David Strong is the owner and Director of ARID Technologies. Based in Tauranga, ARID Technologies is a waterproofing and specialised coating company which provides high-quality solutions for new and existing buildings across the Central North Island.
Business Type: Manufacturing
Founded: 2008 (David founded the new company in 2011)
Number of Staff: 16
Current Business Situation: Exceeding growth expectations
Relationship with The Icehouse: Owner Manager Programme Alumni
‘I have noticed since David has done the Icehouse Programme that the company has a more formal structure in place that allows for more individual growth. We have also noticed that the staff have a lot more day-to-day input and are also taking onboard The Icehouse philosophies.’ Lisa Strong
Tell us about yourself and the business?
I used to be a sales rep supplying product and advice to the business. It was previously run by two people and I was asked to come in and work for them for a period as they were struggling.
I bought the shares off one of the partners in the business and we carried on until I brought the other partner out, so the business became mine, with me forming the new company in April 2011.
How does 2021 look for you compared to 2020?
We’ve had a fantastic last couple of years. When we started our aim was 10% growth year on year and in the last two years we've more than exceeded on those projections. We are lucky enough with our size and the skillset of the company to be able to secure the majority of the larger contracts.
What are currently your biggest challenges?
There is most definitely a skills shortage, and to help, I’ve been working with Skills, rewriting the curriculum for our trade. We’re loaded up with apprentices, at the moment, so we can train people, but now we're struggling to get highly skilled employees. We’re in the building trade, so we’re quite high risk, but we’re the biggest business of our kind in the Bay of Plenty, and we’re very regimented in that it’s not in us to appoint just anyone.
We have doubled, and are looking at tripling out stock holdings just for continuity because of what is happening with Covid and freight services and so on.
The day-to-day at the moment is more about managing our supply chain and making sure that we've got product. Around two hours of my day, every day, is just talking to our suppliers, looking at what's coming up, talking to my contracts manager and my administration manager, and making sure that the jobs are coming in. I don't want to take away from what those guys are doing out in the field, so I’ve taken on that role myself.
We recognised that could be a weakness, and we need to manage it the best way we can. If someone's getting low on product, we ring fence it or we buy it, so we're constantly in communication with our supply companies.
In the background I am also working on a succession planning strategy. My contracts manager (who has been with me from the start) has just taken on 10% of the company and my administration manager, who is my eldest son, has taken on 10% of the company this financial as well.
We started from humble beginnings with two guys and a part time office lady. Most of our office work was done after hours in a A4 exercise book, with an office lady looking after wages and invoicing.
And then we grew and began using computer and software to achieve our next step. And then we kept on growing, but we kept hitting the glass ceiling – we couldn't go any further and, to a certain extent, that’s where The Icehouse came in.
What kind of support have you received from The Icehouse and are you looking to keep working with them?
I did the Owner Manager Programme 46 in 2019 and arrived thinking that we’re too small a company and this is not me. Running a business can be really lonely, but there were 24 other people in the room who were thinking exactly in the same way.
It probably took me two sessions to actually chill out and settle down into it, and then realise ‘Hey, my decision-making process isn't too bad. It just needs critiquing.’ As entrepreneurs, we've got a head for it, but how do we become creative and actually move to the places that we need to – to make a business with milestones, with KPIs and all that sort of stuff? That’s when we started moving.
Now my son Matthew and contracts manager, Trevor, have completed the Leadership Development Programme and some of the team have had one-to-one coaching sessions with Jamie Brock. My wife Lisa is booked on the next OMP. It doesn't take one person to run a company, it takes the whole company to run it.
How have things changed since working with The Icehouse?
We have developed stronger processes, to help all staff achieve their full potential. Sometimes you need to spend money to make money – to have processes in place, because when you get processes in place everyone is on the same page. And it's not just about having management on the same page.
So transparency was big. I used to come to work each day and say, ‘Guys, this is what you're doing,’ as they wouldn't know. I would know, but they wouldn’t know. We now run a two-week look-forward programme on a whiteboard so that everyone can see what everybody's doing at any time of the day. And the buy-in to that was just, absolutely, incredible.
And then there’s just those little things, such as Lisa and I moving upstairs in the office to give the guys more room to develop because I actually enjoy watching staff develop and reaching their full potential. OMP can take a lot of the credit for all of these changes.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are struggling/looking for help?
Culture is so important. It’s not a given, and you’ve got to continuously work at it. We do a lot with our staff – we have breakfast every Wednesday morning together and we’re constantly doing social things. The team do well, so we make sure we reward them.
Always listen and, secondly, be prepared for change – that famous word we’ve heard so much lately – “pivot”. Don’t be stuck in your ways!
Follow the link for more information on ARID Technologies and its range of products and services.