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Thinking outside the box creates robust success for HB engineering firm

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Kate de Lautour

QC Engineering’s Hamish Melville has taken his Onekawa based business to new heights by getting out of the office and marketing the business to new customers, while developing attractive value propositions for existing clients.


Hamish Melville bought QC Engineering in 2005, following a career in the primary sector. With highly skilled staff and specialist machinery the business was solid. A “massive shock” was delivered soon after the purchase, when QC lost a major client.

The customer had been bought out by an international company and, as a result, the New Zealand side of the business was shut down.

Faced with a do or die situation, Melville was forced to start from scratch to maintain the business.

“At the time it was a real shock to the business and we had no choice - we could either bury our head in the sand or, put it behind us and get out and start to rebuild our business.”

Traction was regained by door knocking and prospecting for new customers.

Melville enrolled in an EIT business diploma, working on assignments early in the morning, and gaining valuable marketing, accounting and HR skills.

“I focused on promoting the high skill base that we have and what we do well and avoided trying to be everything to everyone.”

As a result, QC’s core business rapidly became more robust with component manufacturing for agricultural, electronic, marine, building, residential and commercial business stretching outside Hawke’s Bay.

“We operate a very integrated business from prototyping through to standard commercial production runs, packaging and installation.”

A need to continuously improve the business and think outside the box has encouraged Melville to join the Icehouse programmes.

Initially he joined a course five years ago when the business growth organization was based in Auckland, but now with the Icehouse hub in Hawke’s Bay, he is attending a bi-monthly workshop tackling different business challenges plus action groups every fortnight.

 “It’s a brainstorming session with other business owners and it’s extremely beneficial.

“As a sole business owner you generally have to wear many hats, marketing, strategy, HR, and at times you can feel isolated and often not kept up to date with various trends and information.”

Most recently Melville has been working on improving QC’s customer management tools and gathering ideas from others in the Icehouse group who have similar experiences.

“This provides enormous stimulation and motivation for the business which will also help to continue my personal growth and development in the future.”

The importance of building robust productivity is a lesson Melville is keen to share with other business owners in the region.

“If we can all add value to our business through increased production, creating increased turnover then this, ultimately will add jobs which hopefully increases money in local circulation which is great for our Hawke’s Bay GDP.”