Welcome back Craig!

We’re pleased to welcome back Craig Atkinson, Director and Principal Consultant of EQ Consultants.

For the past few years, Craig has been on secondment with premium honey manufacturers and exporters Midlands Apiaries based in Ashburton. He returned this month after spearheading the company’s growth in the New Zealand and international markets and the launch of new pure manuka product PURITI.

EQ Consultant’s Marketing Executive, Amelia Chubb caught up with Craig on his return to learn about his time with Midlands Apiaries.

The EQ Consultants relationship

Having worked closely with Midlands’ directors and management team for eight years providing HR and recruitment solutions through EQ Consultants, in 2017 Craig was approached by the company to stabilise and grow their new honey manufacturing and export business.

Craig explains: “We (EQ Consultants) built up a good relationship with Midlands over the years. We’d supported them with their policies and procedures, and recruited for several internal roles, including their senior GM roles. Throughout this time, I’d developed a great amount of trust and strong working relationships with the directors which led to my secondment as general manager.”

Growth of Midlands Apiaries

Building company success starts with its people… and many moving parts. Prior to becoming a director and shareholder of EQ Consultants back in 2006, Craig managed a global international recruitment agency in New Zealand, Australia, and Russia.

“Being a manager is all about building effective high-performance teams, teamwork and culture – this is what I set out to achieve with Midlands Apiaries. Creating an enduring culture but also one that’s very operational focussed, from manufacturing standards and processes using Lean Manufacturing disciplines.

“My goal was to create a well-oiled organisation, great export markets, great manufacturing capabilities, great procurement capabilities and profitability. The nature of the business demanded a lot of policy and processes for many elements, from inward and outward goods to building KPIs and export markets. We developed a new business strategy that reduced the company exposure to ‘private label’ sales and focused on developing a ‘retail brand’ strategy that included the development and launch of new new product (PURITI and Mount Somers) that would be sold domestically and internationally. PURITI is now stocked in 450 New Zealand pharmacies, duty-frees, and other retail stores but the real growth is in the international market where it’s sold on a larger commercial scale.”

Overcoming challenges

Managing any business comes with its hurdles; being able to overcome them is key.

Craig explains: “The food export game is complicated because of the standards required - Government MPI standards, testing standards; it’s amazing how much compliance there is in manufacturing, particularly for a food product, right down to the documents for export. The smallest issue could throw off an entire order.

“There are many different moving parts, different agendas and motivations. In sales it’s all about meeting and exceeding expectations, and keeping customers happy. Production is all about quality product and DIFOTS. Trying to get the synergy between the sales effort and managing the customer expectation around production is a fine line.

What next with EQ Consultants

“I’m looking forward to reengaging with old clients and connecting with new clients and assisting them through some challenging situations by helping them to implement better people management, systems, and having great people on board. I enjoy interacting with my clients and I’m excited about being in the city. I understand the agri-business and manufacturing space, their challenges, their problems and how to overcome them.

“This is the time of year where businesses experience periods of change, people move on to different employers or it could be that you’re expecting different results from the same actions. If you’re trying to get a team or individual to perform at another level and do things differently in order to achieve company growth but you’re failing, then you need to consider the next step. This is where I can help.

What can employers do?

“If in doubt, if you’re struggling with that decision, then seek external advice.

“Regardless of what business you’re in, whether it’s service-orientated or manufacturing, it’s still the people managing the productivity and the output. Having the best team, and the most motivated and engaged workforce is your best bet for a successful company. I think that many companies would benefit from having an external mentor challenge them on why and what they’re doing. All businesses need this, particularly if they don’t have a board or advisory group to provide this perspective.

“Fresh eyes. I always ask new employees in the first month or so, to give me their observations. What are we doing as a company that impresses you and what are we doing that we should change? I use this simple technique all the time because you get some amazing feedback, and you should get that from all levels, not just your direct reports, if you’re truly interested in your business.”

Back on board

Fellow directors and principal consultants, Steve Kennedy and Viv Patterson said: “Having worked with Craig within EQ Consultants since 2008 it was a big transition when he was seconded to one of our key clients but now it’s great to have him back within the team. He has immediately added value with his experience and knowledge and I’m sure it won’t be long before he is back in high demand with our clients.”

Craig can be contacted on 021 223 2124 or by emailing c.atkinson@eqconsultants.co.nz

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