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More on me: Russell Webber, FlexiGroup

20 May 14

Walking through the downtown Auckland offices of FlexiGroup in the company of general manager Russell Webber, the immediate impression one gets is of the pride he has for his team of some 50 people.

“This is a great company to work for. Many of the staff have long tenures, so there are some great friendships among the staff; it is highly satisfying working in this team,” he says.

The company, he explains, leases technology and equipment to SMEs (small to medium enterprises), schools and corporations.

“We purchase that equipment from resellers and retailers and as such, we exist to make life easier for resellers, retailers and salespeople.”

With the option of leasing, the focus comes off the invoice price and improves sales revenue, margins and creates repeat business opportunities through customer retention, says Webber. In other words, FlexiGroup empowers the channel by providing financial flexibility.

“Our business model is strengthened as we provide fast service and fast invoice payments to our resellers,” he adds.

How fast? “Typically, for deals under $35 000, payment is overnight. That’s a massive boost for resellers, as they often have terms with the distributors which puts them in a positive cashflow position.”

Hardly surprising, then, that the team has previously won customer service awards; “For for us it is all about adding value to the channel - and doing that with some character and personality,” adds the gregarious Webber.

Having forged his career with FlexiRent, he’s spent somewhere over 13 years with the business, joining in a sales role when nascent company had only been trading a few years.

The rewards for commitment and hard work (Webber firmly believes in leading by example) meant he ascended to his current role within three years of that start.

“The business has changed hugely over this time. When I joined we were a small privately held entrepreneurial business with little structure. Now we are a large public listed company with over $1B market capitalisation,” he relates.

The scale and sophistication of the business has ramped up considerably as has its diversity. But, “Probably the biggest change is the calibre of the staff and leadership we now employ. We have a very strong team,” says Webber.

In an industry somewhat notorious for short tenures, Webber’s long service is notable. Staying motivated isn’t an issue for him, however, in a line of work for which he has obvious passion.

“Motivation is easy. The business still has plenty of opportunity for growth and we have clear goals for the future,” he confirms, having hinted at expansion into financing other technical (though not technology) equipment.

“More than that, I’m part of a team of 50 people right here in New Zealand. We all have a job to do and I want to play my part well; I don’t think I would be as motivated if I was simply working on my own.”

Expanding on his approach to leadership, Webber says a leader needs to have spent time in a business to understand it, have a vision and back that all up with a decent amount of courage to set goals and make decisions.

“Strong communication and a sense of fairness and ethics are also very important. And you need to be very organised as a business grows and becomes more complex, particularly when it comes to recruiting your team,” he says – but notes that nothing beats rolling your sleeves up and leading from the front.

With evident enthusiasm for his work, Webber’s secret to success is to keep listening and learning from those around you to look for opportunities for yourself and your business.

“I’ve worked with very good CEOs and CFOs over the years and learned a massive amount from them.”

As a country with arguably one of the greatest of ‘great outdoors’, fun consists of taking advantage of what New Zealand has to offer. “Mostly I enjoy getting into the outdoors.

Boating and the hills are a passion…and I’d quite like to be a better fly fisherman and get bragging rights over a few mates!”

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