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My day starts at 7

A typical day for Todd Sherburd starts at 6.00am, with a 35-minute trip to the Fencing Solutions Waikato yard in Te Rapa. Staff will either assemble at the yard, or, if closer, will drive directly to the job. The yard will be prepared for the day’s work: materials and tools are loaded onto the work vehicles and off they go. 

Like most business owners, the very next action for the day is reading emails and checking for any new leads that have come in overnight.

“The beauty of online is that people can do their browsing at any hour of the day, send an email, and expect a reply in due course,” says Todd. Fencing Solutions Waikato uses the data collection system Tradify to track jobs from initial inquiry to sign-off. Having previously used spreadsheets to track everything, Todd appreciates how the system links the entire project.  

“We can write quotes, get them accepted, create a job from those, add notes and plans for the staff to have all the information they need, we can track materials and labour against each job. The best part is turning it into an invoice and getting paid.” 

With 20-odd years of rural and highway fencing experience already under his belt, Todd established Fencing Solutions Waikato Ltd (FSW) in 2008. Accredited in 2009, FSW now specialises in residential and commercial fencing and gates. Based in Hamilton, FSW holds significant commercial and civil contracts across the upper North Island and has been responsible for the fencing at many large commercial sites from Whakatane to Whangarei, including McDonald’s, Farm Source, and various dairy factories. They currently have a crew working at the new McDonald’s site at Silverdale, alongside all the other tradies and asphalters. A second FSW crew is currently on-site at Tokoroa’s new milk processing plant, and preparations are being made for the fencing of a new Power Farming site in Papamoa. 

On the residential side, pool fencing keeps the team busy in autumn. Todd has also seen an uptake in the installation of automated gates, from an increasing number of customers becoming more security conscious. 

A typical day is split between managing incoming work, planning, and data loading. This includes staff training and the ever-increasing amounts of health and safety requirements. 

“There are many companies, including multinationals and government agencies, who demand an extremely high level of health and safety. It pays to keep up with it otherwise it will get the better of you, and at the end of the day we have minimised our injury risk considerably.”

Staff training is generally done on the job, with the exception of first aid. Health and Safety is managed internally but Todd seeks expert advice regularly to ensure the business remains compliant. “We’ve just recently talked to Debbie Robertson from Rural Safe, to give us some templates on what we should be doing to tidy things up. You run the systems for a while, and then the requirements change for companies, so you’ve got to reshape what you do. You’ve got to be proactive with it.” 

HR is managed in-house and FSW benefits from the expert advice of Todd’s sister, a corporate HR professional.  “Employment contracts are important, they’ve got to be correct, but the best employment contracts you have are the ones you put in the drawer, and everyone gets on and does the job.” 

“I’ve been lucky over the years to have a good and consistent staff, one of my employees having worked with me for 20 years. We try to make a good working environment and one that they want to work in, if they have a problem, I want them to be able to talk about it.”

Todd’s son Jared and Jared’s fiancé Danielle have come on board with the Fencing Solutions Waikato business and are in the process of setting up their own line of product importing. Their complementary business Modern Fence Supplies offers customers a custom-built product in a variety of fence and gate styles, aimed at higher-end residential properties. 

Todd enjoys sharing the workload. “The administration has now been shared three ways, with Danielle being a huge asset in getting data filed, quotes out on time, and up-to-the-minute accounting, one thing that I did loathe.”  

A big chunk of Todd’s day is seeing clients and arranging meetings. “This can be very time-consuming and you can feel busy by driving around the town and country and discussing sometimes at length the issues of a boundary fence or a new swimming pool fence or the logistics of a commercial site.” Luckily, there are an increasing number of tools to enable fencing contractors to do a considerable amount of work from the computer screen.

A good day sees Todd getting out into the workshop or onto the fence line. “It’s good to keep in with the boys, and that also doubles up with training or instruction onsite. They get to know the ways you think, and hey, it’s not always that I’m right, I’ll put it out there and try and get them to problem solve. That way they’re taking ownership of the work.” 

“I started out on the fence line, not in the office, and being out on the fence line is what I enjoy the most. Although my back doesn’t thank me after a few hours of poring a concrete mowing strip. Hopefully, my usefulness will still keep me active each day.”

Along with running the business, Todd is active in his community, having recently prepared an audio-visual presentation for the 70-odd attendees of the Anzac Dawn Service in Tahuna, on behalf of the local fire brigade. 

Having had a health scare several years ago, and with the upheaval of Covid, Todd also recognises the importance of keeping life in balance; physical and mental well-being are an important part of a healthy life. Todd’s wife Denise is an integral part of that. “She’s been beside me every step of the journey. I couldn’t do this without a supportive family.  A bit of R&R will include weekends away and the odd fishing trip. We make plans for not only fencing but for a normal life as well.”   

Article written by Heather Kawan.

Published in the A week in the life Feature in WIRED Issue 69 / June 2023 by Fencing Contractors NZ.