Mark Adams runs Topmark Frames & Trusses fabrication plant in Katikati in the Western Bay of Plenty employing 15 people, currently running two shifts per day.
Mark recently shared with BCITO’s Frame & Truss Industry Advocate Helen Hines-Randall what he sees as being strong attributes to running a good business and putting your staff at the forefront of the operation. In his view, you need to:
- Keep in contact with your team – don’t be a stranger
- Seek their input into the way work is carried out
- Acknowledge their achievements
- Motivate and encourage their self-development
- Keep them safe
Mark says, “One of the problems of being in a small town is the availability of getting good people to work for you. Either the people aren’t here, aren’t willing to work or are not work ready. We needed to increase the output so one way around that was putting on a night shift. This means being good at organising logistics as no one's open during the night if you run out of materials or supplies. Detailers aren’t in the office, getting building wrap or even petrol for the forklift will cause you delays. You definitely need good staff who work well together to make sure everything runs to plan. That comes down to looking out for your staff and developing a culture where they want to come to work, they will be safe, and they feel acknowledged.
"We train our staff as it's good for the industry, not just my business and it provides people with a career and other work and lifestyle opportunities. I see my role as supporting industry by training my staff. We need to maintain a standard of workmanship and quality.
“When we are employing we look at people’s attitude, not always the experience that they bring to the role. We would love to be able to find more people in their 20-30s who have the commitment of coming to work every day. They are more likely to stay with you and be more settled. Some of our guys have children and therefore a bit of responsibility.
“We had one young bloke who couldn’t read a tape measure and was pretty poor at reading and writing so we went halves with him to cover the cost of having remedial maths tuition. He was always keen and trying to learn so we did offer him an apprenticeship. He took a little longer but we invested a lot in him and then, later on, we put him through Outward Bound as we knew that if he could complete that it would open doors for him and it has. The prenail supervisor is away today so this bloke is more or less running the show at the moment.
“We have one guy who came from a troubled background. We have someone who came out of prison. So depending on what he did that took him to prison he was ready to turn the corner so we took a chance on him when he came out on parole. He’s gone through the manufacturing qualification and he’s a better person for it. He’s taking life seriously now and realising what he did. I believe in giving people a chance and the opportunity to grow their skills as these flow into their personal lives with their families. I look at their attitude to work rather than their ability to do the job. That’s what I’ve always done. If they have the right attitude you should be able to teach them. I don’t want anyone at work who isn’t pulling their weight. Our staff need to be able to do the full range of tasks.
“We provide all the standard equipment for the guys along with tape measures and tools. At least we have consistency and we will all measure the same. We tell staff that if they need additional tools or equipment they just need to tell us as we want them to have the correct resources to do their job effectively.
“Usually my staff tell me if they want to go into an apprenticeship. We want people to be able to sell themselves and if nothing else we help make people employable. We’ve also put people through their drivers' licence and have paid for them to have lessons. Now I’ve got guys wanting to get their forklift licence but they need to have a full licence before they can do that. I take the view that if your workers are happy they are going to produce more for you anyway.
“We’re not here for ourselves we’re here to support the sector. We’ve had two guys go to Outward Bound and we pay their full wages when they attend. We stress that you don’t do it unless you make a full commitment. Frame and Truss is a unique trade as it’s not necessarily something that you can then go and set up a business of your own like plumbing, electricians or carpenters.
“I want my team to come up with ideas and contribute to the decision-making. They need to feel part of the business. When they’ve completed their apprenticeship we take them and their partners out for dinner along with them getting an increase in wages. My most valuable resource is my workers. We can fix equipment but we’d be nowhere without the people. We do take a paternal interest in our workers. We set boundaries, housekeeping, no verbal abuse here or at home and you have to look after your family. Not everyone knows how to treat people well so we want to help them. In a smaller company you do tend to get more involved with people,” said Mark.
One of BCITO's Workforce Development Plan initiatives is Management Capability and promoting good employment practices. BCITO appreciates Mark’s time in sharing his story with us and applauds 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.