Spinnakers up for innovation

Doyle Sails are global leaders in high performance sails with a reputation for innovation with new technology. But driving the business forward required a bold move from the leadership team.

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“We’re going through a massive transition,” Group chief financial officer Terry Nicholas says. “We’ve gone from a little company in New Zealand to basically taking on the global market.”

One of Doyle Sails’ biggest innovations was back in 2001 when they developed a new generation of sails using their Stratis membrane technology.

" By joining the brand, with the product innovation we are able to go head-to-head with our competition on a global scale.” 

“The New Zealand team are the best in the world at making sails this way,” Nicholas says. “By joining the brand with the product innovation we are able to go head-to-head with our competition on a global scale.”

Over the past five years as CFO, Nicholas has been part of a leadership team which has evolved the business from Doyle Sails New Zealand to a more unified global one-brand approach. 

They now own Doyle International and have taken a controlling interest in the Doyle Salem loft in the USA as well as Doyle Sails UK and Doyle Sails Palma in Spain.

Nicholas says while the business success requires global efficiency, their success is very much grounded in the Kiwi innovation style. 

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“In the yachting world, Kiwis have always been well respected as very practical people,” he says. “The classic ‘number 8 wire’ thinking we are famous for is really reflected in the sailing environment.”

Nicholas credits much of their innovation to the structure of Doyle. A number of the team race competitively on the global stage, including chief executive Mike Sanderson who is a World Sailor of the year, two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner and veteran of three America’s Cup campaigns.

The constant search for speed while they are out racing means the team relentlessly innovate and evolve back on shore.

“It’s a classic illustration of continuous learning,” Nicholas says.

“We take the pressure of a competitive environment, identify where there are opportunities to innovate and then work with a group of the best people in the business to create products which make our customers’ boats go faster.

“We are faster than our competitors to develop new technologies and take them to market.”

Doyle Sails are now executing this successful model internationally.

“That’s where some NZ businesses have struggled,” Nicholas says. “The challenge for the management team has been to look at the business and say ‘ok we have got all this good development going on here in New Zealand but we need to be able to keep doing that and take it to the world market at the same time’. 

“That is why we invested in the global brand. We needed to secure long-term supply through our distribution network and lock it down.”

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Solving the productivity puzzle

A new report from ANZ Insights,Innovation and Productivity,’ has urged New Zealand manufacturers to invest in innovation to boost their productivity.

The report includes profiles of four businesses, two of them recipients of grants from Callaghan and two other firms which have also put an emphasis on innovation.

Doyle Sails is one of those businesses – and you can keep an eye out for continued coverage of other innovative NZ SMEs over the coming weeks. 

Innovation isn’t confined to sail making - off the water they’re using technology to help close the gap between them and global rivals.

“One of the big bits of innovation for us has been our online ordering tool,” Nicholas explains. “It can be complicated working out how to price a sail accurately so we’ve built an online portal which sits in the cloud and all of the lofts around the world can use it to price up their sails. From that, they can order it from us, build it themselves, or they can order it from another loft in the Doyle Network.

“It makes us closer to them. Distance is an issue but investing in technology means the perceived distance between ourselves and the market is reduced.”

Briar McCormack is New Zealand editor at bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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