Auckland entrepreneur Gareth Berry, who in ten years has built an award-winning global software company processing more than $10 billion in receipts every year, is in no doubt about the key to his success - his staff.
Berry, founder and CEO of Takapuna-based Unleashed Software, says the company's employees are the number one reason for its success: "We didn't do it because we had the best strategy; we did it because from the start we have loved and adored our employees and allowed them to bring 'their authentic' selves to work.
Named this month as the North and West regions' supreme winner in the Westpac Auckland Business Awards, (as well as winning the Excellence in Marketing and Employer of the Year categories) Unleashed has grown from nothing to supplying software solutions to over 3000 customers in 80 countries, most of them in the northern hemisphere.
"We are a tight-knit team made up of people from all walks of life," Berry says. "We firmly believe it only takes two weeks for a customer to feel the impact of the way we treat our staff – and as we value our employees we hope they will value our clients. This has led us to focus on initiatives to improve retention and to ensure our team is satisfied."
Berry says Unleashed wants its staff to not only be able to express themselves but to be comfortable while at work. To this end it encourages staff to bring "their authentic self" and is relaxed with the way people dress.
The company was founded in 2009. Today its primary markets, other than New Zealand, are Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. It has also achieved spectacular growth – in the last financial year growing operating revenue by 43 per cent and the number of new customers by 23 per cent.
The Westpac awards are delivered by the Auckland Business Chamber in partnership with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) to celebrate innovation and strategic thinking. Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett says Unleashed Software is a clear example of a business having the courage to apply its vision on a global scale and succeeding.
Berry says Unleashed works mainly with businesses in the industrial machinery and equipment, beverages, electronics/telecommunications and food sectors. Its software helps customers make effective data-driven decisions and improve efficiency around their purchasing, production, stock control and sales processes among other benefits.
"Currently we have $10 billion of receipts being processed through Unleashed platforms, and as soon as I tell you that, the figure will be outdated."
He says he believes one of the key points of difference provided by the company is the support it offers through its customer -engagement teams set up in key locations around the world.
Click here to view North and West winners.
"We are focused on not only providing a functional product that tracks inventory, but we also aim to deliver valuable business insights that help our customers make well-informed decisions for success," says Berry.
Berry - who describes himself as 'employee number one' - says setting up Unleashed was a life-changing moment for him. After nine years working for an accounting software company in Auckland and taking take time out for the birth of his daughter, he was looking for something to do.
"I could see a number of trends converging - cloud and mobile technology along with the mountains of data companies were faced with - and believed we could help companies handle these through our supply, production, inventory and sales software.
"There was no guarantee of success," he says. "We've always had aspirations to be one of the largest software companies in New Zealand, but we started out with students looking to earn a bit of extra money, it was all we could afford.
"I took the attitude that if we didn't succeed it wouldn't be for a lack of trying; I figured I could always go and get another job. But 10 years on we are still trying - and clearly it is working."
Berry believes it has a lot to do with the Kiwi can-do attitude. Being located in the bottom corner of the globe is no disadvantage; in fact he thinks it gives people extra drive and tenacity.
"Up to 75 per cent of our customers are north of the equator, so we are obviously doing something right," he says. "We work with a lot of 'challenger brands', smaller companies like craft breweries and those in the food industry to help them compete against the big guys.
"We are on a journey of growth and we want future candidates to recognise that we aren't looking for people just to apply for a job, but rather be part of our journey," Berry says.
The company runs future leadership programmes for staff, leadership training, holds company-wide meetings four times a year, ensures pay equity across-the-board and is big on diversity.
"Our recruitment policy stresses diversity; for example, if there are no women in a shortlist, then we are not ready to shortlist. Our interview processes must include gender and ethnic diversity too."
It does other things with staff in mind too: Recently it took 50 staff and their families to the snow at Coronet Peak, its UK team was treated to time-out in Italy, while it places emphasis on the health of employees , providing 'quiet rooms', desk plants for everyone and banning soft drinks.
"We train our managers to look out for the signs of a stressed out employee, we support flexible working, organise company events like cultural celebrations and sports competitions – and our friendly office dog makes it a joy to come to work each day."
Coming up in November we feature the winner from the 2019 Westpac Auckland Business Award's central region.