Christchurch company that make tools for surgeons is exporting almost everything it makes.

The way to a surgeon's heart is to make him fall in love with your tools - that's how Enztec managed to build a niche market and a high-growth business.

The Christchurch company designs and makes instruments used by orthopaedic surgeons, and exports more than 95 per cent of its products.

Chief executive Stephen O'Neill cites the freedom to be creative in design as one of the reasons for Enztec's success. The company, he says, is not constrained by the rigidity that often stifles multinationals.

To be able to make tools which surgeons like, Enztec has to spend an inordinate amount of time following operating procedures. For an instrument to be accepted, it has to have an important differentiating factor, says O'Neill.

"We have very user-centric design. You know the saying about understanding your customers? Well, it is much more than that. We spend a lot of time watching. Our engineers track the surgery process throughout the day. It is not about the two minutes in the hospital. It is about the touch and feel of the tool. It is about [watching] how it is being washed, taken apart, put together. We have to design the tools for all of those people involved."

As well as design, other key areas are attention to regulatory compliance, risk analysis and a rapid and lean manufacturing system. About 70 per cent of the manufacturing is done in Christchurch.

The world's baby boomers are trying to stay active longer, a bonus for the orthopaedic sector, estimated to be worth about US$11 billion ($15 billion) globally, with the United States a key market.

O'Neill says the recession has contributed to a softening in demand, but there has been a rebound. "The baby boomers continue to drive demand," he says. "You can only put off a hip replacement so long."

Enztec began in 1993 when Paul Morrison, then working at Hamilton Jet, teamed up with surgeon James Burn to make surgical instruments. The two men still own shares in the holding company, with Birnie Capital Partners and Pioneer Capital.

This formula, where the innovators are able to get to the toolshop straight from talking to the surgeon, has served Enztec well.

Birnie Capital's Bill Birnie says Enztec stood out even as a small company for the perfectionism represented by James Burn and the precision skills of Morrison.

"Someone like Paul is irreplaceable but having said that, the company has grownin size and diversified its skills baseand is not reliant on one person."

The company has been reshaped to provide it with a better structure to take its technology to a wider market.

Last year, a holding company called Orthopaedic Synergy was formed, with two companies under its wings: Enztec and US company OMNIlife Science, a leader in hip and knee technology.

"We want to continue what we do in innovation - to push forward with what's been successful," says O'Neill. "We can develop things fast. We have a Kiwi attitude to doing things. We have proven to different parts of the world that we can interpret their needs."

Birnie says the restructured group positions Enztec in a way that will allow it to grow globally, thanks to New Zealand's innovative culture and flexible manufacturing, combined with the distribution of its sister companies.

To support its growth, Enztec last year raised US$6 million in the midst of recession, including US$4.8 million from Pioneer Capital Partners and existing shareholders.

Birnie believes capital will not be a constraint. "If the company needed more investment, we will be able to find it."

Another round of capital raising is being considered, O'Neill says, to help scale up the company's business.

The challenge of high growth, he says is to get people to run at the same speed. "We have to have the culture and systems in place so that we can sell at the same level."

A few years ago, Enztec signed a multi-million dollar deal to develop surgical instruments for DePuy International, a unit of Johnson and Johnson.

Last year it sealed a distributorship agreement with Spanish company MBA, and early this year the holding company bought Praxim, a French company specialising in robotic technology used to assist surgery.

The challenge, O'Neill reckons, is to stay focused. "You tend to wish you could do everything. But executing that plan is the challenge."

The company, he says, is lucky to have grown up with investors who understand what it takes to grow a high-tech company and the need to fund strategic growth. "We've always had good grown-up governance. There are few grey hairs around - that's not necessarily a bad thing."