21 October 200
Phillip Mills Exercises Entrepreneurship To Take Top New Zealand Award
Fitness pioneer Phillip Mills, chairman of Les Mills International, was last night named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year – 2004 at a gala banquet dinner in Auckland.
Phillip, also winner of the category of Services, including Financial Business, Property and Arts, was chosen as the
ultimate winner from five Category Winners who were each judged to be the top of their industries.
His creativity and charisma, as well as his unique company model with huge national and international expansion
potential, made Phillip a stand-out winner for the judges, said chair of the judging panel and the inaugural Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner David Johnson.
“Phillip Mills is truly an inspirational entrepreneur. His licensed group fitness programmes are a world-first and we
are certain that he is going to be a superstar. After interviewing him, all of the judges wanted to know how they could
buy into the company and we even felt healthier!” said David Johnson.
“Les Mills International is a highly profitable company and has a very clear strategic direction. Phillip is a
charismatic, inspirational leader and you experience his leadership when you walk into one of his gyms and see how staff
members relate to him.
“Not only has he had a great idea, he has followed it through and protected his intellectual property from day one,
which some entrepreneurs fail to do. He has a long-term strategy and you can see in his eyes that he knows exactly where
he is going and that he knows the possibilities are boundless.
“The calibre of entries overall was incredibly high and to win against such stiff competition is an achievement of
which Phillip can be very proud,” says David.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed to have been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. It’s wonderful to be playing a small part in the explosion of New Zealand creativity we
have seen on the world stage in such industries as fashion, film and music.
“Would-be entrepreneurs out there need to remember nothing’s impossible. You have to find you glass ceiling and burst on
through it,” said Phillips Mills.
Les Mills World of Fitness is today recognised as one of the world’s most innovative and professionally run health and
fitness organisations. There are nine Les Mills clubs in New Zealand with 43,000 members and the fitness programmes
created by Les Mills International are distributed to more then 9,000 fitness clubs in 54 countries, with an estimated
three million participants a week.
Phillip Mills took over the Les Mills company, which was founded by his father, in 1993. In the 1980s Phillip developed
an exercise to music programme system which would later evolve into the seven group fitness programmes currently
distributed by Les Mills International. The revolutionary BODYPUMP® class which Phillip created has become the world’s
biggest branded group fitness programme.
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Director Carol Campbell said this year’s competition was an excellent showcase for
New Zealand’s most innovative entrepreneurs.
“The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year is all about finding business people who are stand-outs in their field and are able to
think creatively, take risks and work hard to make their business a success. Phillip’s vision, creativity and above all
passion for the business have helped to single him out as New Zealand’s star entrepreneur,” says Carol Campbell.
Phillip Mills will now go on to represent New Zealand and compete against 34 entrepreneurs from around the world for the
title of Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year in Monte Carlo in May 2005.
Selecting New Zealand’s top entrepreneurs in 2004 were five independent judges, recognised for their entrepreneurial
spirit, business expertise and insights: Michael Hill of Michael Hill Jeweller; Sir Clifford Skeggs of the Skeggs Group
of Companies; inaugural Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner David Johnson of Trends Publishing International; entrepreneur and chief
executive of Intaz Ltd Melissa Clark-Reynolds; and Editor-in-Chief of The National Business Review, Nevil Gibson.
The competition is in its seventh year in New Zealand and the programme was launched over 17 years ago by Ernst and
Young Worldwide to recognise entrepreneurial spirit around the globe. It now runs in 35 countries and has an illustrious
list of past winners around the world including Michael Dell, Dell Computer Corporation; Scott McNealy, Sun
Microsystems; Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com; and Howard Schultz, Starbucks Coffee.
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year is recognised as the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs and it is
the only global business award operating in New Zealand.
The other Category Winners who were competing for the title of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year were:
Bill Fulford – Managing Director, Lighting Direct Winner – Retail, Consumer & Industrial Products Category
If you ever needed proof of the effectiveness of advertising remember this: “think lighting, think Lighting Direct.” Got
it? Someone must have for in the course of 30 years this retail icon has grown from a flicker of an idea into New
Zealand’s largest and most successful chain of lighting retailers. Bill began his working life in a corporate
environment. After a number of years he decided he wanted to have a crack at running his own business. Before totally
taking the plunge he was enlightened enough to gain some ‘hands on’ experience working for someone else. Eventually he
took the plunge and set up his own business – securing everything he had against the business succeeding. It took six
months for income to flow and 12-14 hour days, six days a week, to keep the business operating. Strict import licensing
was in place meaning the emphasis was on local manufacturing. Come the 1980s and across-the-board industry
de-regulation, things changed dramatically. The opportunity to import direct from overseas sources became a very real
one and Bill seized it.
Today, Lighting Direct has 22 stores throughout New Zealand employing 160 people. Despite the growth, Bill proudly owns
100% of the company.
David Charlesworth – Managing Director, Comworth Group Winner – Technology, Communication & Biotechnology Category
While communication is primarily a human process - technology’s advent has transformed what formerly needed to be
face-to-face encounters into the ability to share information anytime, anywhere…and everywhere…all at once.
David Charlesworth graduated as an electrical engineer from Canterbury University and began his working life with the
New Zealand Post Office. After working for the large British multinational, Plessey for 14 years David became general
manager of W.Arthur Fisher Limited—a private New Zealand company. He succeeded in building the business from a $2
million to $10 million turnover operation.
Motivated to do his own thing in 1983 David reached an informal agreement with OKI of Japan. With his wife Bronwen’s
support, very little capital and an old IBM PC, he started Comworth Systems. A sale of the first facsimile unit for over
$NZ 15,000 and the business was underway.
OKI granted not only a distribution agreement but access to an evolving array of technology to serve the needs of
current, and emerging, markets. After facsimiles came the printer range followed by cellular and key phones.
Today Comworth Group supplies products covering all office automation and telecommunication solutions for a cross
section of the country’s leading companies. Comworth Group employs 130 staff covering, David proudly says, 20 different
nationalities. He still retains majority ownership of the business.
Jim Delegat – Managing Director, Delegat’s Group Ltd Winner – Master Entrepreneur Category
In 1973, at age 24, Jim and his sister Rosemari took over the leadership of Delegats. Within a few years it was obvious
that deregulation and overseas travel meant New Zealanders were now being exposed to a wider variety of tastes and
options. Jim’s response to these trends was to focus on the production of super premium wine. This approach saw
Delegat’s become the first New Zealand winery to ferment a Chardonnay in a barrel in 1982.
Delegats went onto purchase, and develop, vineyards in the then obscure Gimblett Gravels appellation of Hawkes Bay and
the emerging Marlborough region. Jim was rewarded within a few years when the first vintage of his new creation, Oyster
Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, was judged ‘Best Worldwide” at The International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.
The company soon went on to win 'World's Best' trophies for its Oyster Bay Chardonnay and received ten years of
consecutive gold medals for its Delegat’s Hawkes Bay Chardonnays.
Delegat’s pioneering spirit in wine making also led to being at the forefront of the country’s exporting successes.
Secured grape supply from New Zealand’s premier wine regions coupled with world-class wines and a focused global
distribution network has underpinned the growth of the company. Under Jim’s direction sales revenue has grown from $16.3
million at 30 June 2002 to a forecast $31.6 million for the same period in 2004. Overseas sales account for 72% of this
Seeby Woodhouse – Managing Director, Orcon Internet Ltd Winner – Young Entrepreneur Category
While others were dreaming of their first toy soldier or even Buzzy Bee, Seeby’s thoughts were on the creation of a
business dynasty. Lavish mansions on exotic islands, the obligatory stable of ‘boy’s toys’ like speed boats and fast
cars, filled his mind.
By the fifth form, more of his dreams were taking shape. Even though he didn’t have a clear idea of what he would be
doing, he nevertheless had developed the brand identity and name for the proposed activity that would make his dream
A University of Auckland Electrical Engineering lecture about the internet finally gave Seeby the business direction
that his dreams would take. He decided to start his own ISP.
Armed only with an old computer, a few hundred dollars and three dial-in 33.6 k modems, he signed up his first customer
on 10th September, 1997. Today, Orcon Internet Ltd is the 4th largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) in New Zealand. As
well as being a wholesale provider servicing around a third of the ISP’s in New Zealand, Orcon also offers services to
around 30,000 residential and business customers.
The company now has 32 full time staff, and is the second largest provider of JetStream ADSL connections in the country.
Orcon has achieved 50-200% growth each year since it’s inception, and has completed a total of 24 acquisitions of
smaller ISP’s and web hosting companies since 1997.
Clearly, this is one entrepreneur who believes if you can dream it, you can do it.