All the better for business

For Andrew McClurg it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ getting on The ICEHOUSE Business Growth Centre’s Owner Manager Programme.

He first became aware of the programme via a friend who’d been through one, and a Business Growth Seminar he attended in Christchurch reinforced the ‘want’ to do it.

The trouble with McClurg was that he needed to be convinced of the ‘need’ to do the programme.

His stubborn belief that he didn’t need it, resulted in him bailing from the course in 2007 before it even started. Then a potential clash of interest with another attendee provided a convenient excuse to bail a second time.

But in late June 2008 he was out of excuses, locked into the 15-day programme in Christchurch, and by lunch-time on the first day admits that all his initial concerns had flown out the window.

“Honestly the hardest thing about the programme was convincing myself to go on it,” says McClurg. “I came up with every excuse under the sun – couldn’t afford it, too busy, my business would suffer, you name it – but once I got started, I put all that behind me and I found the programme a real eye-opener.”

Despite his initial excuses McClurg discovered that the world didn’t end. He was able to block out Thursdays, Fridays and half of Saturday for the programme, and catch up on work every Monday. It was simply a case of adjusting priorities. But he did find it hard to be objective when discussing his own business with others – after all, he was emotionally attached to his ‘baby’, and that was perfectly understandable.

McClurg’s baby is a 12 year old Christchurch-based software company that created and markets (through a licensee model) a Point of Sale system for the hospitality industry – which he quickly points out, is much more than simply an order taking system. Financial benefits for Menumate users come from greater accuracy and productivity of waiting staff, better control on costs and billing, and improved customer service.

Some soul searching on The ICEHOUSE programme has helped McClurg fine-tune his product offering to focus more on the management benefits of the Menumate product, in areas such as stock control. One of the biggest outcomes for him from the programme was the realisation that, as he puts it, “I could do so much more than I’d already done with the business. There was so much more potential.”

He also realised that other business owners, with significantly bigger turnovers, were facing similar issues.

The programme has resulted in McClurg gaining back a lot of time – time to plan the strategic direction for Menumate. “Essentially turning a long and hard struggle into a dynamic and future-proofed money making business.

“Every day I find myself doing something that has come from my learning experience there, and I no longer rush my decisions.”

McClurg says he has always found numbers easy and believed that success was driven by numbers. “If you weren’t making enough profit, it was all about the numbers.”

Therefore it came as a bit of a bombshell on the programme that in the past he had failed to factor in teamwork as a vital part of success.

“I’d been tearing off decisions and dragging everybody along. Now my ability to communicate with my staff and involve them in solving the problem, rather than me doing it, has changed for the better. The team is part of the action, not just part of the aftermath,” he says.


I’ve learnt how to be a team player. We now have staff meetings every Monday, rather than just one-on-one meetings with the sales guys. Getting your people to work with you is what ultimately gives you the time to step back and strategise.”

Considered steps

The Owner Manager Programme has taught McClurg the importance of strategising every step the company makes – what markets they target beyond Australia (they currently have licensees in Queensland and New South Wales, and are targeting Melbourne and Adelaide this year)? Will they need additional growth capital? Is there enough structure in place in Christchurch?

“Every step will be carefully considered – whereas previously we would have just done it and worried about it afterwards.”

McClurg says his role has changed within the company as a consequence of the programme.

“Seventy percent of my week is now working with licensees to ensure they avoid potential pitfalls and are sustainable in terms of costs, margins and staffing.”

He says his appreciation of key financial drivers has improved, along with his focus and determination. And the payback makes the investment more than worth it.

“My $20,000 investment has probably returned $200,000-plus in immediate benefits to Menumate. And in three to five years that $20,000 could be responsible for $100,000 per month of 100 percent gross profit.”

So from a reluctant starter, McClurg has become one of the greatest advocates for the Owner Manager Programme.

“You just have to go into it with a bit of ‘blind faith’,” he says. “Every person gets something different out of the programme. I think back and shudder at how it could have been a wasted opportunity for me. Put your pride, anxieties, and definitely your excuses aside – and, like me, have confidence in your ability to learn.

“There are a lot of similar business coaching courses out there. The ICEHOUSE Programme is especially good because it makes you do [the work] yourself – you don’t need someone constantly looking over your shoulder.”















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