February 17, 2010

Tait Electronics

I read an interesting article in the Listener a while back about Tait Electronics, the Christchurch, New Zealand based designer and manufacturer of radio communications systems who this year turned 40.

The story of Tait Communications, and Sir Angus Tait in particular, is quite a remarkable one. Sir Angus was bought up by his mother in Oamaru, and when his father died in the 1918 flu epidemic, he began working in the local radio shop before going on to become an RAF radio operator in WWII. He came home from the war, set up a company...and went broke. He paid off his creditors, then tried again 2 years later.

Tait Electronics was the result, and today it records annual sales of $190 Million in 160 countries worldwide. They invest 12% of revenue in R&D, which is rare for NZ companies, and as a result have a revenue of $300,000 per employee, making them one of NZ's most knowledge-based companies.

Sadly, Sir Angus passed away 2 years ago, aged 88. I wasn't lucky enough to ever meet Sir Angus, but I think we can all learn a lesson from him. He wasn't afraid to give it a go, in fact he failed the first time he did, but he learned, and he came back to create something so wildly successful. I think there is a tendency in NZ to avoid trying anything for fear of failing. But we must, and we must learn from our mistakes. If NZ has another 50 companies like Tait Electronics, we wouldn't be worrying about Taskforce 2025.

"Technology is our sword; we must keep it sharp and bright."

- Sir Angus Tait


  1. ICT industry taskforce 2003: goal to build another 100 technology-based companies with overseas revenues exceeding $100m per annum.
    Regrettably, most people laughed at us at the time. The goal is still valid (increase the target revenue), and there's no unfixable reason to not achieve it.

  2. I applaude the comment that he wasn't afraid to give it a go. Failure can teach as much as success. Rightly or wrongly I think of giving it a go as a NZ trait but I see that the current schooling system is breeding a mindset that if it looks like you may fail don't have a go. Because in some courses a student may get distinction in several parts of an evaluation, but if they get one "did not achieve" then the whole evaluation is DNA. So they don't have a try and the education system learns nothing about their ability and where they need to target teaching.



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