InTouch : Going the extra mile

When the general manager of Slingshot talks about going the extra mile for customers, he leads by example – literally. Last year on family outing Mark Callandar called in to an elderly lady in Whakatane to sort out her broadband connection.
“She had trouble with her previous provider and needed hand setting it up – it wasn’t too far out of the way and she made great scones,” he says.
It’s characteristic of the sort of commitment and energy Callandar brings to his role that helped earn him top spot in this year’s NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year northern regional finals. It’s also an indication of the passion he has for the business he’s been involved with now for five years, initially as marketing consultant and later marketing manager with Slingshot parent Callplus, before moving into his current role.
In that time, the company’s customer base has expanded from just 15,000 to over 100,000 while staff now number 120. It’s also earned industry recognition for innovation (TUANZ, 2005) and was last year labelled “Best ISP” by NetGuide. In what Callandar describes as “David and Goliath” contest with incumbent Telecom, the 100 percent Kiwi-owned company has snaffled 10 percent share of the internet market and is now the fourth largest telco operating in New Zealand.
For Callandar, it’s all about passion and innovation.
“If you’re going to be successful in business, there has to be passion involved and that’s what I try to instil in everyone who works for the company. If they’re not really enjoying what they’re doing I encourage them to find something they do enjoy or give me some ideas as to how we can change the environment they work in so they do enjoy it.”
Central to his management style is ensuring staff are engaged in the business – by creating positive work culture and by keeping them in the communication loop.
“I’ve worked in places where information hasn’t been shared or disseminated to key people, those actually running the business and you can run around blind. It really helps, particularly with frontline staff or anyone working in your team that they understand the rationale behind the decisions you’re making because you then get their buy-in and support. It means you’re all running in the same direction – and that’s vital in the competitive environment we work in.”
Among his initiatives is the monthly ‘Team Talk’ newsletter to keep staff informed and to recognise exceptional performances. He also founded the “what about this for crazy idea” concept to drive innovation. “In essence, no idea is crazy idea, so keep them coming.”
His mantra for the business is “live the brand; breathe the brand; be the brand” – and he’s happy to muck in on that at any level – whether wielding screwdriver in the contact centre or being available to respond to customer complaints 24/7.
As leader, he sees his role as generating the energy to motivate staff, encouraging passion, having “confidence in what we’re about”, and being honest and transparent.
“I think it’s important to be human and not to lose sight of the people in the engine room – those are the ones you need to listen to.”
NZ Management will be profiling the other two regional winners in future issues. The overall winner will be announced at the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards dinner at SkyCity, Auckland on Thursday, 4 December.

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