Small Business: Paul Stewart - ON-Brand

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Capital raising finishes early and hooks Auckland consultancy firm new chairman.

The company, led by Paul Stewart, plans to establish three hubs in the UK, North America and Asia. Photo / Chris Gorman
The company, led by Paul Stewart, plans to establish three hubs in the UK, North America and Asia. Photo / Chris Gorman

You know your business has a good future when your capital-raising attracts new shareholders of the calibre of former Kiwibank head and Xero chairman Sam Knowles - and he agrees to be the chairman of the board.

ON-Brand, a business consultancy that helps companies with employee engagement, led by former ANZ chief economist Paul Stewart, finished raising funds two months early, selling 20 per cent of the business to four shareholders. Stewart was looking for leaders who had experience in "taking an emerging company and growing it quickly on the international stage".

"The capital-raising affirmed the value of the business. Reputed business people looked at it and said, 'We are prepared to pay into the business and we think it is worth a lot more'," says Stewart.

Konnect Net director Hamish McLachlin has also joined the ON-Brand board, representing three other new shareholders.

What Stewart and co-founder Leah Fisher believe they have done at ON-Brand is show is that their TakeON! brand is internationally scalable.

Launched three years after ON-Brand started, TakeON! is described as a system for connecting people and a strategy for better performance. It is designed to be led by a company's executives rather than consultants and delivered on the job.

It consists of up to 30 tool kits. One finance company used the tools to help it with the structural change caused by an acquisition. The Briscoe Group has been using the tools for 12 months to help improve the customer experience at Briscoes and Rebel Sports stores.

"The management tools can be used by small companies that would not be able to use consultants and is also being used by larger companies such as NZ Post," says Stewart.

TakeON! brings in 35 per cent of the firm's business and is where the growth is, Stewart says. Before long it will be providing 80-90 per cent of revenue, he expects.

ON-Brand's new funds will go on implementation of a network of about 40 new TakeON! organisational development consultant partners.

In the past six months, the Mt Eden-based consultancy has brought in five TakeON! partners in Australia, one in the US and one in the UK. "We are hoping to have about 40 in place in three years as a minimum," says Stewart.

The plan is to establish three hubs - in the UK, North America and Asia.

TakeON! was originally developed with NZ consultancy Blacksmith, with which ON-Brand has an ongoing relationship.

ON-Brand has 15 people in New Zealand and two in the UK and expects to have 40 to 50 staff within three years.

"We expect revenue to be $4 million to $5 million this year. We are targeting revenue to grow to over $15 million within three to four years," says Stewart.

The plan is for the New Zealand market to act as a development site for new ON-Brand products.

Top tip

When looking for new board members, find people who balance good governance with an entrepreneurial view of the business.

Best business achievement

Developing TakeON!. It makes our business model much more scalable and enables organisations to do things for themselves.

- NZ Herald

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