Whanganui Dream Project

I've always admired at the old Fire Station building in Guyton St in Whanganui. I used to buy second hand furniture near there, some kind of auction place - every Thursday. Then over the years, I discovered that there was a fancy apartment for sale in this area plus a ballet school. I thought, wow, that's just a marvellous setting for an apartment! In the middle of town and in an impressive building.

Credits: Rent a Chef
However, I've always thought that this huge, beautiful structure is underutilised. I had imagined it to be a mini-Melbourne Station with boutique shops and small cafes. I didn't expect any solution could come about quickly considering that for many years, Whanganui, NZ was a depopulating town.

2017 was the year when things turned around. Suddenly, more people from bigger New Zealand cities wanted to buy into Whanganui. Plus many foreigners wanted to start a life here. In 2018, properties were being snapped up like hot cakes.

And yes, two entrepreneurs bravely took on the Old Fire Station dream project.

Here is their story and here is their concept.

Over the last 2 years Brian & Tracy have continued the restoration and beautification work that the previous owners Geoff & Jody had started – painting, insulation, earthquake strengthening, fire report implementation and gardens etc. have all been completed.
Today the building contains Chonel Hairdressers, Whanganui Ballet School, Station House AirBNB, Brian & Tracy’s Apartment and La Station Design Store.
Learn more about Tracy and Brian’s journey and the history of the building on the OUR STORY page. 

Beautiful, hand-picked furniture from La Station Wanganui Furniture Store

This is a massive project! All the best wishes to La Station team. You're making Whanganui more boutiquey beautiful and even more instagrammable!

The Public

I have been wondering about "The Public" and its ability to elect officials. I am not a politician or educated in political systems. However, as I get older, I do wonder why the majority of the public has been given the opportunity to choose the governing system and the set of governing individuals. There seems to be an assumption that "The Public" knows what's best for the community. There is also an assumption that they will vote for people who know the best strategies for the progress of the town. And lastly, there is the assumption (because everyone's vote is equal) that every person who carries that vote is responsible, wise, educated (not only on their specific subject matter) but also in other areas like economics, business, humanities etc, that they are learning continuously, and/or have a wider/global experience.  The practicality of this - well how can a small town like Whanganui demand such level of individuals? Am I proposing that? Or am I just simply implying that, at the very least, there should be awareness and promotion of this idea... so that the community would consciously strive for a higher & better version of itself. Because if "The Public" has that much power to decide on everyone's future, then each of its members bears the responsibility to improve to make sure the entire community gets a better future.

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Whanganui - Moving Forward

In the last 2 years, the property prices in Wanganui have been rising. Investors from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are appreciating the increasing rental yields. First home buyers are encouraged by the potential capital growth.

These investments and big life decision also come with direct and opportunity costs. Wanganui has very high rates. There is no promise of a job. A lot of people moved out in 2012-2013 in favour of Australia and bigger New Zealand cities. Young people wanted the nightlife and the activities.  A lot of businesses closed down.

The Wanganui Council under Annette Main tried to invest in their lowest hanging fruits:
  1. Enhance the Art Scene 
  2. Invest in connectivity (Wifi, Fibre)
  3. Encourage youth to be part of the digital industry
  4. Support the small businesses and organizations like the Wanganui Chamber of Commerce to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to small businesses
To be fair, for a very tight budget, these moves are just practical. Unfortunately, Annette inherited a waste water problem too big to handle and rate payers incur the costs. The flooding of Anzac Parade in 2015 devastated properties. So instead of focusing on commercial growth, local government was yet again met with "putting the fire off first" operational problems.

Is it really finally turning around this 2017 - just by mere market forces?

I repeat, there is no guarantee that you will have a job once you move to Wanganui. However if you are entrepreneurial, Wanganui presents an amazing opportunity. Already there are several digital companies setting up offices in Wanganui. Co-working spaces like Hive & Co along Victoria Avenue is a step up to help the small businesses. AirBnBs provide extra income to homeowners. Cafes are competitive and continue to give Wanganui a touristy, upbeat vibe.

Wanganui is a very pretty town. I used to appreciate the multiple flower baskets hanging from boutique shops in Victoria avenue. It has beautiful beaches and gardens. It is strategically positioned.  It is a 2-hr drive to the Whakapapa Ski Fields.  It is less than 3 hours from Wellington.

The city needs a stronger, ballsier and more strategic leadership.  It needs to form stronger alliances with neighboring regions to promote regional growth. 

For my specific industry (IT/technology), I'd like to see things happen.

There needs to be consistent and monitored investment in digital training to encourage unemployed people to start online businesses. I see a lot of councils investing in digital training, yearly, occasionally. I see banks sponsoring similar type of training as well. However staging one basic introduction training a year is not going to cut it. The technologies move so fast even so-called experts can not keep up. There has to be progress monitoring after training. There has to be accountability and commitment to the process. Yes I want the trainers and the leaders of digital initiatives to be accountable.  I want them to make sure their trainees are doing very well on the web measured in terms of profit not merely by website traffic and Facebook likes.

There has to be investment in people, young and old, to gather around in their own time to discuss technology and help mentor each other. The foundations have already been laid out, or at least started by the previous Mayor Annette Main. Investment in technology needs to continue if Wanganui wants to stay relevant. Technology attracts younger people to build their own businesses. It helps established business owners to reach new markets. It would make people want to live the relaxed country lifestyle in Wanganui and yet make money as if they work in bigger NZ cities.  Mothers would be able to spend more time with their children at home and make money on the side selling their art, crafts or skills.  Retirees would be able to make extra income selling their knowledge and skills online and leave an inspiring legacy.  Technological business solutions are often free and open source. Technological training should be customised per industry so more people would know how to apply it.

My bias towards technological and digital education is obvious. I feel very strongly about using education to build an entrepreneurial and growth culture. It's a big commitment. But in the age of Artificial Intelligence, learning is a requirement.

Author: LVD
Email contact: support@webmarketingnz.com

The Truth is Beautiful

We are living in a very confused world where many people's judgments and appraisals are clouded by fear of being politically incorrect. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that there is no desire to challenge long-held beliefs... sometimes because of the fear of ruffling feathers but mostly because life is just so busy with day to day distractions that deep thinking is set aside.

So I will not bore you with philosophy. I shall state it plainly.

The TRUTH, the objective truth, is beautiful.

Embrace it, seek it, dig deep, as deep as you can, to derive it.

Respect for the definition of words is the start.
Words exist so we can define things and say what we we really mean.

Use standards, objective standards.

Use reason as standard.

The distractions of life, the incidentals, would not have any power over you at all.

But most of all, love truth. It is liberating.  It is the only way to be truly happy and free.

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Winter Energy Tips

We had no idea about the cost of power or heating in NZ. We have lived in an insulated house and kept warm using water bottles for a few years before we made the decision on heating for our needs.

For years, we had been introduced to heat pumps and new chimneys. We've even considered gas. But not everyone is aware that there is $1/day charge on gas regardless if you use it or not.

The desire to save energy and keep warm in NZ drove us to consider having heat pumps installed in our home. However after countless hours of research for a considerable $7500 investment, we found out that heat pumps start paying for itself on the 5th year at best, at the time when there's newer technology. And nobody ever mentioned the cost and inconvenience of cleaning heat pumps.

We also got dreamy about having a fire going whilst winter, with our hot chocolate mochas and our best buddy Netflix on cold winter nights. But we shied away from fireplaces after reading about the yearly costs of cleaning the chimney and the possible poisonous fumes. I suppose the biggest issue was, "Who would tidy up the mess after the logs burn out?"

So we ended with this lower cost solution that just suited our needs as a couple with no children.

1. We signed up with Power Shop. They have amazing customer service.

They also have a user-friendly mobile app and web app.
We have received several discounts and gifts because they are constantly engaging customers with their weekly promotions.

In winter, we spend $150-180 a month. In summer, it goes down to $80-110.

2. We have purchased a high power radiant heater (electric) from Warehouse, I recall it was over $250 at that time and it has served as well.
3. We keep ourselves warm by using layers, even at home.
4. We make sure we are well hydrated. Lots of tea helps. It aids in productivity as well as we work from home.

The best way to save power is monitoring usage. I know exactly how much power we use daily because Powershop's online control panel allows me to see our electrical consumption.

I think we can save more power if I stop baking too many cakes! :-)

If you wish to switch to Powershop and have more control over your energy consumption, signup here.

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A Leader Vs A Manager: Who will the people pick?

I'm sure the HR experts would have their own memes or infographics about the detailed differences of a leader and a manager. But here is my take.

- good communicator
- organised
- team player
- trains the team and helps each member understand the guidelines, the rules, the tasks
- prepares the tasks to be done
- prepares the schedules and deadlines
- great presentation
- liaises with the entire supply chain to ensure delivery of the product/service
- has empathy
- smart, can recognise patterns, can read data
- has experience - breadth of knowledge, versatile
- good memory, if not outstanding
- works hard
- can negotiate
- promotes well-being of the team
- promotes sustainability and constant improvement

This is a great person and an ideal member of a company, business or any organisation.

But this person may or may not be a leader.

I observe the MOST successful leaders worldwide -- famous names in the IT industry, in politics, non-profits, arts, in business and in history.  Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Welch, Mother Theresa, Alexander the Great, Voltaire, Aristotle, Narayana Murthy, and my recent favourite Elon Musk

Let me enumerate how I see these LEADERs:
- they have VISION
- they are headstrong
- they have very dominating personalities
- they can be erratic
- they are not afraid to ruffle feathers
- most of them are rather *my way or the highway*
- they fail over and over again and they still push for their dreams
- they are relentless
- they are DISRUPTORS
- they challenge the status quo
- they break the systems
- they build new markets
- they go where nobody has been before
- their passion for their work is relentless and unending. There is no breakfast, lunch or sleep time. They can be consumed with what they are doing for hours.
- They are mostly NOT *people* persons
- They are NOT afraid to be wrong
- they inspire generations
- they have an unsatiable thirst for new knowledge

So while a manager is smart, a leader is brilliant.

While a manager's actions and projects can be sustainable, these projects have way less impact. And most likely, not very revolutionary. However a leader's potentially high impact solution may lose fire if its market is not ready.

So what is the missing link? I suggest it is deep understanding of philosophy, critical thinking and self-awareness.  A leader needs these elements to sustain himself or herself in challenging situations. Self-awareness brings consistency in actions and integrity. Deep understanding of philosophy and critical thinking would enable a leader to do what is objectively right.

Will Wanganui elect leaders or managers? It would be great to see both types be represented.


Election Means an Opportunity

The election for Mayor and councillors is a few months away and my Facebook feed is already laden with advertisements and posts of people who are running, of issues that are pending and public sentiments of the smelly controversy of the Wanganui wastewater plant.

So I feel compelled to write a post about politics on this business blog, after all business, as much as it wants to stay independent of politics, usually has to dance with it to succeed.

There are many business owners in Wanganui who have closed doors, especially along the Main Street. Everyone knows and talks about it. This post is for those who ventured to start new businesses in Wanganui, those who keep on trying and those who may want to try again.

Small business is incredibly hard. Small business in a depopulating town is close to impossible. I see business owners approaching me for ideas on how to propel their sales online. I see business owners get overwhelmed with online marketing, make expensive moves, some misdirected, some apprehensive. These business owners appreciate that we are living in the digital age. This clearly presents an opportunity. Thus they keep trying.

That's the thing, they keep trying. Because that is the only way to make things happen. This is what I want to advocate. The coming elections present an opportunity to the public to elect officials who can organise and build a city that supports business ventures and intellectual development.

I stress intellectual development because I do not want to promote a lot of *action* and movement like a headless chicken crossing the road.  A popular business saying: Activity is not equal to productivity.

The core requirement is a sound strategy with deep ethical foundations. The successful execution of a great growth strategy is motivated by fundamental values of a city, similar to the fundamental values of a company/business. I have seen many businesses fall apart even when they started strong because the fundamental values of the leader is flawed. I have seen many business owners start with *good intentions* and fail because the drivers of their behaviours were based on fear and conflicted values.

Hence I suggest to the public the following qualities of a true leader:
1. Forward thinking
2. Integrity - a clarity of values, a clarity of thinking
3. Well-versed, has world experience, has technical experience - all skills that will help him or her to create reasonable strategies
4. Objectivity
5. Respect for reason
6. Understanding of the real motivations of people, Empathy
7. Foresight of what people in general need even if they do not know about it yet
8. Critical thinking

The election presents an astonishing opportunity for Wanganui - an extremely beautiful town in New Zealand with the most affordable living and property.

We need to challenge our minds. Let's not shut down debate. Let's be open to ideas, to other ways of thinking.  Let us demand more from the people who want to lead us.

We work so hard every day, in the most difficult times and most unforgiving situations. But our duty as fully-functioning humans does not stop there. Our duty is to develop our minds and maximise our mental capacity.  I encourage everyone to push the limits. This is our legacy.

Leah VillanuevaDeguzman
a business owner who helps people infiltrate the internet