Business Central December 2021

| 77 Helping to modernise the business T T Sue Russell Sarah Avery of Plumbing & Gas Works received the 2021 Jackson Women in Plumbing Award at the NZ Master Plumbers Conference. NZ Plumbers Awards: Plumbing & Gas Works CONTRACTING F or Sarah Avery, from Hamilton-based Plumbing & Gas Works, receiving the 2021 Jackson Women in Plumbing Award at the NZ Master Plumbers Conference held in Blenheim in March, was recognition of the contribution women play in the industry. Sarah has been with the Frankton company six years and when she arrived, she brought skills as a business analyst and project man- ager – attributes she would make plenty of use of to add value to the company in ensuing years. Working for the company suited her situa- tion with three young children at the time and she was interested in a part-time position in a business that she could make a real contribution to. “For me, it was about looking at the compa- ny’s systems because when I joined there was a lot of paper involved in tracking jobs and I was familiar with the benefits that becom - ing computerised would bring for everyone. There were systems available that weren’t being fully utilised,” Sarah explains. As a result, the way the teams worked became much more efficient, removing the need for staff to come into the business in the morning before getting underway with their work for the day. Today, all the jobs and site details are ‘in the cloud’ and accessible for staff from mobiles and tablets. “We’re pretty much 90% on track with our operating systems and all that’s left now is around getting the job back to the office.” Plumbing & Gas Works has a team of 26 staff on board with Sarah and one other ad - ministrator based in the office. During Covid all the businesses contract work stopped with only urgent maintenance taken care of under lockdown. “We took care of essential services such as fixing homes where people had no hot water or issues with blocked drains. We used this time as an opportunity to do some training with the guys and maintain regular check-ins to see everyone was doing OK.” Sarah says the feeling at the moment is that the business has the right number and mix of staff. Maintaining a good ratio between qualified and training employee is vital. “We don’t stretch ourselves with apprentic- es because it’s important each one gets the correct level of ongoing support from their supervisors and senior staff.” She describes the sector as very compet- itive, especially in terms of supplying main- tenance work. One key-note speaker at the annual conference was a business woman who talked about establishing a company. She was joined by a panel of women who run plumbing businesses. “The Q & A session was really valuable. They shared with us about the challenges they had faced in establishing their companies.” The conference also focussed on the big topic at the moment, with upcoming legisla- tive changes to the supply of gas. “By 2025 it is proposed there will be no new gas connections allowed so it’s fair to say that it is quite a nervous time for those working in this sector.” Sarah says she still very much enjoys com- ing to work each day and contributing into helping the company grow from strength to strength. The company currently employs 10 apprentices. “We have monthly team meetings and a really good social club. The office staff also go out on site, so we’re up to speed on the work the teams are doing. We feel like one big team.”