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No week the same for Gisborne-based horticultural fencer

Being fluid and ready to change tack in any given work day is a key part of success for Gisborne-based horticultural fencing contractor Roger Hyde.

There’s no typical week for Roger, who has been running the business for 25 years, and his team of four. On Sunday, he’ll have work lined up for the week, but will usually get a few calls from clients needing something sorted at short notice.

“So often there’s a juggle before Monday morning even starts.”

For example, recently it was all hands on deck when a long-term client at Te Karaka was hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle and lost almost everything; the house, the vehicles, the tractors, and the forklifts. “Two days after the cyclone hit, we were on his block, knee-deep in silt, standing up grape posts and plants and fixing fence lines. “We also sowed grass and oats in the silt to assist with the pending grape and kiwifruit harvest. He managed to harvest both his grape and kiwifruit crops after the cyclone, and I am proud our team played an integral part in making this happen for him.”

He’ll also spend time Monday morning sorting out where staff will be heading for the week. He admits staff management had been a massive learning curve and the source of the most stress related to running his own business. He started out with two staff, and as the business grew the staff numbers increased to 14, but more recently he has happily reduced to a team of four.

“Some staff are a dream to have on board and others seem to go from one drama to another. Last minute absences are the hardest thing to manage and can often require a complete reshuffle of the day’s or week’s plans.”

Throughout the week he is thinking ahead as to what materials are needed, and where. This has become harder as materials have been scarcer. “In the last couple of years, I have found sourcing materials has changed and forward planning has become critical. Our local suppliers no longer carry many items on the shelf, so being organised and ordering in advance is vital. I find having good relationships with suppliers important. Loyalty has served me well.”

The secret was being adaptable and flexible, he said. “The horticultural industry is fluid, and as a contractor, I need to be too, in order to service the demands as they change.”

Daily health and safety checks are carried out through a local company called ThinkSafe, which guide Roger and the team through operating sound Health and Safety systems. This allows them to handle site inductions, toolbox talks, inspections, and reporting via an app. “The team meets up at the workshop each morning for a toolbox meeting. We go over the jobs for that day, covering the tasks, risks, and hazards. “We check over the tools, recording any repairs and maintenance required, and then pack up the utes.”

Conveniently, most of their corporate clients use OnSide, which is app based. “We are required to sign in when we enter their site, read through their risks and hazards on the worksite, it also enables us to see who else is working on the site and then sign out at the end of the day.”

On Sunday night there’s often invoicing to be done. “We have good systems in place, but there are still some late Sunday nights spent working on quotes and invoices.”

“A couple of years ago, we moved to seven-day payment terms for our invoicing which has improved cash flow. Being a small business, we understand the importance of cash flow and make a point of paying our bills quickly too.”

When it comes to administration, Roger suggests outsourcing. “My wife Suzanne has a background in horticultural administration and finance and manages that part of the business. If you are like me and do not enjoy admin, then employ someone who does early on. You can work as hard as you like on the fence line, but if you do not have the books in order, you are not going to progress very far.”

Outside of the week’s working hours, Roger says he is getting better at relaxing and enjoying time with family. “As I was building my business, life after work for me used to be more work! Breaking this habit has been hard for me, as I still love what I do.

“However, as I move closer to 60 and am now a proud grandparent of one (soon to be two). I make time for the fun things in life like family, relaxation, and travel.”  

Article written by Rosa Watson.

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