Westbourne, an IT solutions provider based in Cork, Ireland, opened in Auckland in September 2014 with eight staff and quickly grew the number to 20. By June 2015, Westbourne leased additional office space next door to accommodate up to 24 more staff, as new clients came on-board.
“We planned to double our staff here within 18 months, not 10 months,’’ says Darren Leahy, Westbourne’s chief operations officer. “Our office is a multi-lingual, remote technical support helpdesk and having the space (to expand and take on more support workers) is what allows us to grow.
“We can get out in the marketplace and find new clients. Ideally, we’d like to provide technical support to New Zealand companies which want to go to Europe. Our Auckland work day covers the afternoon on the West Coast of United States and Asia through to breakfast time in Europe. Our Cork office covers the European working day.
“Conversely, Irish companies wanting to come down here…Auckland can provide the Asia-Pacific support. We have a ‘follow the sun’ business model,’’ says Leahy.
Westbourne, founded in 1994, provides a full range of IT services – from advising and improving a company’s network and systems, and re-selling hardware and software, through to data storage and professional services such as re-setting a password even before clients realise they have locked themselves out of their PC or mobile devices.
“Our aim is to keep you working efficiently all the time,’’ says Leahy.
Much of the staff’s time in Auckland is focussed on a major pharmaceutical client based in California with its people working through Asia and in other parts of the world.
So why didn’t Westbourne locate its Asia-Pacific officer closer to that client? “We considered various locations – Japan, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland – and in looking at the right time zones it come down to Melbourne and Auckland,’’ says Leahy.
“I initially thought it would be Melbourne with its bigger population – before I visited Auckland (in June 2014). Auckland was definitely more business friendly. Melbourne was very much in a rush and people didn’t spend the time to find out how our company worked.
“One day in Auckland and I met lots of people who were willing to help us set up the office. The office costs was slightly cheaper than in Melbourne but not a whole lot. In Auckland I was able to develop longstanding relationships and that’s what is important,’’ Leahy says.
“When I went back to Cork I wondered whether the people I had met were putting on a show and would they be the same when we set up the office. They were absolutely the same and provided all the support and services they said they would do, which is fantastic.’’
Leahy says doing business in Auckland is similar to Ireland. “People make it easy for you to create connections, they are not putting road blocks in front of you, and it’s straightforward to set up a business here (such as incorporation). We did that from Ireland.’’
Westbourne’s first point of contact in Auckland was ATEED: “They gave us practical advice about establishing the business here and office location, and directed us to the right people to talk to. They were an ear for me. I asked questions day and night and they would come back with the answers within 24 hours to help us make decisions.
“Even now we regularly meet with ATEED and draw up plans. They are still helping with introductions, and getting me involved with networking and events such as the World Cup Cricket and Volvo Ocean Race Stopover. Settling into Auckland has been seamless,’’ Leahy says.
He was due to return to Cork a year after establishing the Asia-Pacific operations in Auckland. But when he mentioned this to his wife and son, they didn’t want to leave. So the Leahys are now staying on in their new home in Auckland.
Because Westbourne provides multi-lingual technical support, the company first considered establishing satellite offices outside Cork in places such as Japan, Singapore and New Zealand or Australia. But Leahy soon realised that Auckland was truly multi-cultural – “I just had to walk down Queen St’’ – and it had a pool of skilled staff. Westbourne easily recruited the people it wanted, and it has developed a strong relationship with Auckland University of Technology.
The staff are multi-lingual and university graduates, and they come from England, China, Japan, Maldives, India, Philippines and New Zealand. “They all see themselves as Kiwis and they love it here. Why not, when you can see this out your office window,’’ says Leahy.
Westbourne’s Asia-Pacific operation is based in the Orams Marine Village in the fast-developing Wynyard Quarter.
The staff can look across to the impressive downtown skyline and onto the sparkling Waitemata Harbour.
Not that they are distracted. They are getting on and providing quality IT support services and helping their company grow quickly in Auckland.