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Congrats to the scholarship winners of The Icehouse’s Owner Manager Programme

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Valerie Walshe

Oct 21, 2020

At Xero, we ‘re passionate about empowering Kiwi businesses to grow and enabling business owners to unleash their full potential. We are proud to offer support, sponsorship and sponsorships for programmes that enable small businesses, bookkeepers and accountants to thrive. 

We offered business owners the opportunity to win one of three scholarships to take part in the Owner Manager Programme run by The Icehouse. 

The Owner Manager Programme consists of five 3-day sessions that are held over the course of five months. It is here where the winners of these scholarships will develop the ability to drive momentum and deliver better results for themselves and their business. 

The programme is geared towards owner-managers with more than 15 full-time employees and at least $3 million in revenue. Attendees will gain a better understanding of what drives business growth as well as learn the skills and techniques needed to carry out their newly developed business plan. It also provides owners with the chance to connect with other like-minded business owners, managers and experts. Gaining a new perspective on what it means to be a leader. 

And the winners of the Owner Manager Programme are… 

Robin McDonnell – Phantom Bill Stickers

Established in 1982, Phantom Bill Stickers are an outdoor media company who have been promoting bands, brands and culture jams for almost 40 years. Phantom has found great success as the go-to company in such a niche market. Working with their friends over at Big Street Bikers, Phantom have recently launched ‘Locky Docks’ – New Zealand’s first digital advertising activations that double as free electric cycle docking, locking and charging stations. 

Phantom has also enjoyed success through their bespoke software ‘Paste’ with a system for prospecting, developing, quoting, producing and fulfilling outdoor media campaigns. Robin, the owner-manager at Phantom says, “We reckon there’s great domestic and export potential for our system to become the global standard for grass roots media delivery”.

Robin recognised that what Phantom needed to keep up their upward trajectory was more leadership experience. “As someone who’s grown up in the business (I started sticking posters at 19) we needed to pause, take a step back and broaden our horizons”. When asked how the Owner Manager Programme can help him as a leader, Robin said “I’ve been so involved in the day to day running of the business for over 20 years, it’s a constant challenge to disconnect from the day to day and focus on the kind of innovation that got us to the position we now enjoy.”

A challenge that Phantom faces is adapting to the ‘new normal’ in light of the unprecedented circumstances that businesses are facing today. Understanding the importance of pivoting, Robin says, “We all need to get better at changing direction quickly due to forces beyond our control”.

Robin believes that the Owner Manager Programme will help mitigate this by connecting him with best practice advice, experts and like-minded business leaders to learn and evolve Phantom’s product and strategy. Enabling him to feel confident in addressing potential opportunities and challenges. 

Jenny Sonis – Veterinary Associates Equine

Veterinary Associates Equine is an equine general and referral veterinary practice located in Karaka, with a satellite practice in Kumeu. With a team of thirteen veterinarians, including three specialists, Veterinary Associates provides all levels of equine veterinary services from routine health care and wellness exams in the field to emergency surgery and critical care at their purpose-built hospital.

Owner-manager, Jenny recently took on the role of director and shareholder along with three others after a recent change in the practice’s structure. Acknowledging this transitionary period, Jenny is looking forward to the opportunity to get support from this programme on all aspects of business management. 

“Vets historically don’t get training on the business management side of things even though quite a few of us end up owning practices. To be able to develop those skills will be really important and beneficial to the practice, especially in my new role. I will also be able to share what I learn with my colleagues”. 

Jenny is looking at improving Veterinary Associates Equine’s overall business approach and the knowledge of the other directors about the best way to manage the practice. She’s excited about the future direction of the practice but acknowledges that there’s room to learn how to get there in the best way possible. “We really want to lean on the skills that are provided through this programme to help us get there,” adds Jenny.

Cameron Farmilo – Duck Island Ice Cream

Duck Island is a small batch premium ice cream producer based in the Waikato. With ‘scoop shop’ locations in both Hamilton and Auckland, the business recently opened a new shop in Wellington on bustling Cuba Street. Outside of their scoop shops, ice cream lovers can find their pints in supermarkets nationwide and in fine food stores and restaurants. 

Owner-manager Cameron, who has spent two decades working in the restaurant industry, has had to learn the ins and outs of running a business on the fly as he has limited business experience. With this scholarship, he is looking forward to learning as much as he can and hone his skills to better understand Duck Island and what it is capable of. 

Maintaining brand integrity is important to Cameron. He wants to make sure that Duck Island stays true to itself during its growth phase and keep its growth as organic as possible. Alongside the programme, Cameron wishes to learn what he can do to streamline their processes during this phase and gain insight into how to capitalise on their successes as they grow.

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