South Auckland is thriving -- attracting large manufacturing, processing and exporting businesses as well as SMEs providing service solutions and local specialisation such as finalist Harrison Tew consultants' emergency management plan for New Zealand schools.

Like other regions, innovation is a defining success factor in South Auckland, but it is excellence in customer service that stands out.

Westpac Auckland Business Awards South finalists such as manufacturers Nauhria Precast Limited, Palladium Homes and Rayglass Boats; and professional service providers like Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre, Harcourts Preet & Co and Topcare Early Childhood Centre competed strongly in this area.

South's successful businesses are achieving a combination of competitive pricing with prompt servicing and a quality product.

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They pay attention to fast turnaround times, thoughtful suggestions and improvements to save their customers time and money -- and to a strong focus on creating a memorable customer experience. Service innovations include delivery, relationship management, contact management, training or upskilling and regular customer feedback.

Highbrook and the Hayman Park development (including a $95 million expansion of the Manukau Institute of Technology campus) are evidence of a growing southern business centre integrated with a new electric train and transport hub.

Near the airport, The FoodBowl -- Te Ipu Kai, a joint venture between Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (Ateed) and government agency Callaghan Innovation, is nurturing a variety of food and beverage companies looking to develop new products and markets.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce has offices in Manukau where South businesses can add significant savings to their bottom line by accessing no-cost recruitment services.

Given the wider region's predominantly SME-driven economy, South Auckland businesses are showing Auckland that scaling up is profitable and feasible.

A Kiwi "can do" attitude means operators are prepared to take on new markets and larger competitors, by focusing on ingenuity, service turnaround and commitment to getting a good job done.

Award winners:
Excellence in innovation
Sponsored by AUT
Winner: Nauhria Precast Limited

Nauhria Precast Limited
Nauhria Precast Limited

Nauhria Precast is an integral part of New Zealand's construction industry, manufacturing and delivering specialist precast concrete components to the commercial, civil and residential construction sectors.

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"Innovation is a culture we've created. We live and breathe it using bottom-up, ideas boards, toolbox planning and other techniques. Every new idea is escalated to tease out its real merit," explains Rakesh Nauhria, general manager. "We work to identify new textures, design solutions, functionality and applications."

Nauhria's approach assists clients to eliminate additional labour and associated expenses, lower health & safety risk and achieve a faster production time.

Excellence in marketing
Sponsored by Villa Maria
Winner: Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre

Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre
Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre

"This Award is an acknowledgment of all the work that it takes to market the company, to tell the right story and to try something that is not a big brand. We have to continue to evaluate as retention is an important part of the customer cycle," says Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre HR and Marketing Manager, Sonja Herrmann.

"What we do for marketing is extensive. We have to target lots of different markets with different messages and we need to keep up with technology and how people are accessing our business. We are constantly evaluating and changing the messaging as a result," says Herrmann.

"This award will help with our brand positioning and marketing."

Best emerging business
Sponsored by Air New Zealand
Winner: Up2it Access Hire Limited

Up2it Access Hire Limited
Up2it Access Hire Limited

In a competitive industry, Up2it has positioned its business by reinforcing its strong customer focus.

"Our amazingly cheap hire rates may upset other access equipment hire companies in Auckland, but our friendly service and fast delivery of reliable machines delights our customers," says owner and director Paul Connell.

"We give 100 per cent every day. We have loyal customers and we want to please them," Connell continues. "We are all about personal service. We make a site inspection and advise our customers what to use. We want to be the best in the business and recognised by what we do."

Excellence in customer service delivery
Sponsored by Barfoot & Thompson
Winner: Global Financial Services Limited

Global Financial Services Ltd
Global Financial Services Ltd

"Winning this award has given us confidence," says Global Financial Services managing director Ajay Kumar.

"It is very hard to quantify an intangible service, so to be judged as 'excellent' in this category is a great accolade."

Since 1999, Global Financial Services has been assisting Kiwis to get loans to purchase their first homes, investment property, business or commercial property.

Says director Aseem Agarwal, "buying a house is the biggest cost, asset and liability for people, and to have the right advice is very important.

"So to be recognised for customer service, for giving the right advice, which is not only a huge challenge and responsibility but equally rewarding, is great."

Excellence in strategy and planning
Sponsored by Austin's Food Design Events
Winner: Contemporary Glass Limited

Contemporary Glass Limited
Contemporary Glass Limited

Contemporary Glass provides frameless glass balustrade solutions, glass pool fencing and frameless glass showers. Strong planning is an important element of its business practice.

"We've grown over our three years strategy and now we're working to our five year strategy. We know that overall this is a twenty year planning effort," says owner Kent Olliver.

"Building and growing a business takes a lot of planning effort and over the years we have learned a lot. To articulate the why and how of a business helps get things in the right order and for the right reason," adds Olliver.

Excellence in exporting
Sponsored by Ports of Auckland Limited
Winner: Rayglass Boats

Rayglass Boats
Rayglass Boats

With clients across the globe, Rayglass Boats design and manufacture high quality power boats for work, leisure and as tenders.

"We have huge international competitors but there is enormous interest in New Zealand's expertise and customers like to know that their boats have been built here. To stay price competitive we also need to resource locally.

"We have learned to back ourselves and although it can be intimidating if you look at who we're competing with, instead we get out there and have a crack at it!" says Dave Larsen, chief executive.

Excellence in business leadership
Sponsored by Milmeq Limited
Winner: Rakesh Nauhria, Nauhria Precast Limited

Rakesh Nauhria, Nauhria Precast Limited
Rakesh Nauhria, Nauhria Precast Limited

Rakesh Nauhria is general manager of Nauhria Precast and runs the business with his father, Roshan Nauhria, managing director. He is very humble about his leadership role.

"It's our staff who are the true leaders in this business because they all take their role and contribution very seriously -- thank you to all of them," says Rakesh.

The judges were impressed with Rakesh's inclusive leadership and straight forward approach, selecting him for his outstanding leadership through sound management, increased shareholder value, positive financial results, best business practises and accountability, integrity and vision.

Supreme business excellence
Sponsored by Westpac
Winner: Nauhria Precast Limited

Always looking for a competitive edge, Nauhria Precast has built business capability across every aspect of the business.

Nauhria's personal development programmes promote numeracy and literacy development for its diverse, multi-cultural employees.

"These awards help you reflect on your business in a way you wouldn't on your own. It helps you compare yourself with other businesses and industries.

"We have also grown so much as a team and constantly work on upskilling and supporting our staff -- there are 165 people who are all the backbone of our company," says Rakesh Nauhria, general manager.

Finalists
Excellence in Innovation, sponsored by AUT
Farm Medix Ltd
Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust
Nauhria Precast Ltd
Rayglass Boats

Excellence in Marketing, sponsored by Villa Maria
Contemporary Glass Ltd
Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre
CrestClean

Best Emerging Business sponsored by Air New Zealand
Farm Medix Ltd
Harcourts Preet & Co
Harrison Tew Consultants (NZ) Ltd
Auckland South Immigration Consultants Ltd
Up2it Access Hire Ltd

Excellence in Customer Service Delivery, sponsored by Barfoot & Thompson
Global Financial Services Ltd
Harrison Tew Consultants (NZ) Ltd
Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre
Topcare Early Childhood Centre

Excellence in Strategy and Planning, sponsored by Austins Food Design Events
Contemporary Glass Ltd
Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre
Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust
Nauhria Precast Ltd
Palladium Homes Ltd

Excellence in Exporting, sponsored by Ports of Auckland
Global Imports & Exports Ltd
Ottogi New Zealand Ltd
Rayglass Boats

Excellence in Business Leadership, sponsored by Milmeq
Dave Larsen -- Rayglass Boats
Graeme Bakker -- Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust
Rakesh Nauhria -- Nauhria Precast Ltd
Thada Chapman -- Conveyancing Shop