Soon after Tayn Stefanidis and Adrian Russell launched their building company in 2006, and had completed two townhouses, the sector collapsed.
It was a huge challenge for the fledgling business owners but they adapted, leaping into the add-ons and alterations market.
“It was really tough,” said Stefanidis.
Wellington-based S&R Residential was competing with established builders, he said.
“Neither Adrian or I are natural salesmen so putting ourselves out there has just been one of those things we've had to do.”
Stefanidis, who had a strong building management background, became the project manager in the office, while Russell took on the role of site manager.
The company targeted the niche, high-end part of the market. They sent out letters, backed up with phone calls and tried to get an opportunity to tender.
At first they began doing alterations for family and friends but soon attracted other work.
A strong work ethic, good retention of staff and expert workmanship meant the company last year won Silver Home of the Year award at the Wellington Regional Master Builders Awards, for a replica turn-of-the-century home they built from scratch.
This year, they won no less than five awards - including the Supreme Renovations Award, Gold in renovations over $500,000 category, a GIB lifestyle award and a craftsmanship award.
They won the Supreme Renovations Award for the work they did on a Karori home designed by architect Philip Porritt of Jazmax.
How did they get the Porritt contract? Stefanidis said they ensured they knew their costs and made themselves competitive through price and a tight projected contract period.
The awards will provide a further foothold in the market. When conditions improve, they want to develop their own standalone residential homes, said Stefanidis.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Both Adrian and I had been working within the building industry for many years, Adrian about 20 years and I had worked for about 13 years.
We were of the opinion that between the two of us, we had a reasonable grasp of the basic fundamental skills required to own and operate our own business and both had a desire to do something for ourselves.
What have been the biggest obstacles in running your own company?
We initially wanted to do our own development work whilst also knowing we would have to do full contract projects for clients to keep the cash flow sound.
Name one thing you've learnt while in business and from whom?
The most important thing I've learnt was taught to me by my former employer who drilled into me the importance of knowing your costs.
As basic as it sounds, it is one of the reasons we have survived and grown through the last six years.
What are your business and personal goals?
We both want to have a successful and sustainable business that allows both us and our employees the opportunity to learn and grow. I think we both put the dreams of early retirement and riches behind us very early on in our journey and put the focus into growing a reputation for producing quality workmanship and creating a brand that people want to use.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
There's never a “right” time to take the leap, you can start a business and grow it in any climate. Never assume and know your costs!
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