The founder of Connection Technologies, Lewis Woodward, started the business in December 1999. The aim then and still now is to work with the customer and assist them in achieving their goal. “I knew that without a successful customer, I was going nowhere”.
20 years ago, business conditions were different to what they are today.
Business then relied on personal contact and who you knew. Then there was no internet and business was largely done with New Zealand based companies. Technical input and having people who knew your business was important.
Today “faceless” internet websites located outside NZ shores compete with each other for business. In the “old” days the customer did not need to know the part number of the item they needed, just a description. Today, you must have the part number to order on the web and so often you are drowned with the range of products available
“Our aim was to be the best pro-active supplier with a finite range of product focusing on connectors and supporting tooling as might be required for the industrial, military and aviation market”.
This was further narrowed down on the basis that Lewis recognised the OEM PCB market in any volume was dying in NZ. The data reticulation industry he had previously been part of was being. fought after at minimal margins, much of the coax market had moved to the data industrial markets.
Getting the right staff in any business is always a challenge. Lewis said he was fortunate that an ex-employee from the same industry wanted to move back to Wellington and “this was exactly what we needed.
“Hiring knowledgeable staff with industry background has always been a challenge. We needed people who saw sales different from the normal perspective of selling “nuts and bolts” and making their target in this manner.
“I have always promoted that we understand the customer and their business and then see if there is a way that we can assist them and their business with what we have to offer. The right staff can do this”.
Connection Technologies has always been focused on connectors, plugs and sockets and the necessary tooling to put all this together. To add products that do not fit this market area moves the company away from that focus and puts the company in the area so many others fit. With a singular focus, we can offer the most cost effective and reliable connector solution to match the customers business.
“Part of the expansion of the overall business has been to establish a new company when we were given a new product range by one of the company’s existing suppliers. Weicon who manufactures cable stripping tooling, asked us to distribute a range of adhesives, sealants and plastic metal products. Based in Germany and a leading supplier in that market, this seemed a good offer.
“They recognised our focus”, says Lewis “and wanted us to offer their chemical product into New Zealand. It was in order not to water down the connector business and service that I decided to establish Industrial Technologies and have the Weicon product line as a focus.
“Like us, Weicon focusses on a finite industrial market, an area where you cannot afford to make mistakes with choice of product and need to come back in three months and do the job again so looked to be a great opportunity.
Connection Technologies and Industrial Technologies belong to The ConTech Group which in turn combines the overall management, structures and supports for the two companies.
‘Whilst talking about structures, we also have an assembly arm within the Group, Conmitto Ltd is the division of Connection Technologies that offers the assembly of the connectors in whatever fashion may be required.
“As you can appreciate, New Zealand is a small market internationally and tooling can be very expensive so with our knowledge, our range of assembly tooling we get calls to build anything from one bespoke assembly through to 100 pieces. We let the customer get on and do the business they specialise in”.
Errol Mann, Sales Manager, demonstrating a large set of cable shears to Robert Jones from Customer Service while Leanne Severin Finance Manager looks on.
“Connection Technologies clientele come from across the market, be it manufacturers or infrastructure operators with our connection with many of them going back 20 years or more. “I am always heartened by the amount of word of mouth support and references we get.
“We have found the best way to promote our products is through our in-house specialised staff. Trade shows, for example, can be very expensive and whilst they give exposure, I cannot recall an occasion where due to our attendance we have picked up a measurable piece of new business.
“However, we attend trade shows about every two – three years to meet many of the people from around the country that we deal with. This way at least, mingling with our business peers allows a sharing of the products and services we have available. And is also a good way of keeping in touch with each other’s growth, plans and market share.
“The future is more of the same, working with the customer, getting to know what they want out of their business and then checking to see how we might be of assistance. With the recent employment of a Sales Manager, this allows me to focus on Industrial Technologies and other things within the business.
“When asked about expansion of the business we already do, the only way to grow is looking for new ways of helping customers grow, as they grow so do we.
“These days, sitting tight is actually going backwards. A company must be looking for ways to grow as I have seen with the growth of technology, product demand will change so business’s must always be looking for areas of growth.
“For us we have just been asked to become the NZ distributor for the Interflux Electronics range of solder products. Made in Belgium, Interflux have in their range a new low melting point solder product and with the shrinkage of electronic components and multi-layer boards, less heat on a PCB at manufacturing time will do two primary things, save money in power cost for the manufacturer and reduce heat damage during assembly.
“This is a really exciting area to grow and like all our other products, allows for specialisation and focus. More on this to come”.
Lewis Woodward, the key protagonist, has a story to tell…of his life in business
“My working life started as an apprentice TV service person with Tisco back in black and white days.
“During the years of servicing there was always the thought how could we improve this item” and so any component I sell now days, is sold with a technician in mind, not the salesman making his numbers.
After this 19 years was with another connector company, firstly as Product Manager then as a Regional Manager so when things changed in 1999, he was able to bring huge knowledge to Connection Technologies.
During servicing days and with 40 years of connector experience, one primary thought was always in the background. If we do it right first time, then we will get a call back for other problems and opportunity to make input. There is also the situation that only one company that sells product can be the cheapest so why work for minimal return, work on the basis the customer chases you as what they want is the long term solution, not one where although it is the cheapest, you are back every week.
“Customers in the areas we work in know that we offer more that product, in fact I frequently see that the knowledge and options we offer is greater than the actual value of the shipment.
“When CTL was established there were several locally owned competitors but looking at the market today, the bulk of our competition is now overseas based web retailers.
“I feel strongly that New Zealand should support NZ based companies, companies that employ and educate kiwis, pay tax in NZ and generally support our economy. As I look around the market now, most companies that existed when we started have closed their doors or are now owned by overseas companies.
“We are very particular as to the products we offer. How they fit our market, which can be one of the most corrosive in the world on the basis of either the hydron-sulphide environment or closeness to the sea and the effect these have on the reliability of end product or market where used.
“One of our German suppliers proudly makes the statement of their products, “not made in the east” when talking about reliability and this really strikes a chord with me, especially as an ex service man. I have frequently made the comment to customers, “with the right product you only need to do the job once.”
Where to from here?
“In the end, the thrill of the job is knowing that the service and knowledge we impart is appreciated by the end customer, knowing that we do make a difference to our market, our community and to our staff so we will be around for some time to come.
“The singular focus will remain the same; we can assure the end customer of the best knowledge and support from a kiwi company so looking forward to many more years of providing a valued service”.