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“Earn the trust.”: Andrew McLeod

According to Andrew McLeod, CEO of Northpower, culture is what fuels the company. The executive has been leading the electricity distribution, contracting and fibre network organisation for the past two years. He was enticed to join the company thanks to its reputation for having a good culture and its willingness to do things differently.

Andrew McLeod, CEO of Northpower

The company instils its culture down to guiding behaviours and values that it holds dear. The first one is ‘Be mindful, be present, be safe’, based on the idea that safety is an exercise in mindfulness. “You’ve got to focus on it and keep it front of mind,” Andrew explains.

“The second one is ‘Own the outcome’. We take pride in the fact that our customers’ problems and challenges are for us to solve. The third is ‘Act as one’. We are 1,200 people, and if you absorb the best insights and practices from across the group, you get excellence. We share those learnings to ensure improvement.”

These elements add to Northpower’s fourth behaviour: ‘Earn the trust’. Andrew believes business is personal, and the best relationships come from delivering for partners and working with suppliers in the long term. “Trust goes a long way in terms of trying new approaches and taking that next step together.”

Leading his team throughout the business’s ups and downs, Andrew remarks on how Northpower staff are quick to step up and find new ways to improve the company’s approach. “I fundamentally believe people aspire to be great and do a good job, but it’s important for us to be clear on what the mission is as an organisation. It’s also important to notice employee progress and to recognise it. Our people work hard, but they also like to know people understand and appreciate it.”

“I fundamentally believe people aspire to be great and do a good job.”

Lastly, leaders need to be specific. “Make sure you recognise the progress being made and keep setting the bar high,” he stresses. To ensure growth and momentum, the company keeps a focus on refreshing its assets and addressing issues before they arise, such as service compliance.

Andrew says its customers and clients are always the best guide on where it needs to improve. Additionally, safety is always the key focus for Northpower and its customers. “We’re all continually looking at ‘What’s the next step?’ and ‘How do we better control that risk?’”

Originally from Waikato, on the North Island of New Zealand, Andrew worked in the gas industry before being given the opportunity to run an electricity focused group. Now based in Whangarei, Andrew calls his new home a special place. “We like to give back. There is a sense that you’re for the place. It’s a powerful connection that keeps us focused on building our contribution over time.”

Northpower owns and manages the electricity line network across the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, a service area of 5,700 square kilometres that extends from Topuni in the south to Bland Bay in the north. It also operates an energy and communications contracting company that supports many of the distribution companies in the North Island and New Zealand’s transmission company, Transpower.

Andrew McLeod, CEO of Northpower

Returning to the core of Northpower’s approach – earning the trust – Andrew explains that it is what fuels Northpower’s people. This, he says, is vital for a business so visible in its communities. Northpower’s annual staff roadshow has the same focus.

“It’s powerful to get out and personally connect with people and their workplace. A gesture like that goes a long way in demonstrating it’s people first here.”

In recent years, Northpower has stepped up its investment in its people and fleet, and has improved its facilities and back-office systems. “We’re loyal to the clients we serve, the networks they operate and the communities those networks support. We work in the personal space because we are keeping the lights on for people, as well as enabling communities and businesses to thrive.”

Andrew stresses that the company invests actively into relationships. “We are a people business. Many of our clients have worked with us for over 10 years and they are looking for more from us.”

Reflecting that focus, Northpower has recently returned its focus to the North Island of New Zealand to respond to increasing demand and investment from its long-term clients. Something that challenges and pushes Andrew is the fact that being in the service industry and in continual demand does not allow time to go back and fix mistakes.

“It’s powerful to get out and personally connect with people and their workplace. A gesture like that goes a long way in demonstrating it’s people first here.”

He says the organisation needs to make sure it gets it right the first time. “The focus is always on perfecting our systems and looking for opportunities to refine our approach. I call these areas ‘pockets of excellence’. These are the sections we pick up and roll out across the organisation to achieve smooth and consistent delivery.”

Northpower’s vision is to create an enduring business that supports its customers as they grow and develop. The focus next year is on operational precision. “As we lift our quantity of work, we need to make sure we build our processes, so we’re very consistent and very precise.”

Andrew adds, “The decisions we make are about setting up this company for the long-term and making sure we’re here and performing consistently for our clients. That’s the inspiration – to grow with our clients, grow with our community and be a steady but inspiring influence.”

Being a New Zealand- and Northland-owned organisation creates purpose, Andrew says, because ultimately “we’re owned by the community”. When Northpower opened for business 99 years ago, it was about enabling the local community to function. Andrew says back then it was about getting power out to everyone and getting the lights on.
The company has evolved to include contracting, infrastructure and a high-speed fibre network.

“People take up a fibre service as fast as we build the network, so we’ve sped up the rollout. We’ve also tried to make the connection process easy and slick”.

“That’s the heart of Northpower – earning the trust and being an enduring partner for our clients and communities.”

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