Arranged marriage links relative newcomer with an advertising big name.
First there was the blind date. Then things progressed to clandestine meetings between adman Ben Goodale and his suitor. All along, his wife knew what was happening.
Goodale, 45, was being wooed by an advertising heavy hitter, Clemenger Group, keen on arranging a marriage.
As the New Year ticked over to 2013 it became official - JustONE, the marketing company Goodale started in 2006, became linked to Clemenger's New Zealand business in a $3 million deal.
It brought together JustONE's skills in customer relationship management and direct marketing with one of Clemenger's dozen New Zealand-based brands, .99, an ad agency with a focus on the retail sector.
Goodale took on the role of managing director, overseeing both brands, with a combined staff of 120.
"I got the sense that it was the best of both worlds," Goodale says. "I could actually grow the business that I'd founded by partnering with somebody else."
Goodale, a Brit who came to New Zealand 15 years ago on the arm of his Kiwi wife, launched JustONE after leaving the direct marketing arm of WhybinTBWA.
He began as a one-man-band, operating out of his car, cafes, pubs or spare desks at clients' offices with just a laptop and a mobile phone.
Goodale says his underlying vision was to offer something unique. "It's a bit why Apple are so successful," he says.
"They've created unique products and while I'm not about to claim I'm as unique as Apple, the space that JustONE operates in is all about loyalty, marketing reward programmes, data and direct marketing, for want of a better word, whether it's email or mail or whatever, and in New Zealand there weren't a lot of people who were really dedicated in that space with a level of experience."
For the first couple of years work came in through word of mouth or sitting down and chatting to clients, with none of the pitching traditionally associated with the advertising world. "It's a fundamental truism of business - you need to be differentiated if you want to be successful, unless you're in a market where everybody wants what you sell and you just have to be in place."
Goodale says when Clemenger came knocking he wasn't looking to sell his profitable, award-winning firm and was still fulfilled by the work it did but he could see that as a smaller player JustONE wasn't always on the radar of big corporate clients.
"I was somewhat frustrated thinking we were missing out on doing some great work for people by not having the scale play." Goodale fended off approaches from other buyers in the past because the match wasn't right, but after some time mulling over a deal with Clemenger he was satisfied he would be able to slot into the overall company structure.
"I've been in corporates. I'm quite an independent sort of fellow and you don't want to go somewhere you feel like a caged beast."
Clemenger is partly owned by BBDO Worldwide, a member of global advertising and PR giant Omnicom Group. The remaining shareholding is held by local staff, including Goodale.
"Again it was one of the things that appealed to me because every employee in the group has an opportunity to buy in and have shares."
It was a rare adland deal, says Goodale, one of only "two or three of any note" in New Zealand in the past 10 years.
"I think what made us different is we were genuinely a specialist and we had major corporates working with us and an amazing award track history, which is important in advertising."
He says it was nice getting a cheque and banking some of the gains he'd made.
"We're in a very risky business. Advertising accounts can come and go and you go from hero to zero and back again in a short space of time."
Goodale says JustONE rode out the global financial crisis well, albeit with flat growth, without ever using an overdraft and always operating with its bank account in the positive.
"[Selling] took away some of the stress that anyone that runs an SME would have around personal risk. "In theory you could lose your house tomorrow."
But selling wasn't all about the money.
"There's a loneliness about running a company that you don't always have a lot of people to talk to, especially about tough decisions, and so I think what is quite nice is there is more people to engage with on that stuff now."
Goodale's focus has been on creating a harmonious union between the two brands but is pleased no one has left JustONE in the 12 months since the deal was inked, which Goodale says tells him his staff are just as excited about the growth and development opportunities as he is.
For more on NZ business ambitions go to www.businessambition.co.nz