Santa Fe Shutters: meeting 2022 challenges head on

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When Santa Fe Shutters’ owner Gail Christie and her husband Paul bought the business 20 years ago, they had three employees. Fast-forward 20 years and they now employ 105.

Yes, that’s Gail – you will no doubt have seen as the face on Santa Fe Shutters’ signage and fronting their advertising campaigns. Personality seems to shine through when you meet Gail face to face.

But Gail is quick to correct me when I say the 105 staff work for her. “They don’t work for us, they work with us – we’re a team,” she says respectfully.

And part of what makes them a team – an incredibly successful team – amongst other things is their focus on technology.

Unlike the early days, the company is no longer just supplying Bay of Plenty clients – the brand is now recognised as a national leader in its field.

“We’ve had a number of challenges in recent times,” admits Gail.

When Covid initially impacted the business, there were hold-ups for supplies coming out of China. Then when New Zealand went into lockdown, China was catching up and the supply chain became stretched.

Like many businesses across the country they were forced to shift gears from a just-in-time stock model to a just-in-case one. That brings with it new challenges and extra overheads.

One of the company’s goals was to grow it’s manufacturing in New Zealand as well as overseas.

That was part of the motivation for the purchase of Bay Blinds four years ago. They now offer a wider range of window solutions throughout the entire country, both blinds and shutters.

Santa Fe relies on Vodafone Business for its communication technology solutions.

“We operate about 30 mobiles and high-speed quality internet has become critical to our growth in recent years, particularly with the constraints and safety implications which Covid has introduced,” says Gail.

“We couldn’t operate our business without the mobile technologies we have. From the factory floor to the remote sales team members out in the field, good mobile comms are critical.”

In fact, Gail goes a step further. She is adamant there has been an upside to the Covid restrictions for the business: they now use video communications for most sales and training around the country – something they wouldn’t have seriously contemplated three or four years ago.

“It’s faster, it’s more efficient and it just makes sense,” she says.

And it’s not only the trade customers who benefit.

“We have consumer clients who have been delighted to see we have introduced video measure and consultation sessions.”

Although this option was only introduced as a Covid safety imperative, Gail predicts it could be here to stay.

Vodafone’s technology gives a real edge

Vodafone is helping the BOP region to thrive via remarkable technology.

In February 2021, Vodafone announced a turbocharged network investment program, spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to better connect Aotearoa.

This included building or upgrading 800 cell sites nationally, in addition to adding more than 200 cell sites being built by the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) over the coming 2-3 years.

Despite navigating the challenges of Covid-19 and additional health and safety measures, Vodafone upgraded 38 mobile cell sites and built 14 new cell sites across the region in 2021 in addition to eight new Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) sites.

This has improved the critical digital services that keep people connected so they can work, learn and play remotely.

Vodafone first switched on 5G technology at the Mount in March 2021 bringing the latest generation mobile network tech to BOP – and now, after more investment in the BOP region, independent testing shows Vodafone offers customers the best mobile network in the BOP region.

The network improvements enable businesses to do what they do best, faster and more reliably, from any location. This allows them to focus on doing business and driving profits.

A robust network also means staff can work from anywhere, enabling a better work-life balance for those who want to work from home or from a bach while on holiday.

To learn more about Vodafone’s 5G network head to www.vodafone.co.nz/5g/

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Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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