Hamish McBeath has a vision for New Zealand manufacturing. "The country needs to re-embrace and re-build its manufacturing industries for a number of sound economic reasons," he says. "Too many of our manufacturers fall over unnecessarily."
McBeath is the 2011 NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year. And he hopes winning the award will enhance the credibility and currency of his pro-manufacturing argument.
As general manager of Pacific Coilcoaters, a $110 million business within Fletcher Building's Steel Group, McBeath won the NZIM Northern Region young executive title on his way to taking out the National Award. Now he wants to be an ambassador for both the concept of the award and for local manufacturing.
To illustrate his case for re-thinking manufacturing businesses he quotes his experience with Fletcher Steel's wire mill business which was due to be closed down. "Now it is one of the company's most profitable units," he says.
New Zealand manufacturing can, says McBeath, make good money in the world market if it is properly targeted. "There are many products New Zealand can bring to the table on which they can make a lot of money. But they are niche, not long run, products."
His rationale is based, in part, on the jobs and export income that manufacturing creates. He admires the efficiency and effectiveness of the country's rural sector but, he adds, many agriculture-based industries are not particularly labour intensive. And that is an economic disadvantage.
McBeath's career began in the Royal New Zealand Navy. He enrolled as a trainee officer, reached the rank of lieutenant and then left to join the commercial world. He found a shop-floor job as a shift manager at Fletcher Building's Pacific Steel wire mill. Then a loss-making unit, after his appointment as sales manager, it has since turned to profit.
McBeath's boss Paul Zuckerman, chief executive of Fletcher Building, describes him as a "young, innovative and high achieving [executive] who holds a senior leadership position within New Zealand's largest listed company".
Brought up with a strong sense of responsibility, McBeath credits the navy with developing his leadership and management skills early in his career.
"The navy provided an interesting foundation in strategy formulation," he says. "The military's strategy development is scenario-based and grounded in the basic principle of making sure you win. The outcome of not winning in business might be less severe, but it is still a useful base principle to apply."
By constantly running scenarios around where his markets are tracking and contemplating likely competitor reactions and moves, he identifies new business opportunities early. The strategy provides either a competitive edge or a strengthened baseline position.
McBeath believes in building high performing teams. His leadership style is open and honest and he tries to bring the right mixture of capabilities and personalities to provide team balance.
"I focus on delegating effectively, setting clear performance goals and expected outcomes, and then coaching and supporting team members to success," he says. "I am not interested in being the one with all the answers. …