Small Business: Technology firm targets Australia

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Digital Fusion operations manager Julie McLeod says more of the company's ideal clients are in Australia.
Digital Fusion operations manager Julie McLeod says more of the company's ideal clients are in Australia.

What's the difference between a corporate-style staff retreat and one that a small business will go on? The corporate retreat will be held at a swanky hotel and it'll be dinner out every night.

For Christchurch-based export business Digital Fusion, operations manager Julie McLeod has rented two adjoining houses near Queenstown and she expects to cook for the 18 staff from the Christchurch and Sydney offices. Those who haven't filled out their time sheets before going will most likely be doing the dishes.

"With a hotel it is too easy to be separate. The value is in being together - not for so long you want to kill everyone - but you should feel that you have got to know people better," says McLeod.

The five-night retreat next month has an objective: to rebuild Task Manager, the company's primary project management tool, which will allow Digital Fusion to scale-up its activities.

A speaker is being organised to talk about how technology applies to business.

And for pure fun, two recent web developer recruits have built a craft beer review app that will be tested by the team during their stay.

Digital Fusion was founded by Craig Saunders in 1996. He is the main shareholder and chief executive. The business has two parts: half the team are web developers who create web apps and more complex web applic-ations; the rest write desktop business systems using FileMaker. Digital Fusion claims to be the most-certified FileMaker developer in the Asia-Pacific region.

"There's a great synergy between FileMaker and the web. FileMaker is great for rapid development of in-house business tools and when our clients want to offer their customers some of the information contained in their in-house system, we're able to easily connect the database with their website," says McLeod.

Although Digital Fusion's Christchurch main office is in Ferrymead, a growing amount of business is coming from Sydney, where the company is building a presence with an office and business analyst, Jules Everist, and more staff to come. Everist, who will attend the retreat, is rarely alone, says McLeod.

"It is really important that Jules be part of the culture, part of what's going on. We try to get her here as often as she can. We also try to make sure we have staff in Sydney every week," says McLeod.

The business leases a terrace house in inner-city Pyrmont, which has an office downstairs and a two-bedroom apartment upstairs.

"We have really targeted Australia in the past two years. There are more of our ideal clients there," says McLeod. In July, 70 per cent of the company's work came from across the Tasman.

Digital Fusion's "ideal clients" are entrepreneurs with six to 20 staff. "They are real forward-thinkers, people who are prepared to do things a bit differently," says McLeod.

The Christchurch business, a Xero-approved development partner, turns over $2 million and wants to continue to do about two-thirds of its business in Australia.

It will restrict its business to the Asia-Pacific market.

Top tips

(On staff retreats): Don't stay in a hotel. Something about living like flatmates for a few days changes the dynamic in a good way.

Best business achievement

Our culture. Everyone here is passionate about what they do.

- NZ Herald

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