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Jul 30, 2018

New Zealand's finest enter Business Hall of Fame

Forty years ago Bill Buckley could have never imagined having the success that he has.

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Now the man behind Buckley Systems Limited — the world's leading supplier of precision electromagnets — sits in the Business Hall of Fame after being inducted last night.

"It was a surprise that it came," Buckley said of finding out he would be joining the Hall of Fame.

"It's recognition for all we've done. It puts us on the map a bit more."

Buckley joins fellow laureates fashion designer Dame Trelise Cooper, entrepreneur and inventor Alan Gibbs and bedding magnates Graeme and Craig Turner in the Business Hall of Fame.

Posthumous laureates inducted were businessman James Dilworth, the first woman to become a member of the New Zealand stock exchange, Elspeth Kennedy, innovator Tony Nightingale, who took the Resene company multinational, and roading contractor Sir Russell Matthews.

Buckley says when he first started just about everybody that had anything to do with him, including bank managers, past partners and his father, said he couldn't do it.

"When I started up everybody told me that it was a bad time to start and I could never do what I wanted to do," Buckley said.

"[They] said 'don't even tempt it', 'you can't do it', but I did.

"Here we are, we've done it. It's been a real success story. On the main they've all come round and said you've done it."

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Buckley Systems was founded in 1978 and continues to provide end-to-end design, engineering and integration solutions for magnetic systems.

"I started in the back of a toolmakers' factory," Buckley said.

"I really put it on the line and I bought some big machinery."

Buckley says a big stepping stone in his career was when he built the IG6, a flat panel machine that captured the world market.

"First order I got from a Boston company was for 48 magnets which was worth about $2 million and that was virtually my turnover for a year," he said.

"That was a big stepping stone."

Buckley and his company are about to hit the go button on a breakthrough machine that treats cancer patients.

"At present we're just in the throes of building a BNCT (Boron Neutron Capture Therapy) machine which is a cancer treating machine and we're the first ones to really master it and get it out of a scientific idea into an operational machine that will treat patients," Buckley said.

"It's a really big breakthrough."

The machine is currently being installed in a hospital in Helsinki, Finland, and is what Buckley calls a "one stop shop" for radiation treatment.

Buckley says typically a patient will have to go through 30 fractions of radiation which knocks you around. However, his machine does it in one fraction and doesn't knock you around.

Buckley's passion for what he does remains as strong as it ever has through four decades of being involved in the business.

"I'm here every day with my overalls on, working on problems and making machinery," Buckley said.

"I've enjoyed it the whole time."

As for Graeme Turner, he said it isn't about the recognition or the public profile. He's just doing what he loves.

Turner is one-half of the brother pairing at the helm of Australasia's leading bedding manufacturer, Sleepyhead.

Turner Brothers

"It's great to have recognition but I just do a job every day, just try and make mattresses and make sure people sleep well," Turner said.

"I'm not one for being in the public profile."

Turner, 68, has been involved in the third generation family-owned business since the age of eight. In those days you could work in a factory when you were eight, Turner says.

"I just love it. It's in my blood." he said.

"There's nothing in this business I haven't done."

Turner is modest when reflecting on career highlights, insisting there are a lot of little highlights rather than one big thing.

As he says, "it's not like we created some great invention".

But it's the international recognition for quality that stands out most for Turner.

"Being recognised by international hotel chains around the world is quite a highlight.

"The fact that they recognise that we probably make some of the best beds in the world," Turner said.

"The reason we're number one in New Zealand and Australia is that people recognise our qualities," Turner said.

Most Marriott, Hilton and Accor hotels around the world have mattresses designed by Turner himself.

Sleepyhead has had success selling beds into China too, and according to Turner, is the number one exporter of beds into that country.

"People find that a bit hard to believe but we're selling probably 300 a day into China," Turner said.

"We're very lucky in a sense too because New Zealand is the only one that's got a free trade agreement into China with mattresses."

Turner says Sleepyhead has had to adapt to the changing sizes and preferences of Kiwis over the decades.

He said the average weight of a New Zealand male in 1966 was 62kg — now it's 92kg.

"Bed construction has had to adapt to people getting bigger," Turner said.

He and his brother are regularly on the factory floor monitoring, perfecting and improving the way things are done.

Turner said the pair bought out their uncle in 1979.

He said it was a very small business back then with approximately 45 employees. Now the company has around 1200 in New Zealand and Australia.

"We almost turn over more in a month than they used to do in a year," Turner said.

And it seems like there won't be any slowing down anytime soon for Turner, with the company now looking to expand its Auckland factory, having already done so in Melbourne and Brisbane.

"We need a bigger facility in Auckland. We make more a day now than we used to make in a week. It's bursting at the seams," Turner said.

"It's been my life. As the saying goes, I sleep and eat the business."

 

NZ Herald

By: Cameron Smith