Autolab has their cake and eats it too
It could be argued that Lee-Anne and Neil Hunnibell from Autolab in Auckland have the best of both worlds.
They’re Members of Capricorn, which gives them access to a huge range of suppliers who have great prices for their workshop. But they’re also automotive part suppliers, so there’s no shortage of options for them. Used spare parts aren’t an issue either because they also run a dismantling yard.
“When we ran our workshop, people would say they wanted a second-hand (item) because of the cost of the new one,” Lee-Anne said.
“They were going down the road and buying it somewhere else, so we saw the opportunity to just do it ourselves and sell it to them.”
Autolab has a one-stop workshop covering a range of services including electrical, tyres and wheel alignments, warrant of fitness, auto transmission servicing, pre-purchase inspections and much more.
Lee-Anne can’t remember exactly how she found out about Capricorn back in 1997, but she was onboard after she made that first phone call.
“The big advantage early on was that we had one account for multiple suppliers,” she said.
“We had about 150 suppliers when we first started with Capricorn, which meant just centralising the whole billing system, which saved us a lot of time.
“On top of that was the added bonus that some of them had extra discounts, and the rewards points came into it as well.”
It also saved Lee-Anne’s writing hand when she was spared from writing 150 cheques a month.
“Capricorn has been super beneficial to our business and a benefit to the automotive industry as a whole,” Neil said.
The pair, like most owner-operators, find little time to get away from their business which employs nine staff including two apprentices. But when they find a week or two away, the Capricorn Rewards Points make it a lot easier.
Pre-COVID, Lee-Anne, Neil and their son went to Australia to compete in midget racing. Using their rewards points, they saved on flights, accommodation and car rentals.
“It’s like a hidden savings account,” Neil said.
Lee-Anne said the rewards points had helped with other areas as well.
“It does work very well, and I think that out of all our rewards points programs, credit cards and that sort of things, it’s way better than that,” she said. “You get things for home, computers for the kids, we’ve done some travel with it.
“We cashed in some Bunnings vouchers and did a whole lot of stuff down at the bach (beachside holiday home).”
The pair enjoy Capricorn’s trade events, but with a busy work and social life, they’ve not had the time to get to as many as they did in the early days.
“It’s always good to speak to suppliers outside of work time and you don’t have the time pressure to get stuff done when you just need to order stuff and get onto the next thing,” Neil said.
Lee-Anne said Capricorn’s insurance & protection services and finance products had been a big help to their business as well.
Capricorn sparks friendships for supplier Century Yuasa
Being a Capricorn Preferred Supplier isn’t just about doing great business, Century Yuasa General Manager Stu Stanner said. It’s also a wonderful way to make lifelong friends.
Stu, who is based in Auckland, said Capricorn’s networking events are among the highlights of his social calendar.
“When events are coming up, my wife gets texts from the other wives asking ‘Are you coming down? We’re only going if you go’,” Stu said. “It’s just wicked; it’s great fun. We’ve made lifelong friends, my wife and I, with Capricorn Members, just from being at the conferences.”
Century Yuasa formed in 1928 in Australia and manufactures a wide range of batteries for car and passenger vehicles, and for marine, truck, bus and heavy equipment, from its state-of-the-art facility in Carole Park, Queensland.
The company entered the New Zealand market 40 years ago and now has 86 employees across the country. It has been a Capricorn supplier since 1997.
Stu has been with Century for 19 years and said Capricorn’s networking events have proven to be an excellent opportunity to have one-on-one time with Members.
“They tell you exactly what is going on and what you can do better and what you are doing well,” he said. “That’s just gold. At my level you can be so sheltered from the frontline; it’s just the nature of a corporation.”
He said that time and feedback were extremely valuable to him, and to Century.
For the first five years after becoming a Capricorn supplier, Century Yuasa turned over $1 million of sales per annum with the network in New Zealand. By 2008 the figure had grown to $5 million a year.
Last financial year, Century hit $10 million a year, which Stu said was a proud achievement for the company. He put much of that success down to the relationship with Capricorn.
“There’s no doubt that the market understands Capricorn more than it did in 1997, and it has gained more credibility,” he said. “Like all businesses, it’s hard to start. There was a lot of ‘wait and see’. But now its reputation is so high that people are keen to get onboard.”
The Century Yuasa team are very supportive of their own customers joining the cooperative.
“Capricorn is an integral partner of ours,” he said. “They make everything easier for us and our customers. We’re very happy with the company and very proud to be a part of Capricorn’s supply network.”
Stu said the cooperative saved them time and money by handling their accounts payable, so Century doesn’t have to manage potentially hundreds of separate accounts itself.
Capricorn has a very professional Business Development team lead by Andrew Baird. ‘Under Andrew’s leadership we have seen exceptional growth for the Capricorn group and Century Yuasa Batteries has significantly gained from this growth’ says Stu.
He applauded Capricorn for helping their Members during the COVID pandemic by offering guidance and clarifying government announcements and decisions as businesses tried to negotiate very challenging times.
Making life easier on the road to (eventual) retirement
Hāwera mechanic Andrew Beccard doesn’t do things by halves.
He’s been an owner-operator of Beccard Motors with his wife, Jan, for more than four decades.
Running your own business would be more than enough for most people, but Andrew has also been a South Taranaki District Councillor for the past 18 years and served as National President of New Zealand’s Motor Trade Association from 2005 to 2006.
The 68-year-old also sells e-bikes and Karcher cleaning equipment from his purpose-built workshop and showroom in the South Taranaki Town on the west coast of the North Island.
“I don’t know how old I am,” he said. “Seriously, I just enjoy what I do, so I keep doing it. Although we’re getting to the stage now where we want to slow down just a little bit.”
Andrew and Jan, who’s a Justice of the Peace, reckon they’ll wind down “in the next three to four years”. They’ve already started to lighten the workload by recently stopping their after-hours breakdown service, after more than 40 years. But they still get the occasional call for assistance.
“I enjoy helping people,” Andrew said. “I do most of them (the call-outs). The reason we do them is I wouldn’t want my family to be stuck out somewhere and the vehicle doesn’t go, so we just do it to help people.”
Being community-minded is why Andrew and Jan started selling e-bikes and Karcher cleaning equipment in the first place—just because no-one else was doing it. The couple also used to sell mobility scooters, until a shop opened up down the road and Andrew told the owner that there was no point them both doing it.
“He was quite happy with that,” Andrew said.
Andrew and Jan opened their first workshop and service station in Normanby, just 5 minutes north of Hāwera, in 1978. They built their current premises in Hāwera in 2006 and now employ nine people. They specialise in European vehicle repairs and services because they saw a need for that speciality in the area.
The couple were one of the first businesses to join Capricorn in the first year the cooperative arrived in New Zealand. They say they joined to make getting parts simpler.
“Previously you’d have to open an account in Christchurch or Auckland, and it wasn’t easy,” Andrew said. “Quite often you’d have to pay by credit card and then you’d have to wait for that to sort out and clear and then they’d send it. It could take days to get the part.”
Since then, Andrew and Jan have enjoyed everything Capricorn has to offer, including the loans and rewards points.
They have also purchased automotive diagnostic equipment with Capricorn’s three-month, interest-free finance period.*
“It’s just handy to spread the cost of a bigger item over three months,” Andrew said.
He said Capricorn had made everything easier, with one main account, great deals and friendly, helpful representatives.
“I just think that anyone out there who isn’t a Member is missing out on an awful lot.”
Being a Capricorn Preferred Supplier provides ease of mind
The first day in any new job is usually full of nerves and apprehension. But for Bernie Gouldstone, the minute he learnt Chase was a Capricorn Preferred Supplier, it became a far more relaxing affair.
Chase is New Zealand’s largest exhaust distributor and has been a Capricorn Preferred Supplier since the cooperative began operating in New Zealand in 1997.
“I knew instantly that we would have access to a lot of potential customers and it would be easy for those customers to deal with us, because of Capricorn and how it is set up,” Bernie said.
Bernie would know. He had previously worked for Capricorn as a Territory Manager for several years.
“If you came from the outside and didn’t know what Capricorn was, then it may take you a while to twig onto the value of that, whereas I knew straightaway the value of the cooperative,” he said.
Reflecting on his days as a Capricorn Territory Manager, Bernie said he never had to jam his foot in any doors.
“It was not a really hard sell,” he said. “What you were doing was explaining what Capricorn could do for them. Ultimately, it was selling a concept.”
Bernie has been with Chase for six years and has been involved with Capricorn in some form for almost a decade. He has seen the cooperative from both sides. At Chase, he’s seen firsthand how Capricorn data helps Chase meet customers’ needs.
“We can see if customers’ purchases have gone up or if they’ve gone down and our Territory Managers can use that data and try to find out why,” Bernie said. “Have the exhausts fallen out of favour or are the workshops quiet or there is a need for something more specialist?”
Chase has 12 employees and four branches across New Zealand and, in addition to supplying the country’s widest exhaust range, it also supplies a broad range of emission purification products, including catalytic converters, diesel purifiers and DPF cleaning fluid.
The company also supplies performance products such as extractors and headers. It caters for New Zealand’s heavy transport sector with a wide range of exhaust products including truck stacks.
Chase has been operating for 30 years across the nation, and like many Capricorn Members and Preferred Suppliers, Bernie highly values the cooperative’s low-key trade events when he can sit down for a beer and sandwich with a workshop owner and see how they’re going.
The events are also an opportunity to meet new or old Members who might not be aware that Chase has been a long-term cooperative Preferred Supplier.
“It’s one of those things that is truly a win-win situation,” Bernie said.
“We know that if you are a Capricorn Member, then you’re a viable business or Capricorn wouldn’t sign you up, and Members know that we’re a reliable and long-term supplier because Capricorn wouldn’t have signed us up if we weren’t.”
A long and rewarding journey for Spillman Automotive
As a dad of three young children, Spillman Automotive’s Marcel Preisig can sometimes find attending Capricorn’s major events a bit tricky. But when he’s managed it, he’s had a great time.
“I’ve been to a couple of general shows that they have over here, which are really good,” Marcel said, enjoying catching up with other Preferred Suppliers and mechanics.
But, thanks to reward points, Capricorn still has plenty for a father of three to enjoy. Marcel has used his points to buy school computers for his two eldest children, who recently started college.
Spillman Automotive, in Onehunga Auckland, is a one stop automotive workshop that services and repairs petrol and diesel vehicles as well as light trucks.
Marcel started his apprenticeship at Spillman when he was 17 years old, under the Auckland workshop’s original owner, Roy Spillman. Roy offered Marcel a six-year contract after he finished his apprenticeship. It was a big commitment for someone in their early twenties, but Roy’s offer included 20 per cent ownership with an additional five per cent each year.
“It gave Roy some freedom and obviously made me work as well, and made me work hard as well,” Marcel said. “It definitely worked well and has worked well ever since, to be honest. It’s been great.”
At the end of his six years, Marcel bought Roy out and twenty years later he’s still running the workshop, with three mechanics and an office administrator. Capricorn has been along for the journey from the very start.
“A lot of the suppliers we originally had before Capricorn have all come onboard along with a lot of new suppliers. Which gives us a lot of options when ordering parts.
“Before, we had all these invoices from all these different companies and now basically at the end of the month you get one statement. Obviously, they’re all in there, but it’s just one statement and you’re done.”
Marcel said Jonty Cooper, his Capricorn representative understood how his workshop worked and was helpful and down-to-earth.
He also credited Capricorn with making life easier during COVID by providing timely information and advice on how to keep staff and customers safe during the pandemic.
“After the first lockdown, business has continued to grow and is still going strong two and a half years later. I have a great staff which makes running a business a lot easier.”
Relationships key to family business success with Capricorn
Brent Hutchinson went to his first Capricorn event more than 20 years ago, when he was just 19 years old, with his father, Frank.
More than two decades later and Brent, now the General Manager of Don Kyatt Group, lives every day by the lesson he learnt that night: relationships are everything.
“I still remember very clearly from that night the people talking to Frank were talking about dealing with us 20 years earlier when we did Bedford parts,” he said. “There they’d be, rattling off part numbers to old vehicles.”
Brent’s father co-founded Don Kyatt Spare Parts with the late Don Kyatt in 1969, in Moorabin, in the Australian state of Victoria. The automotive spare parts supply company went international 17 years later, when in 1986 it entered the New Zealand market. It was only the company’s third branch, with the original in Victoria and another in South Australia opened just three years prior.
The Don Kyatt Group now has 150 employees and 17 branches in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, France, Papua New Guinea and South Africa. It will be opening a South American branch in the near future.
Brent said that Capricorn has been a key part of that success, particularly in the last five years in New Zealand.
“We’re growing more in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world, so it’s a really important market for us,” he said. “Last calendar year we grew by 37 per cent and this calendar year we’re at 15 per cent.
“We’ve been able to do a lot more trade shows in the last 12 months than we were able to do in the 12 months before and our brand, Terrain Tamer is gaining in recognition.”
“And we share that success with Capricorn Area Managers, not only making them aware of us, but sharing that success. Whenever we have a big month or year we send them a small gift of thanks, such as our history book, just so we’re top of mind for them and bring them on the journey.”
Brent has been working in the family business in one form or another since he was 15, when he started in the warehouse working during school holidays.
As the group’s General Manager, he gained an MBA and studied marketing, but it’s the skills that he has gained from working in the family business for decades that he said are key to the group’s success.
“A lot of what we do is about how the customer feels,” he said. “It’s about how does the mechanic or the workshop owner feel about that correspondence with us? Let’s make sure that the customer is looked after. It’s not about brand and how it’s perceived on the showroom floor; it’s about that relationship, that communication.”
Brent said Capricorn’s cooperative model aligned with the family values of the Don Kyatt Group, which is still headed by his father, Frank, who at 74 years old still works six days a week.
“We like to think that we are a perfect fit for the Capricorn way of doing business, which is why Capricorn sits at the top of our priority as a business.”
To find out more about Capricorn’s risk protection, finance products, and the benefits of Capricorn membership, click here.
Participation in the Capricorn Rewards is subject to the Capricorn Rewards Terms and Conditions which can be found at www.capricorn.coop/terms-conditions.
*Capricorn Finance offers business equipment finance through Capricorn Society Limited (NZBN 9429038593185). Fees & charges, terms & conditions and lending criteria apply.