Ross Hill-Rennie is the Managing Director of Tile Shed, a Financial Skills Workshop and Financial Skills Plus attendee, Coaching alumni, and Owner Manager Programme participant (OMP 63).
This Kiwi Business Story is based on a podcast from 16 November 2023, and all figures quoted are from that time. You can enjoy the complete podcast here.
How did the Tile Shed start?
When me and my partner decided to move back to the Hawke's Bay, we were looking for something to do… the Tile Shed was for sale, and I thought ‘well, how hard can that be?’ Famous last words! We purchased it in 2016 and I've quietly set about growing the business from there. We've since tripled the size of what it was and also opened another store in Taupo.
The Tile Shed does things a little differently?
We had a vision of what we wanted to turn the store into... It's a very nice, high-end look. When most people think of a tile shop, it's just a giant warehouse full of hard tiles, whereas ours is much more of a design space…
We’ve got two aspects to the business. We've got obviously the tiles, which we're selling to people, but then we've also got the trade side of the business. We’re very strong on looking after the trade. All the tilers who actually have to install the tiles have got to be certified. So it makes sense for us to host training sessions for the different certificates that they require. We get all the tilers together and bring in one of the reps so that they can run the training certifications… It's just something that we [want] to do regularly for them.
What's something you know now, that you'd tell your younger self?
Get a really good team of advisors… When you're early in business, and you're thinking ‘I can't afford to pay accountants and lawyers and all that sort of stuff,’ the money you spend on them is nothing compared to what you'll get back.
Also, if your team's not working, change it… They've got to be working for you and giving you what you need. [You] will outgrow them as well. As you grow through business the advisors won't always be able to grow with you. So you’ve got to be prepared to move on…
And you’re currently on the Owner Manager Programme (OMP)?
It's an amazing group of people and the facilitators that they bring in for the different modules are just so inspiring… ‘how do [The Icehouse] get these people to take their time and come and do this for us?’
You’ve completed multiple programmes and workshops with The Icehouse?
I first heard about The Icehouse when I was looking to see what was available to help support a store manager and came across the Leadership Development Programme. She really rated it, but while looking into that, I found the Financial Skills Workshop run by Matt Bellingham. I really needed to learn how to do the numbers better because I'm not an accountant. I didn't even finish school. I got politely asked to leave! So I decided that it was probably a good idea for me to go and learn a bit about that.
My partner June said she'd like to do it too, so we both went along to the course down in Wellington and did it together… it was incredible. Matt is a charismatic presenter who made it fun and interesting.
[From that] I'd seen OMP and thought, ‘well, that's well above me and where I am in business.’ So had sort of shelved it, and then this year, I was talking to another alumni who had done it before, who's one of my main suppliers, and he said that he had done it and couldn't rate it highly enough, to the point where he actually sponsored a chunk of my fees in order for me to go.
So when he offered that, I thought ‘well, then I can't say no!’ I'm loving upskilling, I'm loving learning more about business and all the different facets of it. I've always loved business, but I've always felt like a fraud because everything I know has been self-taught and just by making mistakes. So now it's time to start doing things as they should be done, and that's where my advice around getting advisors early comes from.
I'm also currently doing coaching with Michaela [Vodanovich] and the first takeaway was that she couldn't believe how lean we were running on staff... so we've been on a real drive to build the team back up and we're just getting to that point now where I'm really happy…
Now that I've got a good solid team again, to start focusing on more of the strategy and all of the high-level stuff that when you're busy in the business, with your head down… just doesn't factor into it. So now it's time for me to step back and start working on that because that's where the growth is going to come from.