Gail Christie was balancing bringing up her two sons on her own while working as a radiographer back in 2000 when she met Paul Christie, who later became her husband.
Shortly after this she developed serious RSI and was struggling to continue to perform ultrasounds so she and Paul decided to look at alternative businesses. On the day he came home and showed Gail the information on Santa Fe Shutters, her first question was – “What is a shutter and do you really think they will sell in New Zealand?”
However, she was soon sold on the idea and in late 2002 they moved 4 children, 2 cats, 2 dogs and 2 budgies from Rotorua to Tauranga and took over Santa Fe Shutters. Last year they further expanded their presence in the market with the purchase of Bay Blinds.
Gail is the operations director for both Santa Fe Shutters & Blinds and Bay Blinds and is responsible for the product development, manufacture and ordering of their full product range. This role also involves overseeing all staff in these areas of the business.
As the company has grown Gail would say the most challenging aspect of her role has been to keep their business and staff focussed on providing the best customer service, following the systems and producing the perfect product.
Thankfully Gail is a systems person, and loves developing and implementing great systems to run the business. As Santa Fe have grown from an initial 5 staff to the current team of 100, this aspect of her role has become even more important. Seeing these systems now flow through their factories and offices both in New Zealand and overseas, has been a rewarding experience for Gail.
Currently they are in the process of moving their systems from Santa Fe to Bay Blinds, and Gail sees this as a real opportunity to really grow both businesses together. She admits that every day there are opportunities and challenges that come along, however, she says the most important thing is to decide on which battles to fight, which opportunities to run with and where to focus the resources to ensure they stay focussed on the end goal.
Small details are very important in Gail’s business – everything they manufacture is made to the absolute millimetre. Her advice to others is that in order to succeed either in sales or corporate, you need to be a detail person who loves to see the things you can dream become a reality. For Gail there is nothing better than seeing a successful shutter or blind installation that she has been involved in go well. She loves seeing the photos of their finished products that the installers take, or getting emails back from excited customers after their products have been installed. Also, she takes pride in seeing their staff grow and develop within the company.
Gail spends 2-3 days a fortnight working at their Auckland office, but likes nothing better than the feeling of arriving back home and then only driving 10 minutes to work the next day. She doesn’t see any better area to have their NZ based factories and head office, believing we have the best of everything here in the Bay.
Outside of work, when time allows, she loves to sew. When she was on her own with little children she made and sold children’s clothes. She has just made a gorgeous bassinette set for her first grandchild and is looking forward to sewing again for her.