From cows to the chamber

Te Awamutu’s Regan McCorquindale says he doesn’t want to live a mediocre life.

Regan McCorquindale believes the lessons he learned on his parents’ farm will strengthen his arm as the new CEO of the Te Awamutu Chamber of Commerce.

He grew up on 200-cow dairy farm in the Korokonui district, and knows the physical, mental and financial challenges involved in farming. Imbued with a strong work ethic, he also understands that farms are businesses, albeit run by families, and believes transparency and accountability should be central to all business operations.

“You have to develop common sense when farming,” he said. “Farmers are heavily reliant on weather, it’s something they can’t control, so they develop an ability to adapt.”

The way he sees it, every working operation, small or large, independent or at government level, could be improved through collaboration and honest communication.

Regan started his part-time role heading up the Te Awamutu Chamber on March 8. He’s still getting to grips with what it entails, how things works and the support mechanisms at play, and brings some strong ideas to the table.  “I think a key thing is going to be collaboration, regardless of the type of business. If you start from the ground up, every industry and business in a small town is linked in some way … they depend on each another.”

Businesses need to find ways to collaborate, he suggested, rather than working in isolation and focusing only on the competition. A struggling café, for example, could link with another local business to provide staff lunches. There are multiple ways to finding solutions to problems, and navigating those will be important, particularly for businesses hard-hit by Covid-19.
“It might require a huge shift in mindset.”

Behind the zeal is a young man skilled in finding solutions.  He was head student in his last year at Te Awamutu College, where he also competed in social enterprise challenges. After graduating with a Bachelor of Agricommerce from Massey University, he started his own pastoral assessment and analysis business, servicing around 70 dairy farmers from Taumarunui to the Hauraki Plains; but set that aside when what he called ‘technical disruption’ saw a similar service offered at a third of the price.

Three years ago, an approach by Farm Wise, an arm of LIC, brought Regan on board as one of their consultants.  His base is Waikato-wide, and after lengthy days on farm, he hastens back to his home in Te Awamutu to catch up with friends and enjoy social sport.

It was his growing interest in business, politics and leadership led him inadvertently to the Chamber. After meeting local MP Barbara Kuriger in February, he found his interest in leadership popped up on Facebook, along with a message that the Chamber was looking for a part-time CEO.

“I looked it over and thought it sounded like a bit of me.”

Regan already mentors young people through the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), but is keen to take on another layer of responsibility. The process of seeing and developing potential drives him.

With his long view set on farm ownership, a place where he can bask in the stillness of the countryside he loves, Regan has no plans to leave the Te Awamutu area. His parents have retired to Cambridge and one day, he’d like to raise his kids just the way he was.

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