Big Year For Zeald’s Youthful CEO
Thursday March 14, 2013
Big Year For Zeald’s Youthful CEO
At just 33 years of age David Kelly heads one of the country’s fastest growing businesses. His website design company Zeald is finalising plans to open new offices in Christchurch and Sydney – and the young chief executive has just been named Massey University’s Distinguished Young Alumni for 2013.
He says the award is “both an honour and a surprise”, and a great start to what will no doubt be a big year. Zeald’s long-awaited move across the Tasman will be the major milestone of 2013 and also a chance to deal with unfinished business.
“We set up an office in Sydney about two and a half years ago, but we decided to pull back because the more we examined it, the more we realised that we weren’t quite ready, that there were some foundations we had to lay first,” Kelly says.
Continually learning new business and management skills has been a constant theme for Kelly who graduated from Massey with a Bachelor of Information Sciences, rather than a business degree.
“We grew very rapidly and we needed to take stock and make sure our management structure and systems could cope with that growth. Before taking the business international, we had to introduce an extra layer of management. It’s one thing to manage a team directly, but managing a team of managers is quite different – and we needed to learn that skill.”
Kelly says Zeald is now ready to forge ahead with its expansion plans because it has well-established internal processes, and has recruited the right people and trained them well. The company, which currently employs around 70 staff, has certainly come a long way since Kelly founded the business in 2000 with his brother and cousin. At the time he was just 21 years old.
“In the first couple of years we did everything wrong, really,” he remembers. “We chased our tails with no real business plan. Our biggest learning from those years was the need for discipline. You need to be focused and turn away things that might distract you from your goal.”
Kelly says he and his young co-founders were helped enormously in those early days by the ecentre, Massey’s onsite business incubator, where they were based for five years.
“That time was critical for the company,” he says. “The team at the ecentre, including chief executive Steve Corbett, really mentored us. I’m sure they tore their hair out many times, but they accelerated our personal development and the development of our business acumen.”
Zeald’s success has come from focusing on what Kelly calls “the middle segment of website creation”. In essence this means giving small and medium-sized firms what they need – a high quality website at a reasonable cost that generates business.
“It’s always been about results. A website should be a tool designed to generate a return. It’s not there to just look cool or be quirky. It’s there to make people pick up the phone and call, or to buy your product online. Everything about a website should support that goal,” Kelly says.
“We get efficiencies in automating what we can, in areas where automation doesn’t detract from the value. Then we use a highly refined production line process for the elements that need to be customised. The result is a customised website without a lot of additional cost.”
Excellence and continual improvement is core to Zeald’s culture, Kelly says. The company, which is always refining its processes, is not content to be a market leader in New Zealand – it constantly strives to set the benchmark globally.
“We always wanted to be a technology business that would export one day, and we knew from the start that we wanted to be world-class. Mediocrity was not acceptable.”
Massey University Young Distinguished Alumni David Kelly, the 33-year old CEO of Zeald.