ENTREPRENEURSHIP- EXAMINATION OF THREE NEW ZEALAND ENTREPRENEURS TO ESTABLISH THE SIGNIFICANT CHARACTERISTICS OF ENTREPRENEURIAL BEHAVIOUR
New Zealand has produced a number of entrepreneurs who have built
business empires out of nothing, created great wealth for themselves,
employees and shareholders and have revolutionised business activity in
This report discusses the upbringings, behavioural characteristics and business development facets of three prominent and successful New Zealand entrepreneurs.
Finally in the conclusion, common trends relating to the three entrepreneurs are discussed.
OF NEW ZEALAND ENTREPREPRENEURS
Three prominent examples of New Zealand entrepreneurs will now be
examined to look at their upbringings, their introduction to business
activity, their entrepreneurial characteristics and abilities which have
made them successful businessmen and enabled them to create successful
** Ron Brierley
** Michael Fay
** Michael Hill
R.A. Brierley was born on 2 August 1937 in Wellington.
His parents were middle class and not wealthy.
He attended Wellington College where he was no great scholar but
despite this showed early signs of a penchant for business . His first venture into business was while he was at the
College when he became a registered member of the New Stamp Dealers
Federation and sold stamps all around the school including to the teacher
who ran the stamp club.
In doing so he was already displaying business skills and entrepreneurship characteristics, particularly so in the following aspects:
** he had no qualms about dealing with adults at a young age.
** later on in his business career he would have no qualms about which companies or government agencies he dealt with.
he was very businesslike and assiduous in protecting his own
interest e.g. if any of the pupils fell behind with payments he would type
out reminder notices and issue then to the pupil’s parents.
In the mid 50s Brierley took on a position as a clerk at the Sun
Alliance Company Ltd and studied accountancy part-time, but soon dropped
out of this, at Wellington University.
It was during that period that he first found out about the sharemarket and he started buying shares. Business and entrepreneurial skills he immediately displayed in doing so were:
** he thoroughly researched companies before buying the shares.
he was also forward thinking before making purchases- looking into
likely future takeovers and business prospects before making share
Brierley formed his first investment company, Investment Funds New Zealand Ltd, in 1959 and started a sharemarket tip sheet “New Zealand Stocks and Shares” in November 1956. To get started:
** he advertised the magazine before he produced it and gained some subscription capital to start up.
** he posted the magazine to every public company in New Zealand without asking them and then charged them- most of them paid up.
** he made the tips himself.
he asserted that he was an international and very successful share
market analyst and tipster (not entirely true) to gain business.
Although the tipsheet would not make a lot of money for Brierley it
gave him the opportunity to
study the New Zealand sharemarket over a period of time .
He enjoyed producing it, but he was of a nature that he more
preferred being an active player himself in the sharemarket.
Brierley looked around the New Zealand sharemarket and saw that there were many opportunities for making gains, particularly where:
** underlying value of assets was not represented by share price.
** the business was not being run in an efficient manner and with more proficient expertise the values of companies could be increased.
opportunities where companies could be stripped of under-performing
divisions or assets and that remaining assets could be regenerated
(as such he became known as an asset stripper).
Brierley was just 23 when he made an unsuccessful attempt to get on
the Hallenstein board.
Brierley formed R.A. Brierley Investments Ltd (BIL) in 1961 with no capital. He aimed to finance initial activity purely with shareholding capital. He had little response, despite grandiose advertising claims for a company with no track record that the company was run by a prominent and successful investor and investment returns were likely to much higher than other available returns of the day, but didn’t give up (a further entrepreneurial characteristic) and continued advertising until he had sufficient seed capital to undertake investments. The objects of the company very much summed up Brierley’s aspirations and formula to create wealth:
** to take over or acquire substantial holdings in New Zealand and Australian companies with a view to ultimate participation in management and the re-organisation of their finances.
** investment in companies and industries where it is believed that rationalisation and mergers are inevitable in the normal course of events.
** participation in selected private companies which are currently successful but unable to expand and expertise and capital input will increase the value of these companies.
** to form a property company to deal in property and maximise wealth creation in this sector.
to trade in Stock Exchange shares with a view to short and medium
The initial business success was limited, but Brierley worked very
hard towards his business vision, being the sole investment worker and
doing the books of the company for a number of years even into the 1970s. Brierley’s strength in building up the investment
portfolio was the research he put into prospective investments to reach a
conclusion that their assets were worth more than their sharemarket price
and to exploit that to the advantage of
BIL in the most effective way.
BIL moved into Australia in 1964 with the purchase of a holding in
Industrial Equity Ltd which subsequently became BIL’s investment vehicle
Brierley was very intelligent and one “to think out of the
square” and exploit available loopholes.
For example, in 1968, the government introduced a bill that would
prevent public companies from raising funds through offers of unsecured
deposit notes. By this time Brierley had built up a favourable
business reputation and was synonymous with his company, so he overcame
this law by raising money as an individual.
The 60s saw BIL struggling to survive, but the 70s saw growth and
the 80s growth and consolidation.
By 1981 BIL joined the list of the 20 largest companies in New
Zealand by market capitalisation and in 1984 was the largest company in
New Zealand by market capitalisation.
By this time the company also had investments in USA, UK and Asia
and was a dominant shareholder in many blue chip companies, including Air
NZ Ltd, Ansett NZ Ltd , Whitcoulls Ltd
and Magnum Corporation Ltd.
Brierley became founder president of the company in 1990 and
withdrew from direct involvement.
Since then he has taken a controlling interest in Guinness Peat
Ltd, an investment company based in London, but active also in Australia
and Asia, and listed in all three countries.
In summary, the entrepreneurial qualities displayed by Ron Brierley were:
** total commitment to the task at hand.
** ability to recognise business opportunities and in particular when a business is undervalued and has potential to make profit out of.
** thorough research before making a business decision.
** taking risks but with positive judgement.
** an excitement for the work.
** an astute business mind.
** not afraid of long hours of work.
the ability to work by himself, bur also to take business advice
The activities of Ron Brierley brought a more aggressive attitude to New Zealand business and took it out of the “fortress regulated” mentality. He showed that an individual can build an empire through hard work and astute judgement.
Fay Richwhite is a prominent merchant banking business.
Its business product is money and it acts by getting people to
invest and to lend to it to pass this on to third parties, from which it
extracts fees. By
dealing in large amounts Fay Richwhite has turned the small transactional
percentage margins into millions of dollars.
The business started from scratch between Michael Fay and partner
David Richwhite. They
had no inherited money and did it all by themselves.
Michael Fay was born in Auckland in 1949 and during his college years he boarded at St Patricks, Silverstream. A childhood accident meant that he could not play contact sport, the normal manner that boys at St Patricks gained esteem in . However during his childhood days and the period at St Patricks he showed skills required by a future business leader as follows:
** he took to public speaking and showed an ability to think harder and faster than others and back up his words by demonstration and project confidence, intelligence and charm in doing so.
** an ability to delegate- even in his own household he was skilled at ensuing jobs were done, and obtaining the help of others to get them done.
** focusing on one issue at a time, and to succeed, in one way or another, in achieving whatever he set his sights on. He mostly got what he wanted, not through being spoilt, but through a mixture of natural ability and tenacity.
** a loyalty to his family- he helped his family out a lot.
** organisational ability- he had a whiteboard and would write down the family tasks every day.
** ability in assessing financial deals- he could look at financial deals to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses.
** an element of brashness and arrogance.
** the ability to deal with adults at an early age.
** a sophisticated aura.
** a quickness to escape the authoritarian aspect of St Patricks College e.g. sneaking out to drink at hotels, for car rides etc- risk taking appealed to his nature and got his adrenalin going.
** the ability to supervise other school pupils during study periods and in other roles.
** an authorative but reasonable manner.
** self assurance.
** leadership qualities.
** an ability to network to build up contacts.
** a self decision maker- realisation that you had to act in this manner to succeed.
** an appreciation that a job had to be carried out in a thorough manner.
** a like of a challenge.
** set goals for himself and had a huge amount of determination to succeed.
** a stubbornness- once he was on the track of something it was very hard to move him off it.
** hard worker.
** acted on gut feeling- if he felt it was right, he did it.
liked a challenge.
His demeanour and mana at St Patricks College led him to be
appointed to be a prefect. During
his period as a boarder there he had contact with and largely
mixed with a number of pupils in the higher socio-economic class
who were also boarders, and this also was to have future influences in his
Fay studied law at Victoria University, Wellington and assisted in
organising capping stunts.
He qualified at the end of 1971 and obtained work as a law clerk in
a law office in Wellington.
He quickly decided that this was not to his liking and headed back
to Auckland and took up a position in 1972 with Securitibank, merchant
bankers, along with David Richwhite.
This position wasn’t to last long either, his brash attitude
leading him into a dispute with the Company Secretary there and he left.
He had however decided that merchant banking was to be his niche in
life and by running his own business and acting by certain business
principles and bringing in certain innovations there was a lot of money to
be made in it. Fay also found
that risks had to be taken to make this money, but this appealed to his
nature, and making business deals gave him the adrenalin and business
satisfaction that he desired. David
Richwhite followed soon to work with him.
Right from the start of the business Fay and Richwhite decided that
their main niche market, and where the real money was to be made, was dealing with the affluent, rich and major companies, a
throw back to his St Patricks College days.
They were proactive in looking for business from these type clients.
They would, for example, look for the affluent of Auckland by
sighting expensive cars, noting the registration plates, checking back
through motor registrations for a name and address, and then devising
deals to tempt the target. Fay
and Richwhite became members of the Ellerslie Racing Club, the Royal New
Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Polo club so that they could associate with potential clients in this group , and went to the right
social functions to meet potential affluent clients,
Around the time that the business started there was interest in
what was regarded as the newer in-vogue industries, such as bloodstock,
horticulture, goats , deer and motion pictures.
Fay Richwhite were innovative in arranging deals for clients which
were among the first in these industries, particularly with a tax relief
benefit which had a particular appeal to its clients.
Fay and Richwhite developed further standards in their business that would appeal to the affluent, as follows:
** packaging themselves as upper socio-economic.
** looked and acted like high worth individuals.
** marketed themselves as young men with bold ideas.
** never lacked confidence in their own abilities.
** established a culture and image in their business that mirrored their own behavioural aspects.
** had an aggressive approach to business.
** thorough organisation and planning.
** the introduction of innovative products, such as in the area of tax minimisation.
** the development of financial products which would suit both borrowers and lenders
** very attractive offices and fittings.
** employing highly motivated and qualified staff.
** paying staff high pay if the effort is put in.
** insisting staff work long hours for the betterment of the client, the company and themselves.
** by being associated with other prominent business institutions e.g. Fay was on the board of the Bank of New Zealand and chaired projects like New Zealand Expo.
a stated goal to be the best investment bankers in New Zealand.
Fay and Richwhite have always been quick to recognise future money
making opportunities. For
example, Fay himself became heavily involved in property dealing in the
1970s and 1980s. His
philosophy was to borrow the full purchase price of a flat that was
under-let, add an extra flat on, get the income up and sell it for a
handsome capital gain. When
Muldoon regulated interest rates in the 1980s, they had the vision to
predict such an event, and had purchased large parcels of government stock
with higher interest rates, which they then on-sold with handsome gains.
Fay and Richwhite also
had the vision to realise that providing
sponsorship of a national sporting event, particularly in a sport
which attracted the type of
client which they had decided to target would greatly benefit their
in and funding New Zealand’s America Cup yachting campaign gave them public exposure, and
assisted greatly in attracting business and increasing profitability.
They also sponsored prominent horse races at Ellerslie Racecourse.
In 1989, for example, the profit of Fay Richwhite was $52million, a
handsome return to Fay and Richwhite as joint owners.
In the same year they entered into their biggest deal yet, buying a
29.5% stake in the Bank of New Zealand.
Fay Richwhite later assisted in the deal in which Bell Atlantic and
Ameritech purchased a share in Telecom,
and the privatisation
of state assets programme carried out by government in the 1990s gave them
further business opportunities.
Fay Richwhite listed on the New Zealand Stock exchange through
Capital Markets but subsequently brought back the shareholding to once
again retain private ownership during the 1990s.
In later years, Fay Richwhite opened offices in Australia and in the United Kingdom, and are currently working overseas in Ireland.
Michael Hill grew up in Whangarei. His family did not have a lot of money. He attended Whangarei Boys High and was not a great scholar, only gaining School Certificate at the second attempt.
One thing he was rather good at and enjoyed was the game of Monopoly, which taught him a lot about business strategy, and in particular with regard to buying retail space in the right positions.
He also took a liking to music and left school with the intention
of becoming a concert violinist.
This didn’t work out so his Uncle offered him a job at his
watch-making and jewellery store, Fishers, where Michael’s father
also worked. Michael
didn’t show any skill at repairing watches so was put in a position
looking after the counter and shop-front.
Hill quickly came to the conclusion that most jeweller’s shops at
the time were run by craftsmen who preferred to work out the back and had
no interest in customer relations or sales techniques and realised that
opportunities would present themselves if these aspects could be improved.
He discovered that he enjoyed meeting people and was in fact quite
good at selling. He
took an interest in the way the store looked and how the stock was
presented, and he took a particular interest in window displays that would
attract customers into the store.
So much so that he won 2 awards for windows displays in
competitions associated with the Whangarei A & P show and later won a
trip around the world in a competition organised by Bulova watches for the
world’s best window displayfeaturing their product.
And he also showed a skill in the arranging and presentation of
newspaper and radio advertising.
He was particular about getting god spots and positions for the
advertising undertaken and he was responsible for some zany ads which
really stood out. These
efforts attracted great attention, established the jewellery store and its
name, and publicised its promotions.
All these early skills were to be carried through and serve Hill
well later in his own business.
Hill married and built a house at Waikaraka in Whangarei, assisting
with the building process as much as he could to save costs and becoming
heavily mortgaged to achieve this, but soon after completion the house was
burnt down in a fire. He
was completely under-insured and was left with few material possessions
. He was aged forty at the time.
The night of the fire he displayed another of his entrepreneurial
skills in concluding that he had to refocus his life.
He made a commitment to himself.
He wrote down on a piece of paper that he wanted to own his
Uncle’s business and, if he wouldn’t sell, he would leave and open his
His uncle wouldn’t sell him the Fishers business
at any cost (there was some family friction) so Hill left Fishers.
He carried on with his plan to establish his own store, and
purchased a prime site in Whangarei, paying the highest key money in
Whangarei for the time for an incentive for the previous lessee to
relocate. Within two
weeks of leaving Fishers , on 13 May 1979, he opened the
store fully stocked. He
called the store Michael Hill Jeweller and this was the first in the chain
of Michael Hill Jeweller stores as they are today.
Hill remarks that he hasn’t had a worry from the time he left
Fishers. When he
was at Fishers he was always worried about what his uncle thought,
so that every decision he made was never quite his own..
But now he was in a situation that he could do whatever he wanted
to do, a situation he thrived in.
He had an imaginative trait and a desire to succeed, the latter as
a consequence of the house fire.
Michael Hill Jeweller opened with innovative ideas.
They only sold jewellery, whereas many other jewellery stores were
also selling china. It
also broke away from the tradition of having a private viewing room for
customers to select an expensive purchase or an engagement ring.
It opened up the buying process so that selections were made in the
store in front of everybody and in a casual manner, not the formal and
stiff atmosphere associated with jewellery shops.
The philosophy of Michael Hill was to make jewellery less
intimidating and more accessible to the public.
Michael Hill, with the assistance of his wife, paid particular attention paid particular attention to the
store layout and colour scheme.
The ideas incorporated to the Whangarei store on opening date have
largely been retained in the Michael Hill Jeweller stores of today.
In the second year of business the shop turned over $3/4 million,
more than the business he had left.
So his ideas were working and Hill decided to expand, opening his
next New Zealand stores in Hastings, Lower Hutt and Palmerston North.
He designed his newspaper and household brochure advertising to
have impact. He would include
zany bits, such as pictures of himself or advertising
of some of the products upside
technique was to advertise the goods at hugely reduced prices
(e.g. worth say $400.00, selling for $79.95).
This was an innovation for the jewellery industry, gave the
customer an impression that they were getting a bargain, and certainly
attracted at lot of attention and custom.
Success continued so Hill decided to extend his advertising impact
by using regional television in the areas he had stores.
He fronted the ads himself and from them came the distinctive
phrase “Hello, Michael Hill, Jeweller”.
This advertising was in itself an innovation-
no one had advertised jewellery
this way in New Zealand before.
Michael Hill started manufacturing jewellery in 1981.
The objective was to cut out the middlemen in the jewellery
industry so Michael Hill Jeweller could tell the public what an item was
worth and then point out the substantially reduced price.
Manufacturing has since been a major factor in the continuing
success of Michael Hill Jeweller and there are now manufacturing
operations in Australia and New Zealand.
There is a dedication to produce the finest quality jewellery at
the lowest possible price.
Further stores were opened in New Zealand before Michael Hill
Jeweller became a public company four months before the sharemarket crash
in 1987. This gave the
company further capital to enable it to expand further and immediately
after floating a decision was made to open stores in Australia.
Michael Hill Jeweller introduced similar innovations in Australia
as those introduced in New Zealand, such as jewellery advertising, prime
location and store layout, and success also came quickly in Australia.
During the 1990s Michael Hill Jeweller Ltd
ventured into shoe retailing, but they cut their losses and exited this venture when it became apparent
the venture was not going to be a success.
Michael Hill Jeweller Ltd has continued to open jewellery stores
throughout New Zealand and Australia and enjoyed continued success.
Characteristics that Michael Hill has displayed in the creation of his business empire and which are symptoms of an entrepreneur are:
** insistence on a quality product.
** enthusiasm for the task and a presence of vibrancy.
** a positive mental attitude.
** the setting of a goal and the following of this through, despite any failures and hurdles along the way.
** motivation to succeed- not periodic motivation but instead continual motivation.
** hard work.
** personal achievement beliefs.
** spending time and effort in training associates thoroughly.
** utilising steps in the sales technique.
** delegation of duties.
** generous praise and rewards to staff who do a good job.
** being a good listener- listening to what friends and associates say.
** flexibility- seeking new ideas and new technology in every facet of the organisation.
** providing a product that the public wants at a reasonable price.
** endeavouring to exceed customer’s expectations.
This examination of the three New Zealand entrepreneurs has concluded that they have shown the following common behaviours in the development of their business empires:
** they started business on their own.
** they recognised business opportunities at the start and have continued to do so thereafter.
** they set themselves goals and carried these through.
** they have vision.
** they have the ability to deal with people.
** they project a positive image.
** they have a positive mental attitude.
** they have a determination to achieve success.
** they have energy and excitement for the work and are highly motivated.
** they work hard and long hours.
** they introduced innovation an product and service.
** they provide a product/ service which the shareholder/ Client/ customer wants and gives value to that party.
** they have astute business minds.
** they took risks, but with astute judgement.
** they are flexible and always seeking new ideas, new technologies and new opportunities.
** they strive to be one step ahead of the competition.
** they strive to be the best in the business.
These behaviours are the significant characteristics of entrepreneurial behaviour.
Hill, M. with Staff, B. (1994), Michael
Hill, Jeweller- Fighting to Win.
Auckland: Penguin Books
Morrison, I. & Haden, F.
& Cubis, G. (1990), Michael
Fay- On the Reach for the Ultimate.
Van Dongen, Y. (1990). Brierley- The Man Behind the Corporate Legend. Auckland: Penguin Books
Williams, T. (1999). The Rise, Fall and Flight of Brierley Investments. Auckland: Davis Bateman Ltd
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