Business message: prepare, build

Caci Clinic founder Jackie Smith (right) pictured with artist Carole Hughes – the two knew each other years ago in Cambridge.

Finding success in business has less to do with good luck and more to do with sound preparation, a readiness to grasp opportunities and the ability to build strong teams, says Jackie Smith.

The founder of Caci Clinics was speaking to members of Cambridge U3A at its May meeting.  She developed the company from one Auckland beauty clinic in 1994 to an award-winning chain that now numbers 84 individually owned franchises around the country – including 15 which opened in the past year.

Smith told U3A members building the right kind of culture was probably the most important aspect of succeeding in business.

“Culture is a buzzword to many, but you must be deliberate about building the culture you want. If you’re not, the culture will create itself,” she said. “You must be inclusive, not exclusive, embrace diversity and give everyone a voice, even the most junior.  I don’t have much patience for complainers.”

Jackie Smith grew up in Cambridge.  She was one of Helen and Thornton Anderson’s children and credits her parents for giving her the grounding that allowed her to walk an unconventional path.

“My parents functioned well as a team.  I remember my father telling me when I was 12 that I could be whatever I wanted to be.  I left home at 17 with no direction … I just knew I didn’t want to be a secretary.  I was something of a non-conformist. I always like challenging the status quo.”

By the time she founded her first Caci Clinic with husband and co-founder David Smith, she was already a graduate registered nurse.  The couple had been doing their OE in England, thinking of a future step that might encompass her knowledge of nursing and David’s MBA.  They purchased a muscle toning machine that became the start of a company offering facial toning, or non-surgical facelifts.

Caci Clinic went on to become one of the first companies to offer laser hair removal in a clinical setting and has subsequently won several awards for other developments down the track.

With success well established in New Zealand, Jackie had a crack at the UK market, and opened nine clinics in London.  Covid came just as she was opening a 10th, effectively leading to a decision to close down the UK side altogether and focus on New Zealand.

She has been chief executive of Caci for most of the years it has been going, yet believes the importance of the CEO is often over-rated.

“It’s the team that does the work. The CEO needs to point the team in the right direction,” she said. “At the end of the day, a company stands or falls on doing the right preparation to start with, building a strong team and treating everyone with respect.”

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