Alumni profile: Garth Milmine

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When were you at Deloitte and what was your role?

I worked in the business solutions department of Deloitte Dunedin from 1996 until 2001. My role involved preparing accounts and tax returns for a wide variety of Otago and Southland businesses.

What do you think is unique about working in Deloitte compared to other places you’ve worked at?

Deloitte definitely encourages you to continually learn, grow and improve as a person, talk straight and seek new challenges. The culture also values having fun along the way and celebrating achievements. Watching the partners at the time run their side-line businesses was also something I learnt a lot from!

Tell us a little about the company you work for now?

I am an owner and CFO at Escea, a gas fireplace manufacturing business based in Dunedin. We began the company in 2002 with three co-founders, Nigel Bamford and Alan McGregor (both mechanical engineers), and myself.

I am really proud to be one of the founders that started Escea. At the time we were all in our early 30s, with no cash flow but a strong vision. The first few years were a challenge in trying to create products and a business while taking contract design work purely to stay financially afloat.

Escea was born out of a frustration for the lack of great looking designer gas fireplaces that could actually heat homes properly. Since launching into the market with a good looking design that also pumped out the heat, Escea has gone from strength to strength. We featured in the Deloitte Fast 50 for three consecutive years and were the first in the world to develop a fire that could be turned on by a mobile phone, allowing you to dial up your fire while commuting on the way home from work!

Innovation and a fastidious attitude to quality have always been our focus. A lot of time and resources have been spent on research and testing. We’re always trying to make the next fireplace better than the one before.

Escea now has a staff of 90, and a catalogue of around 15 different fireplace models, including large outdoor gas and wood fires. Escea has cemented itself as the number one gas fire brand in New Zealand, with eyes firmly set on the number one spot in Australia next.

Being a Financial Officer means a position of leadership – what do you think makes an outstanding leader in a company?

At Escea we have a strong vision and the willingness to see things through. People are more motivated when the leadership team clearly articulates the company vision, along with goals needed to achieve it. A team depends on their leaders to tell them where they are going and why and how they’re going to get there.

Great leaders need to spend a lot of time thinking strategically. By being flexible and open-minded to new ideas, you increase the likelihood that you will find the best possible answer.

CFOs must not only be technical specialists but also pragmatic business leaders who bring a sound financial perspective to decision making. We often work very closely with an entrepreneurial CEO and we sometimes need to temper their many ideas and grandiose plans so that only the most important can thrive.

Great leaders need to stick to their commitments and promises and they need to be the most committed and hardworking ones on the job. I believe all great leaders lead by example. By setting an example of fairness and credibility, the team will want to act the same way.

Self-awareness is important too. Knowing your own weaknesses allows you to delegate in order to achieve the common goal. Rather than clinging to the false belief that you can do it all, great leaders hire people who complement, rather than supplement, their skills.

Good leaders recognise that delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale and loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Why is it enjoyable working at Escea?

Escea has managed to not only survive - but thrive - in a competitive market. This year we had a $20m turnover and we have plenty of growth opportunities, with our next aim to double the size of the business again. The gas fire industry hasn’t doubled, but we have doubled several times. Managing the financial functions of a fast-growing company is a challenge, but an exciting one. You always have to be looking forward.


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