What's up Doc?

Doc racks up the kind of frequent flyer points that would put most pilots to shame, with his constant hops across the pond between his native New Zealand and his expanding business fortunes in Australia and the UK.

Perhaps his familiarity with travel is a legacy from his days as a field technician at the Civil Aviation Authority in Christchurch - a down and dirty job of playing with expensive stuff that makes other more expensive stuff stay in the air.

"I really enjoyed that. It was dirty, filthy, hot work with overalls, headgear the works," Doc reminisces. "I realised afterwards, and I guess at the time, that I enjoyed the application of technology."

"I could be out at the end of a runway one moment checking an instrument mailing system and the next I could be working on a surveillance radar or communication equipment," he adds.

After seven years at the Civil Aviation Authority, Doc followed the time-honoured tradition of many Antipodeans, spending a few years abroad, before returning to New Zealand to start work as a systems engineer for a small US company in the paper and pulp industry.

"Our company sold the systems to measure the weight of the moisture content in paper," describes Doc. "What I enjoyed again was the way technology was being applied to the actual processes involved. So if the operator was saying the machine was making the paper too weak or ‘it's buggered' - well the computer inevitably wasn't buggered, it was that maybe they had changed the wood species for example. You had to figure out what was going on."

Doc went on to manage the company in NZ where he built up his first management experience. But Doc believes his history of working closely with technology is the mainstay of his success as a boss.

After his papyrus days, Doc went to work briefly with a systems development company, Miner Systems, before joining what was then NZ's largest consumer electronics repairs company as the area manager.

It was at Vetronics that Doc learnt how to rebrand and, for all intents and purposes, start a new company.

"In 1990 there was a huge shift with consumer products such as TVs and videos dropping in price. So it was obvious we had to shift [what was then called] Vetronics into fixing special products like computers, faxes, cash registers and things like that," recalls Doc. "So we came up with a name for a new company and rebranded it effectively - it was called Meggs Electronics Services."

Meggs went on to become the largest consumer electronics services company in New Zealand, with 21 branches stretching the length of the country.

"I was there for three years getting the company established before moving on. And my multi-branch experience proved to be extremely important . . .

"Just within Australia itself, working through the logistical . . . nightmare, I suppose I'd call it, of trying to work out how we can get established in all the major cities has been made easier by the fact I've done it before."

After Meggs, Doc spent a short period with a computer reseller before going to work as the general manager of an Exabyte tape drive reseller. It started out as a short three-month contract. "I saw it as a summer holiday job," jokes Doc. But after a few months and some lengthy discussions, he spun off the reseller's service contract business to form Connexion Point in 1995.

"Getting into Connexion Point was really an extension of that [desire] for the application of technology," says Doc, who always harboured the dream of owning his own business. "I think that's probably from growing up on an orange orchard where I saw my father being boss."

Connexion Point is an authorised Quantum repair centre in Australia/NZ, a Sony repair centre in New Zealand and is finalising discussions with ATL to become a certified repair centre for its tape libraries in both countries.

Connexion Point is also expanding into the UK, where it has partnered with Reactive Computers, a computer services and peripherals company.

"The biggest challenge has been getting authorisation from the manufacturers," says Doc. However, expanding across Australia and the UK was something unexpected.

Around 50 per cent of Connexion Point's revenue comes from repairs, with the other half coming from tape drive rentals and media conversion services. And Doc is confident the old axiom of get niche or get out is as applicable today as it ever has been.

"I think for the whole market there is a lot of opportunity. I mean, you've got your traditional risks in leasing companies in the IT industry, but what we're doing is not trying to compete with them," claims Doc. "It is important for Connexion Point to remain specialised in the storage industry, and as long as we can keep doing that, as long as we can keep playing the niche player, it means we aren't competing against the resellers out there.

"We are in fact enhancing their product mix because we can give them specialised service and support," adds Doc. "Things that the traditional integrator or reseller might be a little scared to get into because they traditionally are having to cover such a broad product mix."

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