Fifteen years ago Tim Spencer was a Huntly College student who did school holiday labouring for Housing New Zealand head contractor Responsive Maintenance Ltd (RML).
Today the 30-year-old father-of-two owns his own flooring company and is RML’s supplier for the whole of the Waikato, Coromandel and King Country. Housing NZ work comprises virtually all of his business.
“We’re just so grateful to Tim; he’ll go anywhere we ask him to get the work done which is really cool,” says Lesley Soper, RML’s operations manager.
It’s been a long-standing relationship that has benefitted both parties.
“Back when I was still at school (RML directors) Ross (Baker) and Ben (Tau) approached me to do a flooring apprenticeship, which I agreed to because I enjoyed the work and I didn’t like school that much!” Tim says.
With the apprenticeship under his belt, Tim embarked on a short stint in a partnership business, before returning to flooring roles with companies that carried out RML work.
But he always had his eyes on something more.
“I finally twisted Lesley’s arm to let me have a go at contracting,” Tim laughs.
“I was dubious when he first started asking if he could sub-contract,” Lesley admits. “The contract model is great for young people building a business but you can’t grow too big, too quickly.
“I eventually said yes, we’ll give you a patch, but you won’t be going duck shooting this year!”
That was 2013 and it was a turning point.
Since then Spencer Flooring has gone from strength to strength, including moving into fit-for-purpose premises (no more cutting carpet in the mother-in-law’s garage!)
“We started off with just Huntly and Ngaruawahia, but each month I seemed to get a bigger area,” Tim says. “I employed my brother to help and then every six months I employed someone else!”
Tim has even come full circle and now has two apprentices of his own (“I’m a lot easier on them than what I had as an apprentice!”)
The total staff now stands at ten and, keeping it in the family, Tim also has mum Lynne and Dad Keith on the payroll.
“I was up until midnight doing the paperwork so mum came on to do the books and dad does all the measuring, bookings and liaising with tenants.”
So are there pros and cons to working with your nearest and dearest?
“It’s great having people you know you can trust in the business but if there’s a family event we all need to be at, we have to find someone to cover. We always seem to manage it!”
And they’re managing their contract well too.
“A lot of what we do now is maintenance work so I generally know all of the tenants and am on first name terms with them which is really nice,” Tim says. “Ninety-nine per cent of the people we meet are just brilliant.”