NZ Tax Refunds scores record growth by rewarding New Zealand

The list of people who can claim that they give away money for a living is, unfortunately, fairly short. Oprah is on the list, with Ellen Degeneres and Donald Trump when he is in a good mood. Oh, and Cilla Hegarty of NZ Tax Refunds has also made the cut; and has earned multiple awards doing so. Our whole country receives a good feeling when its citizens receive a break from the tax man. Cilla has built a burgeoning business surrounding that good sensation.

Entrepreneurship can be an addiction. You have your first encounter with the euphoria that accompanies achievement, but once is not enough. You want to feel it again, so resisting going back for more becomes harder and harder. But it’s not your fault. Individuals with a certain combination of genes are more inclined to be susceptible to addiction. It’s pure science. No one knows this to be true more than Cilla Hegarty.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” Hegarty told us, “and like most entrepreneurs I do what I do because I’m wired that way – it’s in my DNA! When I met my husband to be at 21, he had a business and I helped him build that business, and another one after that.  Then at 25 when we had just had our first baby, I decided to set up another business. From that point on I was never going to work for anyone else and I realized I wouldn’t make a very good employee – I liked starting and building businesses too much.

“Part of the reason I founded my accounting business in the 90’s was, as a small business person, I saw the need for accounting services that wouldn’t cost the earth.  I wanted to provide an alternative for people who couldn’t afford the fees of the big accounting companies.”

It was with the same mindset and similar ideals that the company responsible for capturing the bright orange “Woohoo” emotion was started.

“I founded NZ Tax Refunds in 2008 out of a desire to make it simple for people to get money back from the IRD. I was working in my accounting company at the time, and saw there was a need for a way for people to simply apply for their tax refunds. It was a case of seeing an opportunity and jumping in. We started the business with a great idea, no external capital, and lots of passion. We were a pioneer in the industry.”

Whenever a creative individual starts a prolific business, solidarity in the market is short-lived. There are always opportunists who are not slow to throw in the towel to pursue more glamorous ventures, resulting in the market becoming saturated in a short amount of time.

Look at blogging for example. Ten years ago, there were relatively few blogs, and the ones that were started with clear goals and beautiful design are now global giants, like Mashable and Huffington Post. According to Snitchim, there are now 62.6 million blogs on WordPress alone (including this one), and starting a blog these days probably won’t get you the ideal amount of traffic needed to monetize your content.

It was no different in the business field Hegarty had just entered, but she maintained her position as one of the larger refund agencies because she had clear objectives, and implemented steps to achieve them beautifully. The results speak for themselves.

“In 2008 there was only one other company offering tax refunds.” Now there are 34, but NZ Tax refunds is still growing. Their growth rate has been impressive at 1401% for 2011, placing them at 30th on the Asia Pacific Technology Fast 500, and 539% for 2012.

Although it may not seem immediately feasible, achieving and maintaining growth on that scale in a saturated market does not take complicated business procedures to attain.

“It comes back to listening to the client. We’ve always focused on leading and not following. We’ve maintained our market leader position as we’re always disrupting and looking for new ways to do things. By being innovative and responsive we have really set ourselves apart from our competitors. Whenever we disrupt, our competitors frantically try to catch up. In any competitive industry it’s about staying ahead of the curve and thinking differently.

“Over the past five years we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of clients throughout New Zealand get their share of millions of dollars in overpaid taxes held by the IRD, efficiently, cost-effectively, and without risk. We’ve also achieved the near impossible and made tax fun!”

Incidentally, the word “listening” is one we hear often from the extraordinary businesspeople we have the privilege of interviewing at NZ Entrepreneurs. They all facilitate progression and fuel innovation by listening to who will actually be using their services or products.

Recently NZ Tax refunds took home the coveted TVNZ Marketing Award for their efforts in “owning a feeling,” the thinking behind their very successful “WooHoo” campaign.

 “TV & radio have been really good,” said Cilla, “as has internet marketing. We’ve also got a really active social media following.  It’s about engaging and delighting clients, and pushing the boundary with campaigns and communications that resonate.  We’re always looking at the mix and changing it to suit. In early 2012, to stand out in a crowded marketplace, we launched “WooHoo” from NZ Tax Refunds to differentiate our brand by appealing to the emotional aspect of getting a tax refund.”

 A “WooHoo” moment is that moment when something unexpectedly great happens, like an unexpected windfall from NZ Tax Refunds.

“WooHoo” has been really successful for us. Earlier this month we won a TVNZ Marketing Award and we were up against some of the biggest brands in New Zealand – we were really chuffed.”

Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

What year isn’t a good year!  2013 is no better or worse that any other year.  It all comes down to attitude.

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