When Foundation One hired Stuart Gray in June 2016, they didn’t just gain a well-qualified project manager, but someone with an enormous number of contacts.

Stuart’s an Australian who came to New Zealand in the mid-1990s after marrying a Kiwi. He’d worked in Australia and New Guinea as a builder, foreman, site manager, construction manager and managing director.

When he arrived in New Zealand he started a labour hire business. He later sold the business and worked for Naylor Love. After a spell with Autex Industries, he worked for AWF Auckland, where he was trades manager, and started AWF Trades.

That, he says, was the hardest thing he’s ever done, as the company had been known for supplying labourers only. But after six months he had 100 tradespeople out, double the target. His word and his guarantee made the difference.

“I have an enormous number of contacts,” Stuart says.

He’s been client, project manager, and recruiter and hirer, so he knows the construction resource sector inside out.

For Foundation One, he runs various projects simultaneously. He meets his foremen each day and discusses work to be done.

Stuart says he’s very experienced in various management roles and is not afraid to make decisions. “That’s why I’m a good problem solver. I’m given a job and I’m responsible for keeping that client happy, for doing that job to a quality finish standard and keeping it on budget.”

Stuart lives in Titirangi with his partner. He has two sons and has been a member of the Titirangi Golf Club for 20 years.

Daniel Nixon, Managing Director, Foundation One

Here’s a deceptively simple question for you: How does your company provide value to its clients?

If you answered with some version of “by doing x and doing it well (or better than our competition)”, let me suggest you’re missing a key point. Providing value to your clients goes well beyond what your company does.

One reason many companies fail to build long term relationships with clients is that they don’t understand this.

Doing your core business well is vital – but clients are unlikely to see that as adding value. Why? Because for them, that’s simply what’s expected of you.

For example, our company maintains commercial buildings. If you watched our team at work, you’d see them checking, maintaining and fixing the things that keep commercial buildings operating. It’s important, necessary work. And we strive to do it well.

But from our clients’ perspective, the kind of value that gets them excited only shows up when they can see that what we’re doing enables them to achieve their business goals. Unless you provide that kind of strategic value, you’ll struggle to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Most of our clients are commercial property managers. Their main concern is enabling their clients to gain maximum value from their buildings over time without undue worry about compliance, health and safety, cash flow, or any of the other myriad issues that come with owning a commercial building. We’ve made it our business to enable our clients to deliver value to their clients.

When you are in the swamp with your clients, helping them get their clients onto solid ground, you’re a strategic asset.

Now here’s the key point. With that in mind, we’re clear that we’re not in the business of doing things. We’re in the business of delivering outcomes.

If you want to be a strategic asset, you have to be clear on the outcomes you’re delivering, and own those outcomes like your life depends on it.

It’s not as complicated as it might sound. We still repair, maintain, install, refurbish, reinstate and build. But always with the intention of helping our clients better deliver on their promises to their clients.

That means we also anticipate issues and talk to clients about them before they blow up. We look for opportunities to do things more efficiently, or defer costs to facilitate cash flow.

We hire not just for technical competence, but also for strong communication skills and a great customer service attitude. We stand behind all our work, fixing things quickly when they go wrong and making sure our quality standards are high enough that things rarely do go wrong.

We hire people who can deliver on those promises and we give them autonomy to solve problems without sending clients up the food chain until they reach a decision maker.

It’s not complicated, but it’s not always easy either. Which is one reason it’s not common.

My point is not that we’re a model of how to run a business. Like everyone else, we’re always looking at how we can do better.

My point is that real success comes from going beyond the doing, and putting your attention on delivering outcomes that your clients regard as offering real value.

Do that, and success will not be far behind.

Electrical supervisor Richard Geurts is a man who knows what he wants and who finds ways of doing things better.

Eleven years ago, on his first day of sixth form, he went to a large electrical business and asked if they would take him on as an apprentice. They advised him to go back to school for another year.

Instead, Richard started electrical studies at Unitec, four days a week. He went back to the electrical business and worked as a volunteer on Fridays, until the course ended in August. Then he was offered an apprenticeship.

After 11 years in one place, Richard thought it was time to move on. He could see different ways of doing things, but didn’t have the opportunity to try them out.

Richard came to us in December 2016 with a lot of experience, particularly in project management. That has included overseeing the work of sub-contractors in other trades, especially mechanical services and data installations. He says it also reinforced his communication, time management and quality assurance, having to:

• work closely with design engineers, quantity surveyors, architects, and even clients
• manage outcomes if people didn’t turn up or failed to fully finish their work.

Planning is another strength. At one time he was working in a forest without cellphone reception. Advance planning had to be meticulous. It was not too different when he worked on a petrol station in Waiouru, with all the material coming from Auckland. Material had to arrive at the right time, while avoiding having too much stored on site.

Richard recognises that he’ll be learning about large HVAC systems in his new job, as he has worked only with smaller systems. But that’s fine – he likes to extend his experience.

That’s the way he is at home, too. He and his partner have owned their home for five or six years and, he says, he’s always renovating. He does everything, from tiling to building, giving anything a go. When he’s not working and renovating, he enjoys fishing and golf.

scott partis

In April this year we advertised for a cadet; someone to perform general office duties while learning the ropes of the business.

We expected we’d get a newbie who’d require a fair amount of hand holding for the first little while – and we were okay with that. But were we mistaken! What we got was a natural born project co-ordinator who grasps responsibilities faster than we can put them his way: in supplies, transport, staff relations, safety and, above all, client service.

His name’s Scott Partis.

What attracted Scott to Foundation One was the opportunity to grow and try different things.

Scott completed a Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University, majoring in finance, property management and valuation. His is often the first voice clients hear when they’re ringing with things that need solving. Scott invariably either deals with it himself or quickly puts the right person on to it. That adds a great deal to customer satisfaction – people like to talk to someone who listens and can organise a quick solution.

Scott does many other things as well: ordering supplies, making sure vehicle warrants are up to date, liaising with Health and Safety staff, and coordinating work teams. The people-handling skills he gained working in the Gold Class Cinema as a student hold him in good stead. (In fact he enjoyed the challenge of working in an people-focused workplace so much that he continues to work there part-time.)

We love having Scott on our team, and we see big things ahead for him. 

Daniel Nixon, Managing Director, Foundation One

Daniel NixonI’ve learned many things over the years working for businesses that took care in various ways of property and facilities. But one thing stands out above everything else.

That one thing is to work from a generosity of spirit.

What does that mean?

It means you are willing to keep offering your knowledge, time, credit, power, information and faith. It means you do things that an efficiency expert might say can be cut out to save time and money.

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