Choppy: Woman of heart

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Writer/business coach Jacqui Thomas first came to Queenstown to work in 1994 and last left here in 2016. In her new book on female business founders ‘doing business with heart’, she features a pioneering heli-tourism
operator she met when living here. PHILIP CHANDLER reports

The owner of a high-end Queenstown chopper company stars in a new book on New Zealand female business founders ‘doing business with heart’.

Over The Top’s Louisa ‘Choppy’ Patterson’s one of 18 founders selected for former Queenstowner Jacqui Thomas’ book, Her Way.

It’s a twist on her 2001 best-seller, Go, Girl, Go! — Real Stories of NZ Women in Business, which featured 15 women, including four locals.

Thomas wrote her first book when she was working as a feature writer for Mountain Scene and wanted to know how to start a business.

In her new book, the now-Hawke’s Bay-based author/business coach wants to confirm if it’s possible to succeed in business while still treating people, and the planet, well — the notion of ‘doing good, whilst also doing well’.

Her belief is doing business with heart makes good commercial sense.

‘‘And as many of these more inherently-feminine attributes — such as sharing, caring, collaborating, nurturing, helping — come to the fore, it’s natural that women have been leading the way.’’

As we head into a post-Covid, or living-with-Covid world, Thomas believes this ethos is vital for a better future.

Feminine attributes ‘coming to the fore’: Author Jacqui Thomas

Patterson, in her chapter, embraces that with her observation: ‘‘We could all be better at saying how fabulous other people are, saying ‘thank you’, and ‘what a great job you’ve done’.

‘‘Your teams needs to see that you care.’’

She says she likes to find out whether clients are taking a flight for a special reason.

‘‘I think women in aviation, and women generally, are more likely to seek those reasons out and include them into their business model.

‘‘It’s just that caring side that comes through, a philosophy which I pass on to our pilots.’’

She says her company’s about using helicopters not as a mode of transport but to enable people to enjoy unique experiences.

‘‘If you’re going to pay $200 to go to the top of the Remarkables, then do you really want to get out with the helicopter blades spinning, and the noise all around you?

‘‘We’re probably the only heli-company that actually shuts down in the rainforest, so our guests can go for a walk and smell the bush canopies; or shuts down on the glaciers so they can hear the creaking of the ice.

‘‘Or, we’ll drop them off on a remote West Coast beach, confiscate their shoes and say ‘keep the land on the right and the sea on your left, carry on walking down a couple of beaches and you’ll come across your helicopter to take you home’.

‘‘We’re coming up with different things all the time to keep the experiences fresh and unique.

‘‘We’ve just bought a high country station so we can take clients out there and do different activities like we used to do with the kids — make campfires, and stay in a musterers’ hut.’’

Patterson also addresses these current, unsettled times.

‘‘Covid-19 has certainly brought difficult times for tourism and the aviation industry — there’s never really been anything like it before.

‘‘We are anticipating being able to bring in private parties from places like America, and provide a flying ‘bubble’ whilst under isolation.

‘‘Each group will have their own pilot, chef and security persons, and stay in various private lodges and residences whilst travelling throughout NZ.

‘‘This will be great for the local economies and also provide employment.

‘‘It will mean we could have some tourists before the borders open.’’

And on the future of the industry, she has a very clear vision: ‘‘I think it’s a good time for NZ to rebrand its tourism to high-yield, low-impact.

‘‘Less people, larger turnover.

‘‘I’d rather have 100 people paying $1000 to fly with me, than 1000 people, paying $100.

‘‘And, it’s much easier to find 100 people, and manage them, and be kind to them, and give them an amazing experience.

‘‘With 1000 people, I’d probably be sick of them by #997.’’

Her Way for sale, $39.99, in good book stores or from www.jacquithomas.com/herwaybook, with free delivery

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