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Fit for the future

Eastern Truck & Marine, on the outskirts of Napier, has spent the last 12 months consciously re-energising and refreshing the team. Now they are capitalising on that.

Business ‘engineer’ Graham Leech has been at the pointy end of the change. He was appointed in July 2020 by owners Joan Kilmister and Pat Mahoney as interim CEO. His brief was to rejuvenate the business, which after 34 years of trading needed a fresh approach.

“Our vision was to transform the culture, to make us ‘fit for the future’. Over the past year we have largely achieved that and now we are focused on growing the business,” says Graham, who is transitioning to a more traditional governance role on the company's board.

Big changes

The shake-up has included changing the leadership structure, promoting younger staff into critical roles, attracting younger staff, improving communication, focusing on training, and building up camaraderie and teamwork.

There is no longer a single over-arching chief executive. Instead there is a team of three divisional managers – Kathryn Mason leading Finance and Systems, Kieran Murphy heading up the Workshop, and Andrew Munro for Parts.

Kathryn says, “We make the decisions as a team, and talk to Graham if we need more advice or need a sounding board.”

The company is poised on the edge of strong growth. “We have the ‘wall of wood’ coming in to Napier and Gisborne ports – much of it carried by Kenworth and DAF trucks – and we are the authorised Kenworth, DAF and Cummins repairer and parts supplier for this region,” she says.

“Many of the logging transport companies are based in this region – there is the big Pan Pac pulp mill, there are a lot of timber products shipped out of Napier and Gisborne ports and of course, all the Hawke’s Bay- grown fresh produce needs transport.”

Graham says Eastern Truck & Marine has been the premier heavy transport diesel workshop in the region for decades and it intends to remain in top position.

“Part of our new strategy is to grow our team of younger mechanics. Modern trucks require a lot of technical skill and you need to be willing to keep up with the ongoing learning that is needed. It is also a tough physical job. Those in their 20s and 30s tend to quickly pick up the new technology and probably have more enthusiasm for it than those who are older.”

Building business

“We have spent the past year improving the internal side of the business.” says Graham. “This means we can now make the most of the opportunities coming as a result of the growth in logging and fresh produce production.” Graham adds the company plans to expand its services. “We intend to become a 'one stop shop' – for example, potentially providing CoF, truck wash, wheel alignment, engineering and other associated services to the customers who come in for repair and maintenance work.”