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Empowering and building confidence Empowering and building confidence

Business success at these North Island ITM stores has all been about finding the right people and empowering them to make sound decisions.

Business owners, James and Nicholle Kendall

ine years ago, James Kendall felt it was time for a change. With two decades of experience in building supply under his belt, he wanted to investigate new opportunities. The first of these came in late 2009 when he and wife Nicholle purchased the ITM store in Matakana - a store that has just won the ITM Operational Excellence Award for 2018.

"It was an industry I knew and was passionate about, having been a supplier to the ITM network for 20 years," says James. "The chance to buy into a business that I could grow was pretty exciting."

James turned to Hayes Knight Business Advisory Director, Scott Travis and Associate, Amanda Billington, to assess the viability of the venture, assist with the due diligence, and help with the acquisition and funding processes.

It was the height of the GFC and many in the building industry were suffering, but with sound management and a focus on nurturing strong, enduring relationships with local builders, the business has flourished.

Four years later, another opportunity arose - this time to invest in the ITM store in Cambridge. James now has a 25% stake in that store, with the remainder owned by three other business partners.

In 2015, ITM Taupo and Turangi jointly came up for sale. James purchased them together with Brett Stewart, his business partner in Cambridge ITM and Andrew Crighton, his nephew. Andrew now runs the Turangi store and the Taupo one was recently sold. The family connection has been further strengthened with James's son now joining him and Nicholle in the Matakana store.

Establishing a management structure that lets James focus more on the overall direction of the businesses has been a crucial step. Nicholle is involved in the back end of the business and also has oversight across Matakana ITM and Turangi ITM and while James is still very in touch with what's going on, much of his time is now spent dealing with other business.

"I learnt early on that you can bury yourself doing it all by yourself or you can empower and inspire people to make a decision," he says. "I like to think I'm a good delegator. I'd rather people make a decision than not make one - to encourage that culture you have to empower people and trust the process. I'm certainly less involved in the day-to-day running of the stores, but it doesn't work if you make yourself a key person within the company and then when you're out, the business suffers."

Sales Manager of ITM Matakana, Shane Bell, has worked with James for 15 years in a previous business and is a trusted friend and colleague. Four years ago, James and Nicholle offered Shane a shareholding in the Matakana store and he's now a business partner.

"Nicholle and I work well together, but you need significant business partners to share the emotional burden of a growing business," explains James. "Part of my succession plan is to bring young, energetic key people through and give them a chance to have a shareholding. It's nice having a team around you, it re-energises you. It's a tight family, where everyone sees a future and is fully engaged."

While he knows the building trade well, James also isn't afraid to call on outside expertise where he needs it. And that's where Hayes Knight come in, providing a range of accountancy services including acquisition advice, the structuring of finance and ownership, carrying out valuations and forecasting, as well as business strategy.

"They're much more than simply accountants," says James. "If I have an idea or a dream, Scott's the first guy I run it by. That's invaluable really, and we've built a high level of trust."

While James is constantly refining the business model for his stores, Hayes Knight has full vision across the stores and can help guide the decision-making. "They keep a very good overview of the back end of our business, which gives us confidence and acts as a security blanket. We really see their input as an investment."

Scott Travis says he and Amanda enjoy working with such a positive and motivated client.

"He has so much energy and optimism, he's a pleasure to deal with," says Scott. "James understands the value of having stakeholders in this business and he's always looked for opportunities to introduce people and offer them a shareholding. When that occurs, we prepare valuations for the business and often also provide assistance with the shareholders agreements and the overall ownership structure."

Among the project work that Hayes Knight is also currently conducting for James is an evaluation of how systems, such as payroll functioning and buying power, can be coordinated, centralised and integrated to gain efficiencies across the stores.

"James has asked us to look at whether we're using and sharing the knowledge effectively and overlaying it across the group as opposed to each manager running their store separately," says Amanda. "He's also looking at opportunities for further acquisition and how another business might be integrated into the group, so we're modelling that for him."

James conveyed his intentions for the future nicely with this concluding comment, "It is a leap of faith to try anything new, however I would like to think the journey will continue to involve inspiring others to 'have a go', build confidence and share success through a great team culture."

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