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Real lives - In it together

22 February 2019
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Aaron Jamieson’s small plumbing business was struggling to keep on top of the amount of work coming in.

“I had too much work and not enough time to do stuff and I needed either to take on staff or turn people away—and I hate turning people away,” Aaron says.

“When that situation arose, (my wife) Sarah and I decided to take the plunge and start running a bigger company—and it’s working out all right.”

Family affair

Family affair Graham left Sarah holding Chase and Aaron Jamieson. Credit BOP Pumbing and Gas.cp

We are family - Graham (left), Sarah holding Chase, and Aaron Jamieson. Credit: BOP Plumbing and Gas

In 2016 the Rotorua husband-and-wife team merged their firm with Aaron’s father Graham Jamieson’s company, Gas and Plumbing Services. Graham has been in the plumbing business for more than 30 years and continues to work alongside his son and daughter-in-law at BOP Plumbing and Gas.

Owner-operator Aaron, 35, says he and Sarah quickly had to earn the respect of experienced plumbers when they started running the business. “There were a lot of guys older than us, and it is daunting. We had to prove ourselves, show that we knew what we were doing and admit when we didn’t.”

Besides learning valuable lessons about handling staff and customers, the couple’s career choice has also created challenges on a more personal level.

 Work-life balance

“I was cautious about working together [with Sarah],” says Aaron. “I have seen where it can ruin relationships, but with our roles, we’re not in each other’s face every day.”

Sarah, 34, is Commercial Manager at the firm and also runs her own accountancy business. She says she and Aaron have their own specific duties within the company and try not to step on each other’s toes.

“I never came into the business with the intention of working on the day-to-day operations,” Sarah explains. “I wanted to deal with the high-level stuff: where we were making money and where we weren’t making money, and building systems and processes.

“I am a reasonably strong person who speaks my mind and I am one of the bosses here—not just an office person and not just Aaron’s wife.”

Aaron and Sarah say that they work around any challenges together and appreciate sharing common goals.

Adding to the demands of establishing the business was the arrival of their two sons, Chase, two, and Xavier, one. “It has been a pretty difficult couple of years in trying to juggle home life and work life,” Sarah says. “It’s been full-on and still is, but it’s a credit to the team behind us that things keep going.”

The team at BOP Plumbing and Gas plan to extend their services to the whole Bay of Plenty region. Credit BOP Pumbing and Gas. cp 

The team at BOP Plumbing and Gas plan to extend their services to the whole Bay of Planty region. Credit: BOP Plumbing and Gas

Regional considerations

The business has 13 full-time and one part-time staff member and the Jamiesons plan for the firm to start “steadily venturing out further” and take on work across the Bay of Plenty region.

A number of plumbing projects in the area require some extra thought because of the geothermal nature of the surroundings.

“In Rotorua you can be dealing with problems of corrosion by sulphur and you have to think carefully about what piping systems you can put in,” Aaron says.

“It’s not too difficult but you have got to be aware of your in-soil conditions in Rotorua and the same in Taupo. It’s just about knowing your environment and using the right products.”

 Organising the local awards


Guests at the inaugural 2018 Volcanic Plateau Master Plumbers Awards 

Aaron is also President of the Volcanic Plateau Master Plumbers and, along with Sarah, organised the first Volcanic Plateau Master Plumbers Awards Dinner, held at the Blue Baths in Rotorua last November.

“I wanted to recognise excellence in our area,” Aaron says. “We got invited to the Waikato Master Plumbers Awards Dinner and I realised that we should be doing something like this ourselves.

“We have a good community of plumbers in town here and it is good to be able to get together, have a beer and a bit of banter with each other. I was hoping for 60 people for our first awards so to get almost 100 was outstanding.

“We are in a trade where you do not get a lot of recognition for your achievements and having something local is good. We also want to have a graduation night for apprentices in the area and we will do that as part of the awards in the future.”

 Company focus on apprentices

Sarah says the company is especially committed to helping apprentices get qualified after struggling to find suitable staff to join the business.

“We have been advertising for more staff for about the last year and a half but, having not had much luck, we have come to the conclusion that we will train from the bottom up and just keep training apprentices.

“We have four at the moment and, as they become qualified, we will try to get a new apprentice in. We hope they will stay around once they are fully qualified. If we can create that environment where they do not need to go and work for someone else or themselves but will stay with us, we all reap the rewards.

“We want to create a workplace that people enjoy being a part of. We don’t want our staff not to want to come to work every day—we aim to be a business that people want to work for.”

This blog has been adapted from an article in NZ Plumber magazine, February/March 2019 issue.

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