Experience Meets Innovation
Business View Oceania interviews Craig Whitnall, CEO of Shipleys, for our focus on Events and Venue Management.
Established way back in 1926, Shipleys has a rich history providing comprehensive solutions for the development and integration of technology in events and workplaces across New Zealand. Over their 95 years of service, Shipleys has evolved drastically in response to market changes- from founder Eric Shipley’s original lighting and sound systems provider model (Shipleys Sound Systems) to television and radio technology (Shipleys Radio and Television) and exclusive broadcasting (Shipleys Video Service) in the 1950s. The company rebranded a final time to Shipleys in 2020 to complement the turnkey audiovisual service seen in modern technology environments today.
Shipleys says, “We continue to lead the industry in introducing, adopting, and implementing new technology. Staying ahead means helping our clients lead their industries too. And while plenty has changed since those early days of audio and broadcasting, the values that drive our approach have remained the same.” Those values are Seamless Delivery (always on time, professional, and invisible), Expand Experience (integrating the latest technologies to help you experience and deliver more), Creative Connections (creating more effective and deeper connections with your clients and your team), and Continual Improvement (striving to integrate and develop hardware and solutions to ensure New Zealand communities lead the world through innovation).
Shipleys provides event technology services, production and installation for all things audiovisual within organisations across New Zealand’s South Island and beyond. The company has realised a number of unique accomplishments over the years, such as airing the first television broadcast in New Zealand (1952). Shipleys was also an early pioneer in video broadcasting for sports events, corporate training, and helped international aid agencies enter the New Zealand market. Most notably, Shipleys were the first to introduce integration of digital control systems into national education institutions that form the backbone of education technology today. As a largely business-to-business company, Shipleys spends most of their time supporting corporate events, conferences and seminars, trade shows, and product launches. Their enormous wealth and diversity of experience are key to the group’s ongoing success.
Craig Whitnall is the current CEO of Shipleys. “We are one of New Zealand’s oldest companies, and we have remained New Zealand family owned since our beginnings nearly a century ago. Today, we maintain a really strong reputation as a professional, reliable audiovisual company. Internally our focus is very heavy on the well-being and fulfillment of our team- we are a tight-knit team of around 20FTE’s, with a very flat operating structure. We are nimble, responsive, and we’re all technical people, so our clients know that when they call us, they’re always talking to someone who has an in-depth knowledge of technological solutions.”
Shipleys is committed to working collaboratively with their clients in everything they do, and understands the importance of maintaining their clients brand image and delivering their message exactly as intended. But it’s not just about collaborating with clients; Mr. Whitnall explains that industry relationships are just as important. “We use so many different brands of technology, so we meaningfully align with a number of experienced partners to ensure our solutions are reliable. Shipleys works directly with Panasonic, Sharp, Sony, Epson… New Zealand is a great test market and often we are the very first to trial the latest solutions. The support we receive is incredible. Often, we’re able to work directly with the engineering team to troubleshoot any issues or integrate the hardware in a new application. There are so many great, locally owned distributors in the industry- many of them smaller companies who have relationships with a lot of larger or niche brands. They are great people and instrumental to our success. No company can operate alone.”
Mr. Whitnall showcases some major highlights that have occurred since we last spoke to Shipleys approximately one year ago. “Our audiovisual department has been incredibly busy. We were recently selected as a preferred supplier for the new Convention Centre in Christchurch, so we’ve been doing quite a lot of work in there alongside others in the industry, and it’s been incredible for our city. Our other key focus at the moment is scaling up to service the massive increase in demand for audiovisual services following the pandemic- as part of industry that was affected very heavily by redundancies, we are incredibly proud to say that we kept all of our team, but it’s now about finding the right people that believe in our vision and fit in with our culture. We have refreshed a lot of our technology in areas like computing, vision, connectivity, and videography, and we’ve done a lot to improve processes to make it easier for our team to work.”
He continues, “Our largest investments of late have been in our people. Our team has been incredibly busy of late- because of the significant increase in demand we’re a little understaffed, as is everyone else. It’s critical that we bring new talented people on board to alleviate the stress of our team and allow them more time to spend on themselves, and with their loved ones. We believe that most of the upcoming advancements in tech are going to be driven by software more than hardware, so we’re making sure we have strong minds in that space to understand coding and advanced digital technologies to compliment team who have a monumental amount of experience working with physical hardware and analogue technologies.”
More community work is on the cards for Shipleys’ future, Mr. Whitnall shares. “We strongly believe in bringing meaning to everything we do, to genuinely help our communities connect, collaborate, and learn. When people come to us and just don’t have a big budget but are doing something valuable, we always try our upmost to help them out. We want to work to leverage our capabilities and experience to help those who want to host events that genuinely improve the lives of others.
He concludes, “In the long term, we would like to get to a place where Shipleys can develop and build our own hardware and software technologies that allow us to solve a range of problems both inside and outside of our industry. We’re not here to make a profit for shareholders- we’re here to continually trial, develop, and implement new technology, because that’s what our team love doing. That’s why they work at Shipleys. But right now, our focus is on building up our team whilst maintaining our current culture, which is really quite special. Once we have stronger numbers in our crew, we can ramp up our commitments to significant technology investment and grow in more meaningful ways to support clients across the country.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: Provider of comprehensive audiovisual integration services to New Zealand’s South Island and beyond.
Where: Shipleys is headquartered in Christchurch, New Zealand