Software company catalogues many benefits of business mentoring

Vernon Systems Limited is an Auckland-based software company that develops specialised information management solutions that help museums and galleries to manage and share their collections.

The business was founded in 1985 when Bil Vernon identified a need for a cataloguing system to help cultural organisations manage the complex information about their collections which can sometimes contain millions of objects or artefacts. Vernon Systems has offices in the UK and South Africa and around two-thirds of sales are exports to customers around the world.

Chief Executive and co-owner Paul Rowe says the business was going through a tough time in 2013 when he contacted Business Mentors New Zealand for help.
“The culture and heritage sector is hard hit when economies start to slide and our business felt the impact of that at the end of the last decade. Our profitability was affected and as a result we started falling behind best practice in a number of areas,” said Paul.
“We were struggling to prioritise. The outside view and the ideas to change things that George brought to us had immediate benefits. Using a business mentor is something we should have done years ago, the benefits are so significant.” George Peacock is an experienced businessman with years of experience in the technology sector and has held a variety of senior roles with big companies in the UK. Resident in New Zealand for four years he continues to run his own technology business serving customers around the world.
“When I first met Paul and his two fellow directors I could see they were worried and knew they needed help. I admired their openness and willingness to ask for guidance and explore new ideas. We looked at each key operational area in our first meeting and identified a number of issues, several were marketing-related. Using a consensus approach Paul and his colleagues got started on a list of actions and moving forward,”
George said. George says he was encouraged to become a mentor and believes that by sharing his experiences he can make a contribution to the local SME community.

“Small business owners get buried in operational matters and almost all can benefit from an outside view and the chance to talk things over. I’ve seen Paul and his team become much more confident in their decision-making and in expressing themselves. They identified the need for action and it’s a credit to them that they have got on and made changes and become a learning organisation.”

George and Paul’s team met at regular intervals through the second half of 2013 and twice more in 2014 with plenty of dialogue in between.
“We’ve tackled our pricing structures, improved the way we handle service requests for clients, changed our financial forecasting, introduced professional development for every staff member, looked at our bid assessment process and introduced structured project management,” Paul said.
“The experience and the ideas we got from our mentor have helped us to find so many opportunities for improvement and to look positively on making changes and feeding the lessons we learn into our business and into future software planning.”