The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the winners from the recent Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group, to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This week's Winners’ Insight is with MilktechNZ CEO Gustavo Garza, winner of the CEO of the Year. MilktechNZ was the winner of the Innovation Award.
As the founder of MilktechNZ took to the stage to accept the Innovation Award in the Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, the emotion was writ large on Gustavo Garza’s face.
Overwhelmed and immensely humbled by the win, he would take to the stage again when he was named CEO of the Year.
Gustavo dreamt up Milktech just five years ago and he’s since built a business that is a leader in designing electronic milking cup removers with future-proof technology and accessories for herringbone and rotary cow sheds.
But more than that, it’s a business built on a foundation of trust and respect between a group of closeknit family and friends.
“I often hear people say that you shouldn’t go into business with friends and family,” said Gustavo.
“We all trust each other. We’ve all got jobs to do. And nobody is bigger than anyone else. I’ll put overalls on and get out there on the farm if I need to.
“Our team is all hand-picked for their skills and talent they bring to their roles. We really are one big family.”
And that family culture was evident as Gustavo was joined on stage with 19 other team members at the awards.
“It was great for the team to have the recognition and to reflect on the amazing achievements over the past few years. In fact, the who entry and judging process was really important for that. It enabled us to reflect on how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved. When you’re going 100 miles an hour you don’t stop to think about all the hard work but this is now huge recognition of the fact we’re doing something amazing here.”
Indeed, Milktech’s achievements hark back to when Gus – whose background is in agritech – saw a gap in market to develop a new breed of cup removers used in the milking shed. They started off with a single cup remover and now produce 10 other milking products.
Winning the Innovation category was fitting. Milktech are continually investing in research and development in the milking space.
“R&D is in our DNA. That is what we live for and the reason we are successful is because we are always thinking differently. We’re always looking to have that edge on technology that nobody else has. And we work fast, everyone else playing catch up.”
So what’s next for Milktech?
“We’d like to be one of the most recognised and reliable brands in milking equipment,” Gustavo said.
And not just in New Zealand. While 80 per cent of their sales are domestic, their first order was an export order that went to Brazil. They now supply Brazil, Argentina and Australia, where Milktech is number one in sales of milking equipment. Growing their export revenue is in their sights, though Gustavo recognises New Zealand is their primary market. And he’s fiercely proud to called the Waikato home.
“I’ve spent 25 years in agritech and my family has been in New Zealand for 20 years now. We were originally from Mexico so when we immigrated to New Zealand we knew we needed to be in the Waikato because it’s the home of dairy. We knew all the big brands of milking equipment were based here. It’s absolutely home for us… and we definitely support the Chiefs!”
Talking to Gustavo, his passion for the Waikato shines through. And for the Business Awards judges, it was clear that he’s also passionate about his team
They said: “His entrepreneurial spirit, his energy and passion for the business that he has created, and the way that he spoke of the team who have joined him on his journey, was inspiring. Gustavo sets aspirational goals for his business and sets high standards for himself and his team, including around values and behaviours. He shows a warmth and care toward his team that is genuine, and a satisfaction in progressing and enabling others that is humbling.”
So serious is he about enabling his team that he regularly talks about succession planning.
“We’re always looking to the future. Who will replace who as they develop and get promoted. It’s never too soon to have those conversation. I want to make sure we’re creating pathways and opportunities for our people.”
This was the first year Milktech had entered the awards.
“We were proud to also be finalists in the marketing category,” Gustavo said.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the judges. The calibre of the judging panel was amazing. They all come in as volunteers in their own time to see us. And they are genuinely interested in what we’re doing and what we’re contributing to the wider region.”