In the second of our mini-series on the DNA of high-flying enterprises, we look at the outstanding success of Vista Group
Perhaps the most startling news about Vista came when the cinema software team fitted out 230 cinema sites across China in just six weeks late last year.
Doing anything in China can take time and patience but, in this massive, quick-deployment project, Vista showed why it has become a world leader - claiming a 40 per cent share of the world market in their field.
Dealing in software that does everything from ticketing to food and beverage sales to staff rostering, Vista has displayed similar speed and foresight in its growth, aiming from the start to be a global player in the film exhibition industry which attracts about six billion moviegoers each year and global revenue of US$46 billion or more (2012 figures).
At end-June this year, the company boosted first-half results compared to the year earlier with EBITDA up 100 per cent to $5m, profit after tax up 24 per cent to $1.26m and revenue climbing 56 per cent to $27.3m. The full-year forecast revenue (from Vista's prospectus) was predicted to reach $61.5m by the end of this year. Now with four headquarters (Auckland, Los Angeles, London and Shanghai), twelve regional partners and products operating in over 70 countries, Vista has about 350 staff.
Simon Hunter, KPMG's head of Performance Consulting, says Vista is the kind of company New Zealand needs more of if the government's target of exports hitting 40 per cent of GDP by 2025 is to be reached.
The architect of the Enterprise DNA study, identifying company characteristics needed to lift the economy from a traditional commodity base to high value developed export products attracting a premium, Hunter says Vista and chief executive Murray Holdaway have ticked all the DNA boxes for success (see '8 strands of DNA' below).
"The two pieces of DNA that stand out in Vista's molecular make-up is pivotal leadership and attitude," says Hunter. "Murray Holdaway is a humble, understated man who doesn't have a big, brash leadership style but who very effectively attracts and inspires his people."They always wanted to be global leaders - what other Kiwi company in any industry can say they have captured 40 per cent of the world market? - and everything they have done has shown the desire and ability to take the business to the next level."
Hunter says that drive to improve took Vista from a company with technology that was not the best in the world to world-leading software well recognised globally and which the company never stops improving.
Holdaway himself, asked about leadership and ambition, says: "The ambition to spread ourselves round the world has always been with us. We have a slightly tongue-in-cheek thing when it comes to ambition, called 'World Domination'. We have a big map on the wall we call our World Domination Map and every time we get a new cinema, a pin goes in the map and we all look at the remaining gaps and holes in the map."
He tells the story of a small cinema business in Scotland who wanted to engage Vista software and who were tickled when they travelled to the other side of the world - Liverpool - to meet them.
"That little company got some venture capital and is now the sixth biggest cinema chain in the world. When we get a call from a company like that, we don't think 'small', we think 'opportunity'," says Holdaway.
"I think every company needs someone to set the path, to make it clear where we are going. It's like telling a story and creating a vision of what we can do. I am not sure why, but when I do that people seem to believe me."
In terms of customer intimacy, he recalls a customer in Michigan having trouble with Vista software that just would not work. Vista sent a staff member there to fix it; he stayed several weeks and didn't leave until all was well - prompting the Americans to exclaim over the Kiwi company who devoted so much to a small customer when a US company in the same boat would simply have "disappeared".
Originally published in the NZ Herald