When I left Napier Boys High and headed for Victoria University 25 years ago, I never thought I’d end up living back in Hawke’s Bay. But I’ve been here since Christmas and I’m loving it.
We started spending our summers at Waimarama 7 years ago. My wife stayed there first and I saw the Bay again through her eyes. Warm, the chance of a surf and plenty of things to do. We brought an old bach and lucked out with some great neighbours with kids just a bit older than ours.
Soon we had an Internet connection at the beach and we were spending more of our time here. It was getting harder each summer to head back to Wellington. After a few years, we’d made the decision that we’d put our kids through school here. We wanted our kids to swim and bike – not be mall rats.
We’d been told that the Bay is hard to break into. That was not our experience. Immediately through school we met great people at a similar situation to us. There are quite a few refugees from Auckland and Wellington.
The big challenge with moving to the Bay is work. Many coming back are still connected to businesses and incomes from out of the region. A few buy businesses. In our case, we designed our business so that a number of our senior people could have a sustainable career but live where they wanted to bring up their kids. We experimented last year with our COO moving from Auckland to Hamilton. He did two days a week in Wellington and it worked well.
So this year was my turn. We have a software development team of fifty in Wellington and sales teams in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and London.
We try to have all our senior people at our head office two days a week. Most of us will visit another office for a day a week and every few weeks there might be an overseas trip. We power through a lot of catch up and status meetings and often have dinner and breakfast together. Without worrying about being home for bath time, you can get a lot done.
Our team loves having the time to do their work while we aren’t there. I found having a couple of days a week in the Bay gives me quality time. It can be difficult to get a solid block of time to focus when in the office.
Having senior staff on the road and out of the office forces everyone to be more virtually visible and makes us more aware of team members in the smaller sales offices. Technology helps a lot. Email, Blackberries, Yammer and Skype are the tools of the modern distributed company.
Commuting a couple of days a week probably costs around $10-12k a year. I think that’s worth it, but it keeps you on your toes checking grab-a-seat to lock in those cheap flights. It would be great if you could buy 10-trip tickets cost effectively.
Hawke’s Bay is ideally placed for a work commuter lifestyle. You can easily do a full day in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The Q300’s are comfortable and not having a security check is just so good.
I soon found others. The faces on the Q300 at 9:35 to Wellington quickly became familiar. Looks like a few people have worked out this work-life balance thing. More than a few times a taxi full of “Team Hawke’s Bay” have charged into our larger cities, enjoying the stimulation of doing business in the big smoke, while knowing we might finish the day with a BBQ back in the sun later.
I was delighted to find many smart people based here. We have two of New Zealand’s most experienced ad men living in the Havelock hills. We have a raft of successful international exec’s quietly doing projects of interest from their Bay base. We have energetic local MPs punching above their weight at the beehive. We have some great local businesses filled with experienced entrepreneurs and operating globally.
Over the last many years, the Bay has focused on being a great destination for tourists. It is. But it could also a great destination for attracting new talent. Especially those for whom raising their family is important. Our weather, ease of access and great schools are a competitive advantage and already people are working that out.
I believe Broadband is therefore one of the key investment areas for the Bay. As a region, investing in high speed broadband to make it easier for business owners and managers to operate from here can make us the dream place to live and work – anywhere. The easier it is to do desktop video conferencing, online demo’s, have New York phone numbers, and swap large design files with overseas customers, the more living in the Bay can be a real choice for many more people. Those people bring investment and networks to create more job opportunities and increases wages across the region.
Ensuring that our local cafes and business centres have easy access to reasonably priced Wifi is another simple thing we can do. Our national and international tourists notice good connectivity. It’s a factor that brings people back and signals that we “get it.”
I’m absolutely excited to be living here. The Bay is big enough to have most things you need and small enough to make things happen. In the Bay, the right things are important. I’m excited that the people I’ve met so far are passionate about our great area and there is a sense of coordination emerging to ensure the Bay gets even better.
This feels like an exciting time for Hawke’s Bay. As technology makes the world smaller, what better place to live locally and work globally.