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Electrical franchise looks to smart future

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Kate de Lautour

The motivated efforts of Napier electrician Paul Manaena have ensured his business is well- placed to grow more jobs for locals, while also being an attractive option for the new generation.  

Laser Electrical is one of the largest trade based franchise groups in New Zealand and Australia with more than 200 franchisees. But it was only just getting started in 2000 when Napier electrician Paul Manaena saw an opportunity and bought Laser Electrical Hawke’s Bay, becoming one of just 12 franchisees in the group at the time.

It was a busy period, with business booming around the mid 2000’s.

“It got quite hard to stay in control and looking back, I can say that bigger and busier doesn’t always mean bigger profits,” Paul says.

“In those days I went to the accountant once a year and got quite a shock when I realised how much of the profit had to go back to the tax man.”

The need to make some changes to the business came in 2010 when Paul started a new franchise, Laser Electrical Napier, specialising in industrial work. The Hawke’s Bay franchise was bought by a former business partner and the two operations are proving to be complementary.

At the same time Paul made a decision to improve his business management skills. Having bought the franchise without any formal business training, he had spent most of his time thinking that if he worked hard as an electrician, then the business would do well.

“I realised I needed to improve my systems and set goals if the business was to succeed in my succession planning.”

He joined a number of different organisations to help improve the business including the Chamber of Commerce, the Hawke’s Bay Maori Business Network, Te Puni Kokiri , Poutama Trust and more recently, the Icehouse.

Paul’s son Reihana, 24, is a qualified electrician and is starting to take an interest in the business. The family are putting in place a ten year succession plan, with much of the thought behind this, coming from discussions held with other business owners at the Icehouse action groups.

“I first heard about the Icehouse because friends told me that it had changed their business so I decided I wanted to have a go and it has really helped with goal setting for me and it’s changed my lifestyle for the better.”

Being part of the larger Laser franchise group has led Paul to take advantage of the networking opportunities available and recently new software systems have been introduced by Laser, adding a more streamlined operation.

“The software has given me the opportunity to delegate roles to other staff members to work on marketing, production management, efficiency and sales and freed up time for me to work on customer relationships and keeping track of business performance.”

Paul is now a contact point for friends ,family and new Laser franchisees who need advice setting up a new business.

“I am one of the original franchisees so I guess people think they can turn to me for help.”

Paul has added a new solar installation service to the business with solar energy tipped to be the next big thing for Hawke’s Bay.

“The solar industry is set to take off here because we have the sunshine hours and people want to take more ownership of their power use.”

Creating a Hawke’s Bay look and feel to his franchise is the next part of Paul’s  marketing plan. The website is being refreshed so customers can identify with the local staff.

“Within a nationwide franchise like Laser, I think it’s important to reflect that we are a Hawke’s Bay business.”