The Tarn Group the perfect fit for new chief

The Tarn Group chief executive James Nation in the company's new premises in Princes St. PHOTO:...
The Tarn Group chief executive James Nation in the company's new premises in Princes St. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Taking over as chief executive of Dunedin technology company The Tarn Group is the perfect fit for James Nation.

Having completed an MBA at the University of Otago, he is keen to be at the helm of a business.

The Tarn Group involves sport - something the double Olympian hockey player is passionate about - and also education. So, from Mr Nation's perspective, it is an exciting opportunity.

``It's a great wee company, it's got a really good culture and great people,'' he said.

The Tarn Group started out as a video analysis company founded in Dunedin by Joe Morrison in 1997, under the name Siliconcoach, while Mr Morrison was doing his masters in physical education.

He started selling the analysis to sporting organisations globally before branching into prosthetics and orthotics and also bike and shoe fitting.

He then saw an opportunity with online learning.

The Tarn Group now provides technology-based solutions working with myriad companies from businesses, sports organisations and educational providers.

It works with Dunedin businesses, including Education Technology, provides resources to schools and works in the corporate sector revolutionising training systems used by the likes of Cook Brothers Construction, Dynes Transport, Night 'n Day, and Gallaway Cook Allan.

Sport has continued to be a focus. Sport Otago and many top New Zealand sports organisations work with Bracken - The Tarn Group's online accelerated learning platform - the most recent being New Zealand Rugby League.

Marketing executive Dan Thomas said the company's vision was about making a positive difference to people's lives.

The company recently moved to new premises in the former BNZ building in Princes St.

Its new offices are in the former manager's apartment on the top floor, where the open plan layout allows a greater area for creativity and collaboration.

Siliconcoach was rebranded as The Tarn Group in 2015 and employs 16 staff, including one in Tauranga and one in Florida.

Being active is a common theme among those in the office and Mr Nation said he is often asked if it was a prerequisite for staff to ride a bike.

A growing awareness of Dunedin as a tech centre was going to help with staff recruitment, Mr Nation said.

The Tarn Group has four products - Bracken, Dialed In Motion, PnO Data Solutions and Siliconcoach.

Mr Morrison is still involved in the business, both as a director and also looking for new opportunities.

Mr Nation, who took over as chief executive in November last year, is enjoying the role. Originally from a farming background in Hawke's Bay, he came to Dunedin to complete a physical education degree.

He then played professional hockey in Holland for a season and, on his return to New Zealand, played the sport ``pretty much full time''.

He was a member of the Black Sticks hockey team between 2003 and 2009, representing New Zealand at the 2004 Athens Olympics and again in Beijing in 2008.

Then, in Auckland, he worked with ACC, consulting to employers.

After retiring from international hockey, he and his wife were keen to shift back to the South Island and a job arose with ACC in Dunedin at the same time.

He also wanted to do an MBA at the University of Otago and, during his part-time studies, he used Siliconcoach as the basis for his major consulting project.

When an opening arose in sales at Siliconcoach in 2014, he was hired by Mr Morrison.

After completing his MBA, he was keen to be at the helm of a company and he and Mr Morrison had conversations ``right from the word go, really''.

It came to the point where Mr Morrison felt he was ready and the company was ready, so it was a good point in time for the changeover to happen, Mr Nation said.

The future was about partnering with businesses, Mr Nation said, and the company had various partnership companies about to start selling on The Tarn Group's behalf.

It was looking overseas, particularly to sporting organisations, and it made sense for Australia to be the first step.


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