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Customer story

NZ Trade Group: Sparking innovation to help the trades

This article was published on Oct 25, 2019, 10:57 AM

Reading time: 5 minutes

Supporting trades businesses, NZ Trade Group - with help from Callaghan Innovation - has launched a one-stop business and job management platform, Katipolt.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Needing to evolve as the business grew, trades membership scheme NZ Trade Group (NZTG) created a one-stop platform for trades businesses, Katipolt, built off Salesforce.
    • Katipolt was built with support and funding from Callaghan Innovation, helping NZTG specifically to bring their development team in-house.
    • NZTG is set to roll out to other trades and expand into the Australian market. As well, co-founder Andrewe Brown wants to create a mentoring scheme to help young Māori succeed in the trades.

    Without Callaghan Innovation we wouldn’t have been able to do it. We would have missed the boat or had to do it incrementally over time. But within a three-month window we brought seven developers into our business and were able to maintain a semblance of business as usual.

    - Andrewe Brown, Co-founder & CEO, NZ Trade Group

    Launching a Katipolt

    “We want to be ‘the ambulance at the top of the cliff’ preventing tradies from making business mistakes,” says NZ Trade Group (NZTG) Co-founder and CEO Andrewe Brown.

    Founded in 2006 by Brown, his business partner and two other Auckland-based electrical contractors, NZTG started out as a chance to band together to buy from preferred suppliers and achieve volume-based savings.

    From here it went on to develop its first software 10 years ago, enabling members and suppliers to connect, and initially acting as a job quoting tool. But fast forward, and NZTG now provides 140 electrical contractor members access to business support tools, shared resources, and group purchasing arrangements. Naturally, their needs evolved.

    Spurred by that evolution has been the development of a more comprehensive tool, Katipolt, built on the Salesforce platform. Katipolt encourages cooperation and collaboration and boasts features like in-built design/drawing tool and quoting through to controlled purchase ordering and work scheduling.

    NZ Trade Group's Katipolt software

    NZ Trade Group's Katipolt software was an ambitious project: "It was a huge learning curve."

    Pathway to success

    Vital to the Katipolt project was funding and support from Callaghan Innovation. This included funding that meant NZTG could build out an in-house development team, as opposed to outsourcing it all which it had been doing since 2008.

    “Without Callaghan Innovation we wouldn’t have been able to do it. We would have missed the boat or had to do it incrementally over time. But within a three-month window we brought seven developers into our business and were able to maintain a semblance of business as usual,” Brown says.

    Callaghan Innovation also helped NZTG with R&D Experience & Career Grants, advisory services and provided a sounding board on hiring key staff and expansion into the Australian market.

    “That’s been pretty awesome. It’s really opened my eyes to different ways of strategising around income, engagement, and the scientific approach to innovation,” Brown says.

    Vincent Campbell, Callaghan Innovation’s Maori Economy Team Business and Relationships Manager, says NZTG is a fantastic example of a business that has realised the dangers of not being disruptive and has identified an opportunity in its industry.

    “They are keen to learn and are adamant they need to be a step ahead of the game so have invested heavily in R&D to make sure they maintain a competitive advantage.

    “They have plenty of skin in the game and have taken every opportunity Callaghan Innovation has offered them,” Campbell says.

    Pumping up the volume

    Andrewe Brown

    NZ Trade Group CEO and co-founder Andrewe Brown: “We have to evolve our current singular model to suit the different levels of engagement required by trades businesses."

    Brown admits the company bit off more than it could chew by building Katipolt on Salesforce, but “it was a huge learning curve and it’s only starting to pay dividends now”.

    Building Katipolt this way has meant NZTG is able to scale the platform easily and it can be easily tailored for other trade groups. With this in mind, NZTG is looking to pilot plumbers on the platform and also expand into Australia.  

    What's more, NZTG is at the point where they are working out how to roll-out a volume-based model, recognising the varying needs of trades businesses.

    Outside of Katipolt and NZTG success, Brown, who is of Ngāpuhi descent, says one of his goals is building a long-term focus on creating pathways for young Māori to get into the trades, and eventually mentoring them into business ownership.

    All too aware of what would happen with Māori rangatahi - “people would just disappear” - the need for a network of whanau support is imperative as there is “a missing little bit that can help”, he says.

    “What I want to do only comes with scale and volume as this creates opportunity for change,” Brown says. “We also want to give transparency to employers on the performance of the apprentice they’re sponsoring.”

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