Brendon runs his own building business in Wellington with eight employees, contractors and a decorating crew of four. He believes that being an effective employer means a number of things:
- Lead from the front and be a good example
- Set and communicate your standards to your team
- Be honest and up-front regardless of the issue
- Acknowledge good work and let your team know you appreciate them
- Talk to your team and let them have input
Brendon shared with BCITO’s Carpentry Industry Advocate Helen Hines-Randall what he sees as being vital to running a good business and putting your staff at the forefront of the operation. After all – you’re nothing without them.
“My dad ran a business and I worked for him as the Operations Manager. I had completed my carpentry apprenticeship and we had about 14-16 guys working for us and I was able to see a whole range of systems, processes, and practices. I could observe and take on the best from our company and from other companies that worked with us," says Brendon.
“I always knew that at some point I would want my own business so I absorbed everything that I could. For me, the company culture is incredibly important. You can work in an environment where, if a value is part of the way the guys work, you can embed it in all of the team. You can’t just try and manage the culture yourself, it’s the responsibility of everyone. And that’s what makes B H Builders a great business. A committed work ethic, showing leadership and getting in amongst the team, and in a way, almost to serve them. You can’t take company cultures for granted. You need to constantly be sowing into it.
“I’ve been trying to get more skill into the team as apprentices need to be learning alongside great builders and they need to be learning good practice. If you’re willing to see someone through a 3-4 year apprenticeship then they are the person that will start leading teams on building projects, it’s so much easier when they know your company culture.
“We had an experience where someone came in and rocked the team dynamics in a negative way. My job as an employer is that you can’t run away from that. You just have to dive straight in and sort out the issues. The boys need to see you fighting for that as its vice versa. I think that if you can get that value into them then they actually form a passion for the company and that goes beyond dollar value.
“If someone takes a little bit longer to complete their apprenticeship but we can see they are really trying, then that’s okay. When I’m looking for new staff I’m looking for a sharp cookie, someone with the right attitude and is going to fit into the team.
“I have a scheme within the organisation that recognises various tiers of staff. It’s important to keep hold of them and to provide incentives for them to stay. We include the whole team in some of the discussions and talk to more senior staff around strategic conversations. It’s about input and enabling people to step up to the plate and let their strengths come through.
“I’m straight with the guys and I think they deserve that. I don’t expect to see phones being used on-site unless during their breaks. You have to constantly address any situations front on or other staff can get disgruntled if you don’t deal with a tricky situation. Cigarette butts are another thing. I don’t expect to see them around the site. The team are representing me and I don’t want clients seeing a dirty site. They have to constantly clean up after themselves. Also, swearing is a no-no in our company. I don’t expect clients to be exposed to this when they come to site. Subbies are actually picking up on it and minding their language. The boys will not hear me swear around the site.
“You need to think about your team and where they are at and what’s next for them. Who will be a lead builder? Who can we empower to take up a lead role looking at their communication skills? I look at career paths and that’s why I’ve developed the phantom share programme. It takes a lot of work but it’s worthwhile. We want to do the best for our guys. It’s an investment. I do acknowledge the guys good work. Sometimes even at night when I’m wrapping up the paperwork, I might text one of the guys about a good job. It’s important to recognise their efforts,” said Brendon.
One of BCITO's Workforce Development Plan initiatives is management capability and promoting good employment practices. BCITO appreciates Brendon’s time and sharing his story with us and we applaud him for being an effective employer.
Brad Gemmell qualified as a bricklayer at 21 years of age and hopped on a plane to London, ready to put his skills to the test. He returned to New Zealand a few years later and began his own business, Brad the Brickie Ltd in Wanaka.
Not many employers in the construction sector realise the Government's Fees Free initiative extends to apprenticeships for not one, but two years.