Abbey Systems Limited

Tenacity opens international doors

“The key to business is persistence.  My advice is ‘keep on, keeping on’.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them.”  It’s wise advice from Lester Abbey, Managing Director of Abbey Systems Limited, who has successfully taken his business into the competitive world domain.

Founded in 1978, Abbey Systems Limited design and manufacture Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems for the power, telecommunication and water markets.  From its New Zealand base, the niche company has secured American, Chinese, Australian and Bangladeshi clients along with developing a local stronghold.

The company’s software and hardware products have impressive names, Swampfox, Topcat and Powercat, and sell through selected agents.  The business is a systematic operation – designing and programming innovative products.  Components are purchased separately with manufacturing outsourced.  The final assembly is completed in-house.  The business has 15 New Zealand staff and one USA-based staff member.

“Once it was important to be ‘innovative’ and have technical excellence, now that is a given.  To succeed in business you need stability, a track record, the ability to service products, and be there when you’re needed.  Stamina and tenacity help too,” attests Lester.

A case in point is a $.5million USA project the company won on a bet.  “The client said that if our system worked in a particular valley where nothing else would, they would buy it.  We were happy to pick up the challenge.  Our product is now installed and working for a happy client!  In business, sometimes you need to go out on a limb,” says Lester.

The company has extended its client base from the relatively small local market.  “In New Zealand anyone who needs this type of product has either ours or a competitor’s. Poaching another company’s client is neither profitable nor ethical so we needed to move seriously into bigger markets.  The USA is a straight-forward market to enter, whereas Australia is a harder nut to crack,” says Lester, an American.

The USA team member targets strategic contracts in areas with topography and infrastructure similar to New Zealand – the intermountain west and Pacific Northwest.  Ideally the company is looking to service remotely isolated areas, its speciality.

Abbey Systems Limited also provides training courses for clients’ staff.  “There is an international perception that imported is better than home-grown, with offshore training an added attraction.”

Preferring reliable support, Lester has used the accounting services of Markhams, Peter Smith for 31 years, and is in fact, one of Peter’s first clients.  A former Markhams senior staff member assisted Abbey Systems for over 20 years, and their replacement, for the past seven years.

Over the years, Peter has assisted with the establishment of the USA subsidiary, management of tax, company valuations due to shareholder changes, succession and tax planning, income allocation, company financial structure and budgets.  Today compliance support is most often provided.

Of Abbey Systems, Peter says, “We have the perfect client / professional relationship, each one knowing where the other fits in.  The company knows its limits and when to seek advice.  As it experiences overseas demand for skills and product, we will help them grow.  Together we’ll keep on, keeping on!”

Published Summer 2010.

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