Business ideas need courage: Todd

JAMES WEIR
Last updated 08:19 18/07/2011

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Doyen Kiwi businessman John Todd says if you get a good business idea "go for it", but don't borrow too much from the bank because downturns are inevitable.

Now aged 84, Todd is chairman of Todd Corporation, one of New Zealand's largest companies and the family are regular Rich Listers.

Later this month Todd will be inducted into the Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame at a gala event in Auckland, celebrating the success of seven laureates.

The others are Brian Perry, Anne Norman & David Norman, Les Hutchins, Thomas Cawthron, and Sir Percy Rolfe Sargood.

Todd says many firms fail because they take on too much debt.

"There are always downturns."

And if you have a good business idea: "give it a go, don't be too timid".

Todd Corporation is based in Wellington and will stay in the capital, Todd says, rather than move to New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland.

As a giant energy business, the company needs to be close to government agencies, rather be near a big  market  "to sell baked beans", he says.

''It is valuable to be here from associations with government - this is the centre of government and a lot of our activity depends on communication with government people.''

Grandson of the group's founder, Charles, John Todd started out his working career at 18 as a car assembler on the factory floor of the Todd Motors assembly plant in Petone, in Wellington.

Todd became managing director of Todd Motors in 1968 and took over as chairman of Todd Corporation in 1987. He succeeded his uncle, the late Sir Bryan Todd, the last of his generation

"It was thrust on me the responsibility to be the head of the family and (the) business," Todd says.

"I said, well, go for it... but it was certainly a major crisis in my life."

John Todd was heavily involved in the negotiations to sell Todd Motors in 1987, which he said the company needed to do.

The Todd Corporation was last year estimated to be worth about $2.7 billion.

Todd Energy's business includes natural gas, oil, LPG, electricity, cogeneration and even solar hot water systems.

One of the criteria for becoming a Hall of Fame laureate is what the businessperson gives back to their community.

The 200-odd members of the Todd family give away millions each year through their family foundation, to a number of groups working with children, families, science and environment.  

* The Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame seeks to recognise business leaders in who have significantly contributed to both enterprise and their community.  It is a celebration of the best of the best and these individual inspire others with their stories of business success and philanthropy.  Each year, the chosen Laureates are inducted into the Hall at a black tie gala dinner hosted by the Governor General.  This year's dinner is on 27th July at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.  To purchase tickets, contact Caroline Steele on caroline.steele@yetrust.co.nz or 04 570 0452.  For more information or to see information on past Laureates, please visit www.businesshalloffame.co.nz

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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