The staff have always come first for Whanganui MTA member, Vince Lockwood. Making sure his employees had a secure future was an important part in Vince’s recent decision to sell his heavy diesel workshop, CRV Equipment Ltd.
He has seven staff, including four mechanics, who have all have been with CRV Equipment for 20 years and more.
Vince and his investment partners had owned the company for 14 years and hadn’t been thinking about selling up, “But an opportunity came up late last year and we had to give it some serious thought.”
Vince knew in a few years he would be thinking about retiring, but there might not be a willing buyer around. “I’ve known workshop owners who have had to keep on working well into their 70s because they couldn’t find someone to sell to.”
All this was in his mind when Thomas Lavin approached him. “Thomas was working in Australia, he had completed his apprenticeship in Whanganui and wanted to come back.”
Better still, he wanted Vince to stay on as manager while he concentrated on building up the business. The deal was struck and the business changed hands before Christmas.
So far, there’s been no significant change. Vince says it’s a very profitable business and he’s always kept a tight focus on the ebb and flow of its finances.
“A big mistake made by some business owners is not keeping tabs on their current financial situation or fully understanding their accounting tools (the balance sheet, profit and loss accounts). They leave it to their accountants to keep track of things. So they don’t know until the end of the year how the figures are all adding up.”
Vince has also kept a close eye on safety in the workshop and out on job sites. “My staff are important to me. I’ve known them a long time – if I was to have an epitaph on my grave, I’d like it to say something about how I provided an income for seven or eight people and their families throughout their lives.”
Staff are an integral part of, and are the lifeblood of the business, he said, their safety and wellbeing is important.
Above: The weekly team health and safety meeting. From left: Paul Triplow, Alex Todd, Ricky Graham, Joe Crawford, Kayne Jenkins, Bevan Francis, Vince Lockwood.
“I’ve developed my own health and safety programme, picking up ideas from MTA and Worksafe and some of our customers, like EnviroWaste and Kiwi Rail.”
Staff must report any health and safety incidents, or near misses immediately and take appropriate action. His system includes a safety meeting held each week to go through a checklist of precautions. Any incidents that have been reported are discussed, and ideas for improving safety are put forward. He believes he and his team have developed a robust culture of safety and are very alert to potential hazards. This culture is helpful when working with companies such as Kiwi Rail who want to see evidence that anyone working on their sites understands their health and safety responsibilities.
In his latest initiative, CRV Equipment is about to buy its first safety harness. “We deal with a lot of big machinery and I was thinking about how we could improve the way we work safely at heights.” The team has tried out the harness and worked out how to use it on excavators and trucks. They expect the harness and its kit to be made up and ready to use within a month.
Above: CRV mechanic Kayne Jenkins tries out the new safety harness from Whanganui business Quality Safety Ltd.
Cover your rear
Good financial practice isn’t just a matter of keeping careful account of the finances, it’s about reducing your risk. An important element is to follow up on debts owed to the company.
“Our standard practice is payment on the spot for anyone we don’t know. For those that we have approved for credit, we expect payment by the 20th of the month and if they are late my wife Maxine, who runs the office, contacts them to discuss the situation. She has a great success rate in getting payment – we believe good communication is important.”
CRV uses Debtorinfo NZ Ltd, which is a specialist business information provider and an MTA business partner.Debtorinfo helps companies to be legally compliant, including providing the correct forms and templates to manage credit. This includes the paperwork to ensure a business is able to hold legal security over any machinery or vehicle it has worked on but has not yet been paid for.
Using this system, CRV registers its securities over vehicles and machinery, without needing to involve any outside firm, saving on professional fees. This paid off for CRV last year when one of its customers went into receivership owing the business a large sum.
“We had a real battle with the receivers who wouldn’t acknowledge we were a secured creditor – even though we had supplied all the paperwork proving our claim.”
So Vince, supported by Debtorinfo’s managing director George Owen, took the matter to court. “Once we’d done that the receivers offered to meet with us and made a very low offer for settlement.”
When Vince, Maxine and George made it clear to the receivers that that they had sold equipment that CRV held security over, they finally became more reasonable. “I think they saw their action was legally questionable, and made an offer of settlement that was much closer to what was owed, about 75 percent, which we accepted. This was all done without employing a lawyer which can be very costly.”
Vince understands, that CRV, the bank and the receivers were the only payments made from the bankrupt company. “It took 12 months to sort out and it was a worrying time. Because we had the correct paperwork in place and George Owen backed us all the way we felt empowered and were able to take action and achieve a positive result.”