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Catching the big wave

01 Sep 06

As well as implementing an international expansion strategy Tauranga-based Vision Software is doing well on its home turf. Director Mike Dennehy chats to The Channel on the highs and lows of growing his business.

How did it begin?
In 1988 John Nottingham, a vet in Mt Maunganui, looked around for an accounting-based veterinary practice management program and couldn’t find one. In typical kiwi fashion he built one and turned it into a business. I joined John in 1994 and it was just the two of us trying to make a buck selling vet software and a few other customised accounting applications. Now we’ve grown from two working directors to 38 staff in two countries.

What are Vision’s products?
VisionVPM – Veterinary Practice Manager, VisionCPM – Commercial Property Manager; VisionCRE – Corporate Real Estate; VisionBCM – Body Corporate Manager. These were developed to meet a gap in the market for accounting-based Windows software for the real estate and residential property management market.

Any plans for further expansion?
Yes – our business plan this year includes investigating and entering another export market – Dubai/Abu Dhabi, US or UK/Europe. Earlier this year we hosted a team of international MBA students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who worked in our offices for three weeks to develop an entry strategy for the US market. We intend following that strategy and, after a recent visit to the US, I’m confident we can succeed there.

What challenges has the company overcome?
Funding all our development from revenues has been a challenge – apart from a modest overdraft we’ve never borrowed or sought outside money to grow the business. Another challenge has been to manage the sometimes rapid growth without a blueprint for this type of business. The goalposts move very fast in the IT world and it can be tough to pick the right technology. It was also a challenge in the early days of our entry into the corporate sector to convince clients to take a punt on a small company not based in a main centre. We’re no longer a small company and are now the biggest property and vet software developer in ANZ.

Is it tough being off the beaten track?
It was a challenge in the early days to get credibility while still a small company not in a main centre. Air travel from Tauranga is limited and very expensive - it’s no fun spending over $600 return to fly to Wellington when for less you could have five nights on the Gold Coast.

What about staff?
We have 35 staff in Mt Maunganui office and three in Sydney. Like most IT companies it’s tough to recruit experienced staff. We have a great culture and lifestyle and a lot of fun but find it hard to compete with salaries on offer in Auckland or Wellington.

What’s the best thing about your location?
Mate – it’s Mount Maunganui! We get the best of both worlds as it’s only a short drive to Auckland and Hamilton. Our team has a range of things to do in their downtime. Walking the Mount is a favourite and in summer you can have a swim or surf.