Doing business in the regions: Legend

Taupo has a new agency in town following a merger between The Business Studio, Good Graphic Design, Resonate Marketing and MediaSolve. NZBusiness spoke to Legend's co-director Sarah Matheson on doing business outside of the big cites.

A combination of rising house prices and bottleneck traffic, especially in our big cities, has created an increased appeal for life in the smaller towns and slower lane. 
Even so, some in the corporate world are stuck with an out-dated perception that for a decent job you must be based in the likes of Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch.  

However, many regions are enjoying strong economic growth. Take Taupo, where, according to the Taupo District Economic Monitor March Quarter 2017, its annual economic growth for the year ended March 2016 was recorded at an estimated 3.6 percent. 

Business numbers are also on the rise, up five percent between March 2013 and March 2016 to reach 4,740.  

Sarah Matheson has lived in the central North Island town for ten years, “so I’m nearly a local,” she quips. 

Legend’s team of 14 work across marketing, design, communications, data, PR and project management with clients across New Zealand, Australia and the UK. It does some of its best work with national operators such as Miraka, Destination Great Lake Taupo, and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts. 

Legend runs a tight team with five on the design team, five on the communications and marketing teams, one CFO and one data analyst. 
“It’s a decent-sized business for a small town,” says Sarah. 

“Increasingly, corporate roles, which were traditionally only found in large urban areas, are creeping into the regions, but it can be challenging to fill the roles. 

“At Legend we offer corporate-level positions, working with a mix of high-level international clients and small ‘mum and dad’-owned businesses. But our sales pitch to attract the staff we need is the lifestyle Taupo offers, starting with the ten-minute commute!” 

“We’re definitely seeing a trend of more people wanting to move for lifestyle reasons, and Taupo’s a great place to live. While it’s small, there’s a great vibe, a fabulous café and retail scene and always plenty of events and activities on offer. 

“Our new PR and content specialist Sam Clemerson is a good example. She enjoys the work, but also loves her ‘commute’ (or lack thereof) and hiking through the many local tracks on the weekend. Sam’s looking to buy a house too, something she couldn’t do in Auckland anytime soon.” 

But there are challenges. “Our search for a new creative lead took several months. We wanted the right fit and someone willing to commit to being in Taupo. Thankfully, Gus Kleingeld was happy to move from Auckland and commutes from a holiday house he already owned in Turangi. He loves that it’s so easy to spend weekend days on the mountain with his young family.” 

Attracting city talent has been beneficial for Legend too, because they bring fresh ideas and give the firm a wide scope of services to offer their clients, and they’re also able to support the local economy and offer roles to people who want to stay in the area they grew up in. 

“One of our senior designers, Penny Egerton, grew up in Taupo, but moved away for university and worked overseas for a while. She’s recently moved back to Taupo and we’re able to offer her a role which matches her skill set, and she brings some great experience to the company.” 

Being based in the regions does have a few disadvantages. “The only downside I can think of is being further away from a lot of the networking and professional development events. A lot of time we still need to go the city for training which is completely manageable, but adds on extra cost and time,” says Sarah. 

“Recently the design team all headed to Semi Permanent in Auckland, a must-attend event for anyone in the creative industry. They had to miss half a day’s work to get there; that said it was worth it for their renewed energy, knowledge and inspiration they brought back. 

“Distance from airport hubs is another challenge. We had to travel to Melbourne for business recently. We left Taupo at midday and didn’t get to our hotel till midnight. It was a similar 12-hour journey on the way back.” 

But, says Sarah, she wouldn’t change a thing, “it just means we have to adjust and forecast for the extra time and cost. The trade-off is we get to live in ‘paradise’ with at most, a five-minute rush-hour. 
Having lived in large centres and worked in the corporate world, I know how much easier it is to foster and maintain relationships in smaller places where paths cross so often and at different events.” 



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