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'Bare-faced cheek' earns Christchurch business grand prize

'Bare-faced cheek' earns Christchurch business grand prize

It’s been a tough year for Christchurch-based Smail & Co, but rounding off 2011 with $250,000 of free business software is a good way to go out.

Annabel Smail and Greentree CEO Peter Dickinson

Smail & Co has a 50-year history and is one of an increasingly rare breed of companies: a locally-based manufacturer.

The company makes customised bathroom units in its Christchurch factory as well as importing items and compared its current business system to a long-drop dunny in the era of the ensuite. 

In entering the Greentree Game On competition, its director and marketing manager Annabel Smail said her father Mike hoped to retire but was sceptical about new technology.

 “We literally walk around the factory with pieces of paper everywhere!”

The Game On judges were especially impressed by her presentation, which affectionately took the mickey out of her father. She said that with a proper system, they could effectively put him out to pasture.

“I loved the irreverent and anarchic view that Annabel had taken regarding her father,” says judge Mike Hutcheson. “It was a very mature and very funny approach. I loved the bare-faced cheek of it.”

Smail & Co’s prize will be implemented by Greentree partner Endeavour, whose Christchurch director, Tim Ryley, said the win would be “an enormous transformation for Smail’s business”.

“They realise they have shortcomings, and they need to build a platform to support the growth that they will achieve both from having a system but also from the rebuild of Christchurch in particular,” he says. “I just think it’s a massive injection of capability for this business that they probably wouldn’t have been able to do on their own, so it sets them up for a fantastic few years coming, really.”

Smail & Co is facing the challenge of helping to rebuild homes and offices wrecked by Christchurch’s earthquakes. With their creaky old system (archaic accounting, spreadsheets, and an erratic paper trail of orders) they’d have been hard-pressed to cope with the expected flurry of work. But with Greentree handling their accounts, job costing, production planning and manufacturing, Smail says, “I don’t think we’ll recognise ourselves!”

Smail & Co also wants to break into the export market.

“Our factory people will be over the moon,” says Smail. “I also love the idea of our retailers being able to check their orders themselves, online. That will put us ahead of all the competition.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel now."