Nigel originally qualified as an architect, but did not stay in that field. He had in fact been working with an overseas-based supplier of industrial electrical components, Johnson-Phillips, as their Victorian Manager.
When Johnson-Phillips decided to pull out of Australia, Nigel and a prospective partner decided to try to continue the business so they set about raising the necessary capital. At the last minute the partner took another job and Nigel was left trying to raise 100% of the funding all by himself. He found a small group of supporters and managed to pull together the starting capital.
“The fun bit,” he said, “Was the putting together of the company.” Kicking off with only 20 staff (who all came from Johnson-Phillips), NHP has grown to have over 700 today – and the current balance sheet still shows the original figure of $50,000 paid up capital, with most of the original shareholders still there!
Growing the business has been his major focus. NHP’s first building was in Lion Street, Hawthorn and over the years they opened premises in Brisbane, Laverton (their national distribution centre) and, in 1982, Adelaide. NHP bought the building at their present location in River Street, Richmond in 1978, and then built a new building at the same site in 1983. NHP added a building in Perth when things in the west looked like booming, but the promised industrial expansion of WA never happened, so their WA premises still has a bit of spare space today. The staff numbers and financial turnover have grown over the years. From a start up with 20 staff, by 1973 their Melbourne staff had risen to 35 and then by 1978 had exceeded 100. Turnover in 1983 was $19 million, by 1988 national turnover was over $50 million and staff passed the 300 mark. Today they have 720 staff, with 60 in manufacturing and 130 in external sales.
Nigel is proud of his successes in marketing. On one occasion he chartered an aircraft to bring all his Sydney clients to Melbourne - and the flight number was, of course, NHP001. In the 1980s, they went in for a caravan for selling to the trade around the country. Originally a modest van was contemplated but some months earlier Siemens had done the same with a magnificent vehicle, so the order for a ‘crappy’ van was cancelled and they bought a magnificent vehicle which they never regretted. For their 20th anniversary in 1988, NHP held a magnificent black tie dinner to celebrate and Nigel reckons he set the all time standard for black tie does in industry at large. ‘Style’ seems to be his watchword.
The success of NHP is remarkable for two reasons, he told us. Firstly, it remains an Australian company, while all its Australian owned competitors have now gone out of business or been taken over by foreign companies. Secondly, it remains financially sound, with its original $50,000 capitalisation unchanged. Nigel felt it had been a roller coaster ride, especially with so little capital, yet NHP had never been in trouble financially. Nigel remarked that a prominent characteristic of NHP was that everyone enjoyed working there. “We employed a lot of comedians,” he said “We were known for our humour, our parties – especially our parties with a slab. Customers took great joy in coming to our parties.”
Ten years ago Nigel decided there were other things in life he wanted to do and he handed over to Lloyd Thomas who was previously their auditor. Nigel has in the meantime been enjoying life indulging his love of motor cars (he drives a Maserati) and continuing to support the training and education of young people. Melbourne Grammar now has its Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership.
Nigel's award of an AM stated: Nigel Hugh PECK, Toorak, Vic. For service to the electrical industry as a business leader and a contributor to the development of the sector as a promoter of training programs, and to the community.
Thanks to Richmond Rotary for this article. Time references are from 2009.