Smart thinking keeps work flowing

22:23, Nov 14 2012
Stephen Leitch
Pipeline to success: Stephen Leitch from Southern Water Engineering is one of the entrants in the 2012 Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

When the global financial crisis hit Marlborough, newly established irrigation company Southern Water Engineering dug deep and faced the challenge head-on.

"For a young business, the global financial crisis couldn't have come at a worse time - but actually, it was the making of us," says owner and manager Stephen Leitch.

Instead of watching their workload grow smaller, Leitch and his team pushed hard to provide existing clients with the best possible service, learned how to adapt to market conditions and found market gaps to fill.

"When the work stopped flowing endlessly, we did the hard yards and went out and found it," Leitch said.

"It also cemented our future direction of building strong relationships through excellent customer service and adding value to clients' operations."

Southern Water Engineering (SWE), based in Waters Ave, Blenheim, was founded by Leitch and his brother Peter in 2007 as CPL Southern, rebranding as SWE in 2011. Stephen Leitch is manager and principal consultant, while Peter Leitch remains a financial partner.


SWE's nine staff and on-demand casual staff provide irrigation and effluent system design, installation and maintenance for vineyards, dairy farms and golf courses, water metering and compliance, and private water scheme infrastructure.

With many years of experience in the industry under his belt, Leitch said he created the business because he had a desire to "do things better". This meant providing an excellent product, including system design and components, and excellent customer service, including a focus on making the industries SWE services more productive and cost and environmentally efficient.

During the financial crisis, Leitch encouraged clients to invest in quality products over lower-cost short-term value, leaving clients with less to pay for down the track as they began to recover.

He said the downturn also showed him the importance of good management procedures, starting with staff welfare. He placed great importance on looking after his team, and in return, not one person had left in five years of business, while casual staff returned again and again.

He chose to enter this year's Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards for the opportunity to analyse how his business was doing, spot areas for improvement, get feedback from the judging panel and take advantage of the marketing and networking potential.

"We want to be an active part of our business community. Being part of the chamber of commerce and taking part in chamber activities and opportunities is a part of this. In the end, I guess it's about constant improvement."

The winners of the Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards will be announced at a gala dinner on November 16.

The Mirror