Another chapter in the Surtees success story was written over the weekend, when they received the Exporter of the Year Award at the 2014 BNZ Bay of Plenty ExportNZ Awards. This follows on from Surtees’ success at the same awards in 2013 where they received the Best Emerging Exporter Award, making this an historic win.
In the 25 years that the awards have been running it’s the first time that a business has received Best Emerging Exporter and Best Exporter in consecutive years.
“We are thrilled to have received this award,” said Phil Sheaff, Surtees Managing Director. “We are proud of our product and of our dedicated team.”
For over 20 years, Surtees has been building industry-leading boats from their factory in Whakatane. From the original Neil Surtees design the company’s range has expanded to encompass a variety of aluminium boats all with the same objective: they are built to fish.
The secret to the Surtees success story isn’t just great boats, however. In-demand products and award-winning design are integrated with sound business practice.
“A strong governance structure is part of the foundation that has helped increase the size and scope of the business,” said Toni Palmer, Chairwoman, Board of Directors.
“The shareholders came together through our shared love of boats and fishing,” said Palmer. “We have regular board meetings with the five directors and each provides significant input into the business.”
Like many businesses, as the GFC unfolded, Surtees anticipated a potential downturn in local demand. Rather than rely solely on the local market, they looked offshore to Australia, for other opportunities to fully use their production capacity.
“We took things slowly,” said Palmer, “starting with a national distributor in Australia, and then moving to set up a dealership arrangement in each state.”
Today, Surtees employs over 45 staff and makes about 330 boats a year, all out of their plant in Whakatane. 55 per cent of production is sold in Australia and the balance in New Zealand.
While Surtees has plans to expand in the near future just to keep up with demand, they have no plans to move out of the Bay of Plenty.
“This is our home,” said Phil Sheaff. “All of our infrastructure is here; our loyal customer base was built in the Bay. And we can build boats here and send them anywhere.”
And, as winning the Exporter of the Year Award would suggest, do it very well indeed.