Like many of the best ideas, the concept for Recognise and Reward – a gifting service with a twist – germinated through a relaxing evening glass of chilled white wine. Founded in 2014 by friendly and formidable husband and wife team Gary Adam and Angela Pile, the firm’s philosophy is all about cultivating then recognising long-lasting customer relationships and rewarding loyalty with hard-to-find, highly-personalised gifts.
“The feedback we’ve received is that there is no one else within New Zealand who are offering the level of service that we provide,” says Gary. “In fact, we recently had dinner with the guys from Waterford and Royal Dalton in Australia and they said that there’s no-one doing it there either.”
What makes the couple’s gift service stand out is their dedication to detail and a knack for the personal touch. There is no one-gift-fits-all approach. Clients are consulted in-depth to ensure that the perfect gift is picked which is then hand-wrapped in white paper and tied with a black ribbon in what is now Recognise and Reward’s signature style. “So many companies are so concerned with attracting new business that they forget about the customers they already have,” Gary says. “It’s also important to acknowledge people who refer business to you. That’s where we come in. We can save on costs and time as we facilitate the whole process.”
“We bring the convenience factor,” Angela adds. “And it’s not just corporate we deal with. People can make orders for their family and friends for all occasions and we always add a personalised thank-you card to the gifts.” The couple certainly practice what they preach having hand-delivered complimentary cherries to all their valued customers just last month.
Angela and Gary know what it takes to start from scratch having bought a tile and bathroom ware franchise in Christchurch in 2008 which, in just less than three years, they turned it into a business turning over just shy of $3million — only for it to be destroyed by the February 2011 earthquake. A bitter pill was made even harder to swallow by the fact that the couple had already expertly guided their company through the turmoil of the global financial crisis. Invaluable lessons had, however, been learnt.
“We soon realised that everyone who walked into our showroom was a potential customer for life,” says Angela. “A lot left with a bottle of wine, regardless of whether they’d spent any money, and those that had would receive a gift that they could keep for ever such as a vase. We had many referrals.” Their first Christmas in the city they delivered chocolates, cherries and champagne to all of the high-end designers and architects. Angela continues, “That following year we turned over nearly $1.5 million. If we hadn’t have made that effort, we’d have been seen as just another shop.”
Both husband and wife cite further examples of how going that extra mile — such as a simple offer of a coffee — with people stopping in to ask for directions led to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business.
“The lessons we have learnt we are now imparting on our clients,” says Gary.
“Word-of-mouth is still the best of all advertising and it now travels faster than ever thanks to social media,” Angela adds, and though they recognise the importance of the digital age, they believe it’s still important to keep that old-fashioned, personal touch.
Gary, a former diplomat, has worked for the likes of BNZ, Lion Breweries and Bell Tea & Coffee Company. Angela, in her capacity as a business consultant with her other company Retain (which completes the ‘three 3 Rs’ — Retain, Recognise and Reward), has worked with and advised brands such as Revlon, ASB, Ray White and Life Pharmacy, among others, and currently works closely with the Newmarket Business Association. Angela is also a certified trainer of the FiSH! Philosophy (a global organisation dedicated to increasing the happiness, efficiency and productivity in schools and workplaces), and volunteers with World Child Cancer. “Having been through the earthquake, we realised how quickly your life can change,” she says, “and how important it is to give something back to society, to find ways to make people feel great.”
The couple, now celebrating their 23rd of marriage, both bring their own areas of expertise and believe part of their success lies in trusting in, and not interfering with, each other’s respective roles. Each morning they rise at 5.45 and go for walk to “get the blood flowing and focus the mind”. They rarely watch TV. The most fundamental key to any successful business venture, they believe, is to be passionate about your field, and they’re both certainly proof of that.
“Because we both developed the philosophy of what Recognise and Reward is, it makes sense to us,” says Gary. The next stage is to offer partnership deals to hungry entrepreneurs so that they too can “create their own great lifestyles”.
What counts, says Angela, is standing out, being unique and creative. But above all else, you must listen to your customers because “they are ultimately your boss”.
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces