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New venture offers new start for father and son team

In a family business it’s often the parent that hands the reins over to their children and brings them into the fold to teach them how to run the business.

Not so with Young and Sons Fencing – starting up in business was the first time 50-year-old father Kevin had been self-employed during his working career and, equally, quite a young age for 23-year-old son Quade to venture down the road of self-employment.

Kevin had fenced on farm jobs when he was much younger for a couple of years, then his mainstay became truck driving. Driving tankers for Fonterra for 15 years and bulk trucks, logging truck for over 5 or more years. From Opotiki and living in Edgecumbe in more recent years the Young family name has been in the area for quite some time.

Quade left school and did various work, including about 3 months with Tight Wire Fencing in Taupo. He was employed by Stockland Fencing in Whakatane for around 4 – 5 years, which is where he was taught fencing techniques and quality standards.

Quade left to do some motorbike mechanic work in Taupo and admits to drifting a bit, he also missed outdoors work. Kevin had been urging Quade to work towards self-employment and both comment that self-confidence was lacking to go down that road. Kevin suggested that they go into business together, and so began a real learning curve for the first-time business owners. In 2017 Young & Sons Country Fencing Ltd was formed. The “sons” came about in the instance that Kevin’s oldest son might also come on board in the future and the “Young” was based on the family name being long associated with Opotiki which might help with recognition.

The learning curve of running a business begun in earnest. Kevin who was never good at reading and writing at school and who left early is proud of their achievements. “It was a big move in my 50s to start out afresh and have to learn the ropes both ‘on and in’ the fence line. Even the physicality of fencing with an older body has had its challenges and I do stretches every morning – I’m hoping the knees hold out.”

For their first fencing job together, both were living in Edgecumbe, but while driving a logging truck to Huntly Kevin noticing a big stockpile of materials on the Station and Kevin got talking to the farmer who had visions of doing their own fencing. After expressing an interest, they came to an arrangement that Kevin and Quade would use the farmers tractor and post driver, supplying all their own tools and labour. This launched their fencing business, working on the station for about 6 months. Word of mouth got them working in Gordonton and then the Raglan area after about 12 months.

Kevin had the old ‘farming” style fencing knowledge and looked to Quade who had a good foundation in fencing to learn from. Quade had been taught industry standards and Kevin looked to these learnings, then the pair set about working towards the finer details to maintain uniform standards and focus on quality, like knots being uniform, planning stays.

Their decision-making process in the business is based on equality. Kevin doesn’t play the leading role, they discuss plans and decisions and come up with solutions together. It’s certainly not the case of having one boss. They decided to work as a two-man team and focused on systems to help make them effective.

In setting up Kevin and Quade brought their hand tools, a post hole borer and used Kevin’s Ute. Their next step was buying a single cab Hilux that they set up as a dedicated fencing Ute. During those first twelve months Kevin and Quade used the farmer’s tractors and post drivers and meanwhile built-up funds to look at buying their own machinery.

They started out working hourly, then started looking at what things were costing them, spoke with some other fencers about the way they were charging out (hourly, per metre, per unit etc) and started getting a feel of what was happening elsewhere.

With work on the books – both behind and in front of them – they had the confidence to set about buying new machinery. Kevin comments “we decided to buy new because of the warranty, peace of mind, less maintenance. I don’t like fixing gear and look at maintaining it from the onset – knowing the machine’s history is a plus.”

When asked what new gear might mean for a client’s perspective Kevin admits he thinks it has a bearing “when you have new, or more importantly well-maintained gear, I think it helps with making you come across as professional and know what you’re doing. I know in reality that this doesn’t makes you a better fencer, that’s on you and your quality and your systems, but I think it does come into play with customer perception and how they see it as in how you approach your business.”

Fencing in the Raglan area for 3 ½ years the team of two has served them well and they saw no need for employees, also being cautious that being employers would put pressure on bringing in more work. They even lived together in the same house with Quade and his partner Tayla, finding that they could manage to work together and live together well.

Just before the end of November 2021 Kevin returned to the Opotiki area and set up a second operation. He acquired the machinery over the previous 12 months, taking the existing tractor, with Quade getting a new one and Kevin buying a good quality second hand post driver from the manufacturer.

Kevin has quickly found work is plentiful and he is grateful to retired fencer Jimmy Fisher who has gone out of his way to introduce Kevin to some of his clients that were still ringing him up. Jimmy is in his late 70’s having retired three or so years ago, having fenced for a lifetime with a 2-wheel drive David Brown 990 tractor with duals, a belt driven post driver and a good spade. Jimmy seems impressed with Kevin’s set up and where he can get to.

Young and Sons Country Fencing will continue to be run as one business with two accounts, both Kevin and Quade being responsible for their own bills etc. Quade has settled in the Raglan area and partner Tayla works in Hamilton. Kevin and Quade continue to communicate and discuss work regularly as equals, both proud of what they are achieving in their own periods of their lives.

Quade sums up the commitment that has been made and appreciates what his Dad has done for him. “Dad had a steady job and income, he put that aside to help me get on my feet and find direction. We have worked and lived closely together over these past five years and others said it wouldn’t last, especially with no time apart. But we have had little friction between, never had any major problems. I am grateful for what he has done for me and that I wouldn’t have done it without him.”

Article written by Debbie White