Posted on

Switching to fencing a good fit

Nick and Amy Peacock switched from solid satisfying rural careers to building a new fencing contracting business in Waipukurau from scratch. 

The change required “a big mental step”. Nick says it has been worth it.

“We are creating something for ourselves, and we are in charge of our own destiny.” 

Nick sports several years of corporate and hands-on experience working in farm and hill country station manager roles across the Hawke’s Bay; Amy has a background in rural training and sales. Ultimately the couple were working towards a dream goal of farm ownership but avenues such as leasing and equity partnership seemed difficult to achieve given the scale they wanted to work at. 

“We were creeping up towards our 40s. For a long time, we were seeing the kinds of farms that we managed and good first-farms being put to other land uses. We were seeing what was happening with older managers who had worked their whole lives growing someone else’s business.”

We didn’t want to end up at retirement age and it be a case of should’a, could’a, would’a. We started looking outside the box to work to our strengths.

Nick had fenced with contractors in Australia, the UK and the Hawke’s Bay and throughout his farming career and both were no stranger to running businesses for other people. After throwing the idea of fencing contracting around for a couple of years, the couple started Ridgeline Fencing in September 2019 specialising in rural, lifestyle and horticultural fencing. 

Nick says he misses the challenge of running larger scale breeding businesses, his dogs and skill involved in being a good stockman, but life as a fencing contractor delivers other advantages: working for himself, creating rural career paths for others in the local community, completing a job to the highest standard that they can do, and making more quality time for family.

Starting up, the biggest challenge has been finding good staff. Ridgeline Fencing runs three fulltime staff who work alongside Nick. Amy runs the finance and administration side of the business. Then, they have a couple of young lads who come in every school holidays, and they’ve just taken on a 16-year old school leaver. 

“All our current guys have come to Ridgeline Fencing via word of mouth. They have approached us saying ‘we hear you are good to work with’. That is really cool for us because we are passionate about creating a good work environment.”

The most important thing new staff can bring to the Ridgeline Fencing, over and above any fencing skills, is that they are good people and they fit well with the team. Shouldering that team fit goes both ways. 

“We have been both staff and the boss at the same time,” says Nick. “Now we are business owners. We’re the employers. We need to make our team feel welcome. Whether they are young, or new to fencing, they know they can talk to us about anything.” 

Nick says they’re lucky. “We are still a young business. We have a really good crew, and we are looking forward to growing our staff and growing a happy team. They are our most important asset. There’s an expectation in the industry that if you develop your staff, and you do your job right, they will fly the nest. For us, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing all of them go on and do great things with their lives.”

Taking on a large fencing project for Waka Kotahi, New Zealand’s national transport agency, has been a way to expand and challenge the team.

It’s all conventional fences sectioning off the roadside planting along the Woodville-Ashhurst Highway. This first stage is close to 20kms. Nick says the project has taken a lot of pre-planning going on before even putting a post in the ground, a lot of forward planning, logistics, making sure everything up to spec, managing staff and travel. Getting the posts in the ground was another story.

“It’s quite steep country, very rocky. For about a third of the fencing we were actually above the windmills and looking down. Sometimes you thought you didn’t need a staple to hold the wire on to the fence. The winter has been very wet. It’s been tough on the guys and the equipment. There were some pretty trying conditions for a while.”

“The biggest thing for us is making sure that the job doesn’t get monotonous for the crew. We were able to work it with the guys dipping in and out to other jobs, providing some variety, avoiding burnout, and ensuring no one gets fatigued from the same thing day in and day out.”

Amy and Nick approach fencing the same as farming, looking at ways to be innovative, to learn and grow. That’s where their motto of working smarter rather than harder comes in.

“Jobs like the Woodville-Ashhurst Highway are a really great example of just how important it is to have the right gear: our Stockade tools, post and batten staplers, our two rammers, the tracked Evo Protech rammer and our dozer set up with the Kinghitter Series 5 rammer” 

“We had a Stockade pneumatic batten stapler from right at the start. Obviously, it is miles better than hand stapling. It wasn’t until one of the guys who works for me said ‘have you tried the Stockade post stapler?’ I looked at it and I thought it would be a nice tool, but it would be another expense on a young business – but by three weeks later I had bought my second one. That’s how good they are. They have saved so much time and effort. They are a brilliant invention.” 



Article supplied by