Small business: Mature owners - Geoff Treanor

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Geoff Treanor, a former school principal, now runs Teach Overseas, a company which facilitates taking young NZ graduates overseas to teach

Geoff Treanor (2nd in from right) with his new teachers.
Geoff Treanor (2nd in from right) with his new teachers.

How have you been able to make a difference in people's lives?

Our operation is centred on giving young university graduates the opportunity of making a great start in life after they have completed their years of study.

The great OE has been part of a New Zealander's rite of passage for so many generations. What we offer is the chance to lock into this option, not in the traditional areas of the UK/Europe , but in Asia. Not only is it an Asian experience, but it is well paid with a package that includes a free return airfare, free apartment, bonus payment at the end of the contract and a full time job.

The experience of many of the young graduates has seen them pay off their loans, save for the UK OE, and build up a most important aspect for future employment in NZ, work experience.

Our part has been to provide a service to Kiwis that takes them from the very start of the process, to getting on a plane in Auckland with a full time 12 month contract in their back pocket and a visa stamped in their passport.

Reducing the risk, increasing the prospects of a very positive experience.

The business operation is part of a NZ international education export drive. Our point of difference is that we export teachers rather than recruiting students to come and study in NZ based language schools. Same industry, different location.

What challenges have you had?

The response to date has been interesting. We have been working to overcome a lack of awareness from both ends of the business. The supply and the demand aspects. The NZ end is all about the lack of awareness of the huge opportunities our young people have in Asia. As a country we know a great deal about the UK and Europe and very little about most Asian countries. Korea is a good example. Kiwis know very little about Korea, yet it is so important to us as our fifth largest trading partner. The fact that NZ is an English speaking country is not well known in most Asian countries. The demand for English language instruction in all parts of Asia, is staggering, yet the US and Canada dominate the marketplace in Japan, Korea and China.

What are the opportunities?

The opportunity for expansion is very positive providing we are able to resolve some of our issues relating to our NZ marketing strategies. This is seen as something of a long term perception shift. Being able to be creative and working through these issues is something that is very exciting and challenging.

The business foundations have been laid and our model works very well. Having a depth of experience as part of the set up team was a vital element. Both myself and my wife, Dr Mollie Neville, were able to bring into focus years of experience in teaching, living and working in Asia and a desire to help young people achieve their goals. Working alongside the directors of NZIE in a business partnership who had the vision and faith to let us work towards these goals, has left us in a very healthy structural position. The next target of moving it forward on to the next stages, is very important and provides the motivation to be enthusiastic on a daily basis. I can't think of anything I would rather be doing.

What risks did you take and how has your age affected your decisions?

The risk of moving from a very stable civil servant salary to a business owner was not a positive financial move. The pressure of a no fixed income stream is a rude shock and not a pleasant experience. However knowing that you have created a financially viable operating business from an idea is something unique and quite a buzz.

I don't think that age has a part to play. The most important aspects is a belief in what you are doing, energy to keep going, a clear vision of what you want to achieve and have an exit plan. Setting this exit goal took a lot of the stress out of the equation. Knowing that there is an exit point, focuses your energy onto the now. That there is a finite point at which it is prudent to make your exit, is something that I believe is a factor that the baby boomers may have over the younger generation. The idea that there is an end point means you have to stay focused and work hard rather than having a life time in front of you to achieve the goals.

Combine this with a little bit of age, common sense and wisdom,and it can be a winning formulae.

Next week: Aucklanders will have noticed that there are all kinds of restaurants springing up at the moment - Peter Gordon's in the Sky Tower, Al Brown has a new place opening up next to The Depot, and the Cityworks Depot complex has attracted the likes of the Food Truck's Michael van de Elzen. I want to hear from hospitality businesses who are building something they think will last and the challenges out there. How do they keep in touch with customers between meals? Meanwhile I'm trying out My Food Bag this week. Are these kinds of businesses threatening restaurants? Is it a replacement to eating out? I will report back.

- NZ Herald

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