it is unbending integrity. I believe a handshake is your bond. Our team members say it isn’t a job here, it’s a lifestyle,” he says.

“HP tells us that if we are not number one, we are in the top two in terms of loyalty to HP. We became a Vodafone dealer last year and won a Vodafone Dexter Award in 2006.”

In May Elite became a Microsoft Gold Partner, the only privately-owned organisation in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty region to earn such recognition.

“It means we can attend their gold partner events and work more closely with Microsoft in partnering for deals. But it does take a lot of effort. You need to have a certain amount of staff with certain qualifications and it’s the products that you sell,” Davies says.

Telstra Clear recently made Elite an accredited partner, recognition he says comes from staff training and there being “no problem that cannot be solved”.

Elite’s broad range means it has no one big seller, but delivers a complete package.

“We are not corporate like Gen-i or Axon. Our perfect customers are five to 100 users and the Waikato is huge in this area.”

Farming forms a large part of this through agricultural services like veterinarians, machinery sellers and accountants. Networking local schools is another area.

Davies says his firm is so well known locally it rarely advertises. Most custom comes from referrals, while some key customers have been with Elite since it began.

Business is presently going well, but declining margins means Elite has to work harder and minimise mistakes.

Bad or late payers are always an issue, though Davies says this problem is minimised with Elite choosing customers wisely and even turning some down.

“It has to be a partnership. We are looking out for everybody.”

This extends to treating staff well, which is why six have been with Elite for more than 10 years and another dozen for more than five.

There is also a commitment to staff training, which is vital with new products.

These are chosen by Roger Salisbury who tests them with his technical team to ensure a fit with company plans, before sales staff receive them.

Looking ahead, Davies feels voice will be a major part of the business, with IP having “a few exciting years ahead of it”.

However, how Elite reacts will depend on suppliers and where they lead the company and take the technology.

“We are not worried about what the products are, but how we deliver them to customers,” Davies says.

The move to Te Rapa is part of that, with Davies further stressing the role of team members in a “professional, friendly and fun” atmosphere.

“We don’t want to stop. We are continually looking for ways to push each other and develop each other. We are trying to get where our customers are telling us to go,” he concludes.

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