Featured Dealer: Hilary and Aaron Harvey, Garador Christchurch

What’s tougher than taking over an unfamiliar business with minimal handover and vanishing staff? Doing it in the midst of a pandemic. Aaron and Hilary Harvey now talk about the challenges they faced with a lightheartedness that belies how difficult it truly was. Though they’re still not quite a year into it, the couple knows they made the right decision to embrace Garador’s brand and build from there. Here’s their story.

What’s tougher than taking over an unfamiliar business with minimal handover and vanishing staff? Doing it in the midst of a pandemic. Aaron and Hilary Harvey now talk about the challenges they faced with a lightheartedness that belies how difficult it truly was. Though they’re still not quite a year into it, the couple knows they made the right decision to embrace Garador’s brand and build from there. Here’s their story.

On May 1, 2021, Aaron and Hilary took over the running of the Garador brand for Christchurch. Aaron’s various management roles in the heavy and light commercial transport industry taught him a lot about people and the tenet that communication is one of the keys to success. As it happened, his communication skills were put to great use when taking up the reins of his new business, with no existing staff and unresolved enquiries waiting in the wings for their time to be heard. That aspect didn’t phase Aaron and Hilary too much, they simply began the way they intended to carry on.

The couple were both keen for a change of pace after years of Aaron being away from home a lot. They have twin sons, 12, Marcus and Connor and Aaron relishes more involvement in family life. “Now they’ve hit the tween phase it’s good to spend more time with them,” he says. As well as holding the fort at home Hilary had been busy with various part-time admin roles and the couple’s online business NZ Techni Ice (tehniice.co.nz) selling chillibins, ice sheets, cooler bags and swags etc. “It’s a very good product,” says Aaron. “We’d been keeping our eye out for another business and when we saw this one we knew we’d both need to be in it. We hadn’t worked together before but it’s worked out really well.”

“Yeah it has,” adds Hilary. “We each know where the other’s strengths lie. Aaron’s strength is with people and I’ve always wanted to just sit in the background and sort out bills and invoices.” Hilary’s role does entail quite a lot more than that, with duties including admin, payroll and marketing, with a new website on the way and social media accounts taking shape.

It’s clear that this is a real team effort, with Aaron and Hilary finishing each others’ sentences in a way that only a couple completely at ease can do. We wondered how much they lean on each other with running the business, talking together and bouncing ideas around.

Aaron responds, “Yeah sometimes ya gotta shut Hilary down though,” (both laugh). “It used to be me with an idea, wanting to talk it out - “

“Then he reminds me that we’re not at work, just leave it and tomorrow will be another day, which is good because sometimes I do need to wind it back,” says Hilary. “It has been a bit of a challenge with the current climate, us coming in so new and having to build from scratch.”

Aaron adds, “We’ve had to turn it around”.

That hasn’t happened without a good deal of gumption and some excellent staff. “It’s who you surround yourself with that matters. The team you get on board makes a huge difference,” says Aaron. In a serendipitous stroke of fortune, it just happens that Daniel, a garage door installer with 17 years of experience, recently made the move from Australia to New Zealand with his partner Hazel. Daniel joined the business and was immediately the go-to man for everything from garage door installation to servicing and repairs. “The timing was unbelievable”, says Aaron. “Just when we were taking on the business he was looking for a job. So that worked out really great”. What makes it even better, is that Hazel is an experienced service and repairs person - the first female doing the job in New Zealand - who came on board in July.

Invaluable team member and customer favourite Brittaney joined the company early in the piece as Office Administrator. She's often the first point of contact for customers, also handling website enquiries and job scheduling. Luke became part of the crew in late August, covering sales and technical/product support. Luke also has 17 years of experience in garage door installation and repairs, so he really knows his stuff. Aaron relies on the flexibility of his small but seriously qualified team for backup, calling on Luke to pick up the tools as the need arises.

Aaron keeps the lines of communication open within his team. “We have regular meetings so everyone knows what’s going on and what they should be doing. They're our core group - hopefully, we can grow and eventually bring more people on board but this is the nucleus.”

“We’ve always said to them we’re only as good as they let us be. They’re all talking to each other and talking to us and that’s the best way forward. When communication breaks down that’s when problems pop up,” adds Hilary.

Garador Christchurch’s services include the supply, installation, repair and servicing of sectional, roller and tilt garage doors, garage door and gate motors, plus custom made doors and gates. They can create the framing for the garage door opening, bringing in the sides or lowering headroom to suit.

Having been on the premises for less than a year, a re-fit of the showroom at Parkhouse Road, Wigram is a work in progress and an interactive Nevada with smartphone control plus a gate opener will be installed before long. Daniel builds custom cedar and tilt door orders in a workshop out the back, with the help of Luke at times. “We want to keep everything in house,” says Aaron. The office is open from 8.30-4.30 Monday to Friday welcoming drop-in enquiries and parts sales.

With customer focus front of mind, the couple implemented a management system that records jobs and customers. Hilary says “For us, the after-sales service is as important as the sale of the door. It’s never going to be ‘We’ll put your door in and then walk away,’ if we install a door and something’s not quite right we’re straight back there to sort the issue for the customer. That’s what it’s about.”

“And we take as much time as we need to do it right the first time,” adds Aaron. “When someone purchases a product from us, we’ll look after them, be at their beck and call really. Not over-promising and under-delivering, doing what we say we’re going to do. We do get a lot of referrals so it's working.”

The management system has a recall so that the team can help customers to keep on top of their maintenance. Aaron tells us, “In the system, you can flag the job and in 12 months' time the customer will get a message that a service is due. We also lodge their warranty on the spot when we install the door so people don’t get caught out, we do it on their behalf.”

“Often people aren’t aware they should get their door serviced within 12 months and then biannually. Everything is saved so if anyone comes back to us all the correspondence is there from day dot, makes it really handy,” adds Hilary. “We get a lot of feedback from people saying they love the communication and the service they get from us. It’s been really cool for all of us to hear that people do appreciate it. Everyone in the team has learnt the job management system and we’ve been really clear on where we want it to go and the staff is all on board with that. Now we are starting to reap the rewards and we’re looking forward to the coming year. After the lockdowns and everything, it’s been pretty tough but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re working to get our chunk of Christchurch seeing Garador hasn’t been a brand at the front of people’s minds.”

“Everyone at B&D has been fantastic all the way,” says Aaron. “They’re just a phone call away, they’ve been really great. We’re very brand focused. As long as you’ve got a good product it’s what you put behind it at the end of the day.”

Speaking of the product, we asked Aaron and Hilary whether they’ve noticed any trending door styles among their customers. “It depends on the property” Aaron responds. “Newport is popular with retrofits and rental properties. Otherwise, for new builds people are choosing Aspen and for higher-end builds Nevada or Sierra.” What about accessories? “The Genius opener (which comes complete with a smartphone kit) or smartphone kits are being taken up by new homeowners who look for high tech options.”

Hilary adds, “Insulation is popular in new builds, but it depends on the use. There are a lot of detached garages in Christchurch so people aren’t as inclined to need insulation in those garages. We do frequently retrofit insulation, even in new homes where the spec hasn’t included insulation they might get it retrofitted later.”

As noticed elsewhere in the country, dark colours such as Ebony, Flaxpod, Ironsand and Grey Friars are popular with Garador Christchurch’s customers.

In getting the word out Hilary has been busy preparing content for the business's Facebook and Instagram pages and the website is under development as we speak. They’re building awareness out in the community with brochure drops and are looking to get involved with community sports. They’ve also branded the team’s 2021 Ford Rangers and the repairs van and the crew all wear a uniform. “We want to present a professional front,” Aaron tells us. “We service all of Canterbury - Christchurch, Selwyn, Banks Peninsula and Waimakariri Districts. Good vehicles are essential when you have to go off-grid, we had a roller door installation up towards the mountains in Lees Valley, 1.5 hrs down a gravel road.”  Aaron is big on vehicle upkeep and cleanliness and they’ll look to upgrade the vehicles every 4-5 years.

It’s no mean feat to get through what this small business has dealt with in its short tenure. Following their start in May last year the first lockdown hit in September, then counting three weeks shutdown over the Christmas period there hasn’t been a lot of time to make headway. We asked the couple what they like about the business, what drives them? They answer together.

“Working for ourselves is driving us. There’s nothing more satisfying than taking something from nothing and watching it grow into a very successful business. During the first month, we did think ‘What the heck have we got into?’ But we weren’t daunted, we backed ourselves to get through it. We had the support of B&D, they showed us the ropes and with the help of our experienced staff it worked out really well.

“Every staff member that’s come on board has been really great. We’re here to listen and support them. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.

“We’re pretty proud of the wee team we’ve built, they're fantastic. Onwards and upwards!”