Celebrating 40 years in business
When Bob Shearing first started local firm RA Shearing Contractors Ltd from the backyard of his Christchurch home, they worked out concrete volumes using a slide rule.
“I can still remember having my first hand held calculator on the job,” he laughs. Now as the company celebrates 40 years it celebrates the hard work, passion and dedication of both the family and team behind its formation and the drive and determination that continues to propel the company forward.
By 1976 Bob had already been working in the local industry for 3-4 years carrying out local concrete contracting work when he joined up with Graeme and Rose Marshall and, together with Bob’s first wife Pam, they formed the business. The company was incorporated on July 9, 1976.
Graeme also came from a contracting background and had just finished doing the curbing around the track of Queen Elizabeth II Park prior to the 1974 British Commonwealth Games.
Together they carried out concreting and earth works throughout the city for a number of years, focusing predominantly on residential driveway and paving works before purchasing a local Sockburn business – Wigram Concrete Posts – mainly for the yard space it offered and, along with their first truck and mini loader operated alongside the concrete precast business they had also purchased.
The contracting business continued with the machine and loader, they purchased a dozer and soon they hired their first machine operator, Owen Johnstone. Owen is still with the company, but is now the manager of the Mayfair Pools division
It was in 1978 that the company became involved with the nationwide franchise Mayfair Swimming Pools, a fibreglass swimming pool manufacturer and another long standing Kiwi firm established in 1973 which today has 14 agencies spread throughout the country that meets the philosophy ‘any size, any shape, anywhere’.
From there the business continued to develop; the concrete posts division faded away while the concrete precast business continued to operate from the yard at 210 Main South Road where R A Shearing Contractors Ltd (Shearing’s) continues to operate from, though on a much larger scale today than four decades ago.
“Like every industry, technology has played a significant role in how we have developed over the years, trucks and machinery have become bigger and more efficient, but in general the earthmoving, concrete business and Mayfair Swimming Pools are still very much the same as when we first started, but we’re bigger and do more of it now,” he comments.
In recent years, the earthmoving and concrete paving and Mayfair Pools have been separated from a management point of view, each with its own division manager although they work in together and from the same premises.
“We share resources and staff, although we do have dedicated staff to each division,” Bob says.
“The earthmoving business and the paving business certainly work together and have a lot of cross over, Mayfair operates more as standalone division, but when they want a hole dug, they come to us, when they want concrete paving done, they come to us.”
Diversity spice of life
“Diversification has been the biggest asset for the company over the years and is certainly one of our major strengths. When there are ups and downs in the contracting industry, we have the ability to pick up or pull back our divisions as the market demands.”
In February this year the company purchased a drainage business – Y45 Drainage – a local two-man drainage operation that had been operating in Christchurch for the past nine years.
Y45 Drainage will continue to be run under its current branding, as a Division of Shearings. The previous owner of the business, Glen Hutchinson, has been employed by Shearings to manage Y45. Glen is a Certifying Drainlayer with a wide range of experience in both residential and commercial work.
“We’ve already grown the division which now has four people involved – two qualified drain layers and two highly qualified apprentices.”
“From my personal point of view, the most satisfying aspect of what we’re doing here is giving people opportunities and jobs.”
After a successful partnership, Graeme and Rose Marshall retired from the company in 2010 and now Bob continues to run the company with the help of his second wife Lynn who has her own accountancy business.
Bob is well supported by his son Scott Shearing, contracting division manager, his daughter Lorna Shearing, office manager who also plays a key role in managing health and safety, Lorna’s partner Jim Gaul who manages the concrete paving business, Glen Hutchinson who heads the Y45 Drainlaying team, and Owen Johnstone, manager of Mayfair Pools, who Bob says went from being one of the best machine operators in town to being one of the best salespeople in town.
A current staff of around 40 work across the three divisions which encompass earthmoving and civil works, driveways and paving, swimming pool installation and drainlaying.
“There’s been significant changes in the size and ability of trucks and earthmoving equipment over the years,” Owen says. “But the company’s success has been about the ability to move with the times, keeping up to date with both changes within the industry and the equipment itself.”
One such change has been in the health and safety awareness. “Although we don’t remember having any serious issues over the years, we certainly weren’t as health and safety conscious as we are now. Lorna manages a very up to date system for guiding and monitoring health and safety within the company.”
A capital investment programme in recent years has seen the company upgrade much of its vehicle, plant and equipment stock. “The work we’re now doing requires modern up to date plant and vehicles, and this needs to continue. We’re always looking for new ways to do things, continuing to innovate in order to move forward and grow the business further in the future. All of our vehicles are now GPS monitored allowing maximum usage and availability for our customers.”
After the 2008 global financial recession, like many contracting companies in Christchurch the future was looking fairly bleak. “We were down to about 10 staff at that stage, then along came the September and the February quakes.
“This has given the company the opportunity to really ramp up our capabilities and what we provide with all divisions playing an active role in the rebuild and the burgeoning local market.”
Moving forward the company is working towards enhancing the family business in as many senses as we can. “We always talk about staff as part of family and this is very much the case in both the figurative and the literal sense,” Bob says.
“Having my wife and children involved has not only been an incredibly opportunity, but it’s also something I’m very proud of. Our team really is like a big extended family.”