Hazeldine's 'Unfair Fight'

23:20, Mar 25 2014
Southland Times photo
Sam Hazledine, of Queenstown.

If Sam Hazledine, 35, could bottle and sell enthusiasm, he would make a fortune.

But he doesn't need to.

Hazledine dropped a career as a doctor to grow a 2006 start-up business to a $20 million a year turnover. 

His Queenstown-based company has spent four years on the Deloitte Fast 50 list as one of the fastest growing businesses in the country and Hazledine was the 2012 Ernst and Young Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Now he's written the book about it.

And he's donating the profits from that to Angels of East Africa, a charity focused on rescuing children from becoming child soldiers; setting them up in orphanages and schools.


But he was not always on such a high-reaching trajectory.

In 2002, living in the moment and drinking excessively he was attempting a backflip off a 2m high wall when he crashed, sustaining a major head injury.

In a coma for two days he was told he was unlikely to regain full brain function, return to medical school or ski again.

It was the catalyst for change, to raise his standards and educate himself further.

''All the good things came after that,'' he said.

He went on to become the New Zealand Extreme Ski Champion the next year, married Claire who had considered him a bit of a dick beforehand, completed his medical degree and started practising as a doctor.

Yet it was seeing how exhausted and disillusioned many of his young colleagues were, that lead him and Claire to begin the medical recruitment agency MedRecruit in 2006.

Today they employ 35 staff in Queenstown and New South Wales and are still growing but there has been a lot of learning in between times and Hazledine is keen to share the lessons.

''Over the past 10 years I've probably invested quarter of a million dollars in my own education, personal development stuff, psychology and business education.

''I wanted to capture everything I've learned and put them in a place so I can replicate my own success and grow from where I am.''

The subsequent book Unfair Fight is a summary of his approach to running a small business in New Zealand.

There is a massive failure rate among the 97 per cent of businesses in New Zealand having 19 or fewer staff and Hazledine believes this is because they are trying to compete with big business on a level playing field.

They need to be thinking like David, from David and Goliath.

''Small businesses have an advantage only if they think and act unconventionally.''

It is a tactic he has used, in its most public form completing challenges from young doctors including water-skiing in mid-winter across Lake Wakatipu in a leopard-print G-string or visiting the supermarket dressed as Borat - marketing stunts to appeal to the young doctors he was recruiting at the time, not in use now as he deals with senior doctors and GPs.

''We still use a personal approach but in a more elegant way.''

His book is predicated on the idea that success lies at the intersection of mindset and action and deals equally with each.

He works with simple ideas - the set up, the fight and the knockout, all focused on techniques small and medium-sized businesses can use to work smarter and achieve success.

And of course none of it is possible without passion and commitment.

For Hazledine that has meant loving what he does enough to ensure  he is the very best he can be at any role he takes on whether as an entrepreneur, a husband or a father to his two girls.

''A lot of people strive for balance. For me that's another word for mediocrity. 

''I strive for excellence in the areas that are important to me. Balance becomes an outcome as opposed to a goal.''

Ask yourself, he suggests, what is exciting, not just what's safe, and always go to it with fanaticism and energy.


The Southland Times