Ian Patchell didn't like school.
Two months from turning 18, he started packing his bag with work clothes and leaving his books under his bed.
• Local architecture business shines at Rotorua Business Excellence Awards
• Premium - Rotorua Business Chamber Excellence Award winners 'over the moon' and 'stoked'
• Rotorua Business Awards finalists announced
• Rotorua businesses win at Tourism Industry Awards
Instead of going to Rotorua Boys' High School each day like his father wanted him to, Patchell would instead "chuck" his uniform into lupins over the railway line from school and go to work.
He learned "the value of a penny" fencing and collecting hay on farms throughout his childhood and knew if he was committed to a job, he could make good money.
Patchell wanted to put his family name "on the map" and his family pride has well and truly made its mark.
Almost 50 years ago, Patchell started his first business called Patchell Industries.
Today, the business now named Patchell Group of Companies, employs close to 260 staff across 11 sites in Rotorua, Gisborne and service centres from Bluff to Kaitaia.
Patchell has customers around the globe, and was named Business Person of the Year at the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce Business Awards late last year.
His love for business started while he was still at school and grew stronger after he left.
Patchell spent a short time as a building apprentice, then worked at Mills Engineering and Geyser Engineering before heading to Kinleith.
'A massive difference': Funding a relief for schools 'making do'
'Decades of memories': Last hurrah for Rotorua's VC's Turf Bar
Zizi Sparks: What it's like being drawn into the Black Friday hype
There, he worked as one of 17 boilermakers from the British Commonwealth to pass the necessary requirements to help a digester, turning wood pulp into paper.
"We were the highest-paid people in New Zealand. Holyoake [the Prime Minister] was on $15,000 a year, the airline pilots were on $17,000 a year and I was on $23,000 a year," he said.
He later moved to Kawerau where he was refused a job because he was apparently too expensive to employ.
It was time for him to be his own boss - which he has been ever since.
In 1972, he started his first business called Ian Patchell Ltd.
However, this was later changed to Patchell Industries because it "sounded better".
The business focused on manufacturing, repairing and maintaining boilers, trailer parts, and forestry attachments.
"In those days you didn't have to have any great engineering expertise," Patchell said.
"It wasn't as licenced or certified as it was today... I had a good start I suppose, engineering on the farm. You had to do all your own repairs... You bent something you repaired it, you broke something you'd repair it."
Now Patchell Industries is just one business in the Patchell Group of Companies, which cover transport and stainless steel engineering, repairs and maintenance, and container handling equipment manufacturing.
Patchell tapped his fingers on the table and chuckled when asked what his biggest business lessons had been.
"I've never said 'can't do'... You just get in and do the job," he said.
"There have been huge opportunities for me because people would say, 'Do you think you could do this for us?' and I've always said 'I can have a look at it,' then had a go."
His strength is "being able to see through something to the other side of it before its even built."
"You don't just build what you can see, you have to focus on looking through the machine."
This attitude led to a career "breakthrough" in 1984 when Patchell was awarded a contract with NZ Steel to make carriers.
He also had an opportunity to make underground mining equipment for Waihi Gold, but that "all turned tits up" when his marriage broke up.
"It took me a while to get over that."
Meanwhile, the number of trailers Patchell was building continued to grow, including large orders of forestry trailers from Pan Pac in Napier and he has just "kept on going ever since".
The Patchell Group is also New Zealand's largest onboard weigh system supplier for heavy vehicles.
Patchell declined a question about the worth of his companies but said: "changing the culture" of the Patchell Group was the most important goal for 2020.
"We've got a lot of customer relationships and a company is not worth anything unless it has written systems and procedures. It's no good in people's heads and of course, we have got people here with nearly 40 years of knowledge. Try and get that out of their heads," he said.
"I think in general they feel that they're going to lose their jobs, that's not the case. Those older employees - long-serving employees - should be actually teaching others."
Patchell's approach as an employer has always been based on employees' abilities.
"There are not many people that can do everything, you don't expect that and I've had employees over the years complain about not being able to finish a product themselves and my answer to that has always been, I get you to work on what you can really do best and move them slowly into what they're having difficulties with."
He said his staff were proud of their workplace because "we do things" and one of his career highlights had been teaching apprentices.
"A lot of my early staff, early apprentices, they've gone into their own businesses here and overseas. I'm really proud of that. Some of them are still working for me today, and have been since they left school.
"Some of them have bought trucks. There was always an argument here first thing in the morning about who was going to take the trucks out of the workshop."
He said there was a growing number of women working for Patchell Group.
"We do a lot of fabrication work that is done in jigs. You can always rely upon on the fact if a woman's going to do the job, she won't try and change it...," he said.
"A young fella will try and change the way he's doing something and next thing you know you've got a balls-up."
The Patchell Group has six welding robots, and Patchell said the female staff were particularly good at using the new technology.
Besides overseeing his own finances, Patchell donates large amounts of money to charities, especially the Rotorua Hospice.
"People just don't realise how much they do, particularly for older people who are stressed, dying. They can't look after themselves, the Hospice goes and looks after them. They looked after my own father. I have huge respect for their ability."
He also supports children's causes and the Cancer Society.
"People don't know when they're going to get cancer, when it comes out, and of course it's a horrific thing."
He said he was "overawed" to be named Rotorua Business Person of the Year.
"I was very humbled, it was the last thing I expected. Some people must have thought really hard about it."
Patchell said keeping his business base in Rotorua was one of his "biggest regrets".
In his opinion, "Rotorua can't grow".
"Look at the people employed in dairy and forestry in the Rotorua area. Our local council, in my opinion, they just can't be bothered with that. They're focused on tourism, and I've seen tourism fall over."
He said the money the Patchell Group and its contractors made stayed in Rotorua "but the council here doesn't seem to see that."
He said he'd had significant problems securing industrial land in Rotorua and that was part of the reason he bought land in Gisborne in November to establish a site there.
"The company has to keep growing... There's no industrial land in Rotorua and when it becomes available it's first in first served for the best price and that's ridiculous.
"The land here, we are paying ridiculous money for it. I purchase land in Tauranga for a fraction of what I can here."
The Rotorua Lakes Council declined to comment on Patchell's views.