Entrepreneur Brian Eccles handing over CEO role at Farm Focus Limited
Respected Wairarapa businessman and former farmer, Brian Eccles, is moving out of the role of CEO of Farm Focus, the farm management software company he owns and has directed for many years. Moving into the position is Nicola Black, also originally from a rural Wairarapa background.
While Eccles is stepping back from his role as CEO for Farm Focus, he’ll continue to drive software development for the firm in line with the changing needs of New Zealand’s farmers. He couldn’t be more pleased to have Black moving into the role, representing the emerging new face of farmers in New Zealand.
“Of the several high calibre candidates we interviewed for this role, we’re very excited to have Nicola taking up the position,” says Eccles.
“Nicola brings with her proven commercial, management, and financial analysis capabilities. She’s also from a local family with strong farming connections, giving her a solid foundation as our new CEO.”
Nicola comes from a long line of people involved in Wairarapa’s rural sector. Among several notable achievements in her family, her grandfather, Robert Oliver, was one of the founding directors of the East Coast Trading Society. This later became what is now the nationwide rural trading company, Farmlands, a cooperative that’s the largest of its type in New Zealand. Nicola’s father, Kevin, had an apple orchard near Masterton, which is where Nicola grew up.
Among her qualifications, Nicola has a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration majoring in accounting. In 2015, she completed the Darden Business School (Virginia, USA) EY Executive Leadership Programme. She has also trained as a lawyer.
Nicola has spent much of her career in research and development, and management, in the Wellington area. She spent several years as a growth advisor at EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young), where she worked alongside innovative New Zealand companies helping them to grow both domestically and internationally.
Nicola is pleased to be returning to her rural Masterton roots. She’s looking forward to applying her skills and experience to the chief executive position at Farm Focus.
“Farm Focus is one of Wairarapa’s most innovative and successful businesses,” says Black. “Brian is leaving me big boots to fill. But I’ll have a solid team alongside me so I reckon we’ve got this.”
Farm Focus was established in October 1981, by Wairarapa farmer and ‘self-taught’ software developer, Ian Campbell, to make planning and budgeting easier for farmers. Eccles and fellow farmer David Howden subsequently joined Ian and Isabel Campbell as shareholders and directors. Together they continued Ian’s quest for a system that could look ahead, to help farmers with forecasting and financial planning on their farms. At that time, the business was known as Computer Concepts and later Cash Manager Rural. It provided systems that would improve and influence financial management for farmers nationwide over the coming decades.
David exited the business in 1997 and, when Ian and Isabel retired in 2003, they sold their shareholding to Brian, who had taken on the position of CEO the year before. This means shareholders of the company, now known as Farm Focus Limited, have always had a practical farming background.
Meeting a large and previously untapped market, Farm Focus is these days a cloud-based system, “the most modern, well-engineered, user-friendly farm financial management application in the world.”
“Throughout our company’s history we have been early adopters of new technology,” says Eccles. “Our recent move to a cloud-based platform has enabled us to deliver significant ease-of-use and labour-saving benefits. It ensures that we can continue to provide innovation and integration to other applications into the future.”
Farm Focus now has more than 10,000 customers across New Zealand’s agri-sector, including dairy, and sheep and beef. It’s the country’s largest software as a service (SaaS) provider for the farming sector. At its headquarters in Masterton, Farm Focus also has a thriving staff of more than 50 people, most who have some attachment to the rural sector.