Bill Gallagher has decided to be known as Sir William after being knighted in the New Year's honours for services to business, having created a company that employs more than 1000 people from a "world headquarters" in Hamilton.
It is the third honour to be bestowed on the businessman with a reputation as a hands on manager at family-owned Gallagher Group. He received an MBE in 1987 and was made a member of New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998.
"It will be Sir William, I've already decided that," he said. "The knighthood is a very high honour and it is very appreciated," he said.
Sir William's father Bill founded the family firm famous for developing electric fences and it was about a 10-person business when Sir William joined and took electric fences to the world. The company is number one globally in agricultural electric fencing, number one in security electric fencing and number one in retail petrol pumps in New Zealand, Australia and Pacific.
Fencing of wildlife is a small part of the business but is fun to talk about. "We can stop anything with a nervous system with a pulse once per second, which is extremely uncomfortable but not damaging," Sir William said.
New Zealand is an open market and Gallagher Group has been able to foot here and in the world, while also diversifying. The agriculture business now includes live animal weighing and electronic identification and is only a third of the group. Gallagher Group derives between 70 to 80% of its income outside New Zealand.
At 69 Sir William has no plans to retire, saying an international entrepreneur competition he attended in 2003 was won by an 84-year-old.
His modus operandi with respect to international distribution was to work with a local entrepreneur, while taking a shareholding and obtaining exclusive supplier arrangements. In the 1970s Gallagher Group had three years in a row of doubling size each year. "That was fun," Sir William said.
Gallagher Group never had to seek outside capital and has managed to support the wider Waikato region with many sponsorships, while still growing the company. He has been on boards of public companies where the main focus is shareholders.
Sir William's focus is "number one the customer and number two the staff". He and his wife Lady Judi live in Hamilton and have three adult children and four grandchildren.
Corporate Services Executive, Gallagher
+64 7 838 9800