RBP Case study: EcoResto

Like many business owners, Henry Whyte founded EcoResto because he wanted to do something that was important to him and that would make a difference.

The qualified ecologist had grown up on a farm in Te Puke and had seen first-hand the practices and activities that were then considered ‘normal’, but today sees a better way of doing things to protect the land for generations to come.

Henry had a simple solution to a major problem: Create a business that supports farmers to be environmentally conscious and compliant, giving them more time to run their farm.

“Farmers get the concept of sustainability and aren’t opposed to it – they’re just busy and don’t usually have specialist relationships or knowledge about how to meet their sustainability goals. We work with them to carve out the marginal areas of their properties for reversion back to native. It’s good for the environment and frees them up to focus on their most productive land.”

The team of specialists at EcoResto repair and restore land and water ecosystems through services such as pest plant and animal control, replanting, specialist ecological consultancy and much more.

But while Henry is knowledgeable and experienced in his field, it was his first time running a business of his own, so when he started, Henry went on ‘fact finding’ process to find people who could help him get started. Through talking to people, he was recommended to connect with Tauranga Business Chamber and booked in for an hour of free business advice (which is available to new businesses).

“The business advisor, Derek, was a really good sounding board and a sanity check,” recalls Henry. “It’s all well and good talking to your mates about business, but when you’re in a room with someone who has good experience, they know how to focus on the right things and unpick the right areas.”

Derek recommended Henry think about the basics, such as getting set up on Xero, sorting GST and getting business cards sorted.

After his meeting with Derek, Henry worked hard to grow the business and the growth was quick – there was a real demand for his services and every job turned into another job.

“Every time we go to a property, we try to get in touch with neighbours to let them know what’s happening and then they say, ‘Can you help with this?’ and even a day here and there turns into a job.”

But running a business is a journey of constant improvement. There’s always something new to learn, a new challenge to overcome, or a fresh opportunity to find, which is why the Chamber’s Business Growth Advisor Roz Irwin got in touch with Henry to see how his business had been progressing after his initial session with Derek. She had a Discovery Meeting with Henry and identified where he could take his business to the next level.

“The Discovery Meeting really puts a big spotlight on you and your business – what you’re doing and where you could do better,” says Henry. “Roz recognised that an area I wasn’t strong in was the business planning, that I kept saying ‘yes’ to things and that I needed to focus a little more.”

 

Henry Whyte from EcoResto on the job.

Following their discussion, Henry says he ‘pivoted’ a few times to solidify what the core business was.

“We had to figure out what worked and what wouldn’t to establish our model and our core business, and, once we had more structure, the workflow could be more continuous and sustainable.”

As part of the outcomes of the Discovery Meeting, Roz connected Henry with the team at Maisey Harris & Co to do some business planning and, because he was an eligible business, he was able to access their expertise support with 50% co-funding through the Regional Business Partner Network.

“I had an original business plan at the start, but it wasn’t fully finished, and it quickly became obsolete, so one of the main things I worked on with Matt [Solomona] from Maisey Harris was developing a business plan from scratch.  

“We created targets for revenue and a few key aspects that would allow us to grow, including targets to be able to hire.”

Roz had also recommended Henry enter the Tauranga Business Awards, an annual event organised by Tauranga Business Chamber as a way to benchmark your business and gain recognition for what you do.

“It was a good process to go through. I know my business, but going through the application, and then the pitch, you really have to explain how you are running the business.

“One of the key learnings in going through the independent assessment with Jamie [Lunam] was creating some feedback loops, for example getting client feedback and formalising that process at the end of every job to collect information. Really simple, but so important.”

Henry says every conversation he’s had along his two-year journey thus far has been invaluable, as it forces you to think about and answer questions about your business.

“There’s always room for improvement and growth, and a different perspective, from someone who actually understands business, is invaluable. You can have good chats at a barbecue, but if you want to make good, sane decisions, you need a specialist to do that.”

Tauranga Business Chamber offers a suite of business support services through the Business Growth Hub, including free business advice and the Regional Business Partner Network. To find out more click here, or contact us on info@tauranga.org.nz

 

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