Double Acts

By Bridget Gourlay

‘Two heads are better than one,’ or so the old saying goes. It’s a maxim based on the tried and true formula that many hands make light work and, in businesess, makes plenty of sense, as the power of two lots of resources, minds and manpower can create opportunities, lower costs or provide better customer service. Bridget Gourlay talks to businesses about why they teamed up and what it achieved.

Stewarts Electrical Supplies and J.A. Russell Ltd are both family owned businesses. One, Stewarts Electrical, had branches all over the central North Island. The other, J.A. Russell, had branches everywhere in the country except the central and lower North Island. Wellington was the one place the companies didn’t cover between the two of them. It was also the place to be to compete for national contracts.

It made sense for the two companies to join up and get into the Wellington market together. But, stresses Stewarts Electrical Supplies general manager Ken Burden, it was a decision built on mutual trust and respect.

“We’d known each other for over 25 years through Powerbase. We hadn’t been competing against each other, and we had collaborated on things over the years. There was a strong relationship between families, and those were the factors that made us know that a joint venture (JV) would be a good idea.”

The companies have opened four branches in Wellington in two recession-hit years. Burden says the JV has worked well.

“There are so many benefits. Financially, the requirement for capital is halved. Also there’s a greater pooling of ideas. Our board is made of members of both companies and we end up extracting the best out of both,” Burden says.

However, he does have advice for anyone else considering a JV. “Be 100 percent comfortable with the people you’re going into business with. Document what you will do, have a clear set of guidelines and have a formalised structure of review.”

Lowered cost

In Wellington, the EMA central and the Wellington Chamber of Commerce amalgamated in the middle of 2010 and since then feel they have managed to provide a better service for less money.

How? Well, the amalgamation of the two entities created a diversification and improvement of the existing services for members. And the economies of working co-operatively also enabled lower subscription costs when accessing the offerings of both the chamber and EMA.

The advisory services available stem from EMAC and the network services — meaning the chamber and members can utilise services at a good price point without ongoing overheads. Enhanced member to member relationships and the professional possibilities that evolve from these internal connections are also a significant benefit of the amalgamation.

“Straight away the merger increased the membership numbers and that in itself increased the impact we can have within the region,” president Jo Bransgrove says.

“We feel very excited about the opportunities going forward and we have had good feedback overall. The merger also means we can share costs and provide more efficient and a much wider range of services with more depth.”

Double the skills

In 2008, Christchurch advertising agency HCA joined forces with E2, a website/online company. Neil Cameron of HCA and Gary Lee of E2 had lunch together and decided they saw the same future for advertising — one where the mainstream media and the web would be intricately linked. They were right. After all, it’s 2011 and the internet is just as ubiquitous and as effective as a billboard.

They couldn’t see the difference between creating ads for websites and ads for TV and didn’t see why their clients should go to different places either. “We decided there was a fit. We saw a big value add to both of our sets of customers,” Cameron explains.

The merge has worked perfectly. Clients can get a full advertising campaign — billboards created, websites made, e-newsletters set up in a ‘one-stop shop’. E2 takes care of the science behind data mining and Google adword campaigns which are now a standard part of the advertising mix.

Try it

So if teaming up will give you a business advantage, go for it. See if a problem shared really is a problem halved. Although deciding to work together is only part of the process. Like all things, time and dedication is what will yield results.


➤    Have the same vision
➤    Be 100 percent comfortable with who you are teaming with
➤    Document the strategy, desired outcome etc
➤    Have a clear set of guidelines
➤    Have a formalised structure of review
➤    Do your research. Will teaming up reduce costs and improve service?


➤    Team up with a company you don’t know well or have reservations about
➤    Team up with a company with lower or different standards to you
➤    Only have verbal outlines, or decisions by handshake
➤    Have an unclear desired outcome.


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