Embrace technology, women told

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 08:32 07/05/2012

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Businesswomen should look for ways to apply technology to their businesses, NZ Tax Refunds chief executive Cilla Hegarty says.

That had been key to NZ Tax Refunds' success, despite Hegarty not having a personal prowess with technology, she said.

Hegarty had seen other companies handling customers' tax claims and knew it could be done better, and faster, prompting her to start her own business.

NZ Tax Refunds was 30th in the Deloitte Asia Pacific Technology Fast 500 ranking in December. It was the third- highest ranked Kiwi company on the list, in which 37 Kiwi companies featured.

Hegarty spoke at the Realising Innovation Success and Enterprise (Rise) forum for women in business in Christchurch last week.

She credited Sir Gil Simpson for helping develop the necessary technology the business needed, and for being something of a mentor later on.

"Sir Gil Simpson was happy to spend hours with me drinking coffee and telling me where I was going wrong, and occasionally where I was going right. I'm not of a technology bent.

"He could see it from the outside, what I really needed for the business."

The firm's custom-made automated software is able to tell clients within 60 seconds of lodging their application whether they qualify for a refund and if so, how much it will be.

The business now has a development team in house, to develop the firm's systems as needed.

Using effective technology in her business meant clients could use her company's website to see if they were eligible for tax refunds at any time of the day or night, which meant that even while she was sleeping, her business was working for her, she said.

"Think of anything you can do in your business that you can add technology to."

One thing that made business owners take a step back from their business and take a good hard look at how it was working, and where it could do better, was entering awards. Just completing the entry form had been a constructive analysis.

Hegarty urged women to enter business awards like the New Zealand Hi-Tech awards and the Champion Canterbury awards. "I recommend everybody enters as many awards as they can."

Hegarty also encouraged women to enter their business in the Deloitte Asia Pacific Technology Fast 500, saying when she attended the awards ceremony in Hong Kong last year there had been few women at the Australia and New Zealand table.

NZ Tax Refunds was also a finalist in the Emerging Company category of the 2011 NZ Hi-Tech Awards and last year Hegarty was the HER Businesswoman of the year.

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