Chopper chief lives 'the crazy dream'

Last updated 10:14 16/12/2013

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After 29 years in the helicopter business Rick Lucas has no plans to touch down.

The Palmerston North man started Helipro in 1984 when he bought a large helicopter and teamed up with Transpower to help survey and maintain power lines.

The company's services have expanded to include tourism and sightseeing, search and rescue, firefighting in New Zealand and Australia and medivac in New Zealand and Fiji.

Lucas says his first medivac experience was an unplanned one.

He was dagging lambs on his Palmerston North farm when off- duty policemen entered the shearing shed and told him someone had been shot in the Tararua Range.

Lucas says he fired up the chopper and headed to Eketahuna to get the man out of the hills and back to Palmerston North Hospital.

What started out as a one-man band on a Manawatu deer farm has grown into a business with 35 helicopters spread across 11 locations in New Zealand and the South Pacific.

At 60 Lucas says he's too busy having a "fantastic time" flying helicopters and running the business to think about winding down.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I have never seen myself as an entrepreneur, more to quote Leonard Cohen, "just a kid with a crazy dream".

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

Work-life balance has always presented me with the greatest challenge.

Name one thing you've learnt while in business and from whom?

My father instilled in me a great work ethic - I'll never ask someone to take on a task I won't do myself.

What are your business and personal goals?

On a business level I am driven by the desire to succeed, personally I strive to enjoy the limited downtime I have and be a good dad.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Dare to dream, success is largely driven by self-belief, coupled with hard work.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur?

My greatest sacrifice has been in personal time. From the beginning I have been available 24/7.

Are you prepared for failure?

I believe if you are not prepared to fail you are not prepared to step outside your comfort zone. Success requires you to take risks in business.

Who is your "business guru", or who do you admire, and why?

Bill Day, Helipro and Seaworks chairman, has been a friend and mentor to me. Bill's wisdom and people skills have been priceless .

What would you do if you weren't running your own business?

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Not running my own business is not something I have ever considered, or would consider.

What do you do in your downtime?

Downtime is not something I have a lot of.

We live on a 500 acre deer farm, running about 1450 red deer with no external labour. What downtime?

Do you think businesses should "give back" to the community?

I absolutely think businesses should give back to the community.

We do both directly in our support of charities such as the Ronald McDonald house with helicopter rides and indirectly with employment, community spend and taxes.

What has been your biggest disappointment since you started your business?

After eight years of providing 24/7 search and rescue, and air- ambulance services in Palmerston North in the late 80s early 90s, Helipro missed out on the contract when it became a fulltime trust- funded operation.

Where is your favourite place to relax?

We have a holiday house which is remote in Queen Charlotte Sound. Paradise.

What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to be a New Zealand speed skating champion.

Last school holidays I took my sons Jackson 12, Bryn, 10, and partner Amber roller skating in Upper Hutt. Surprisingly, I still have it.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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