This article was originally created for Hayes Knight (now Nexia Auckland).
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James Alexander and Alex Ward are clear on one thing; a foundation of their success in business is their complementary skills.
Since starting Synergy Flooring nearly two years ago, this husband and wife team have leveraged their own synergy as a couple, combining James’s industry experience and sales ability with Alex’s financial background as a CA to massive effect. They’ve taken a small flooring installation business and injected it with the enthusiasm and fire of a young couple with big plans.
As with all aspects of their approach to business, they were clear about which part of the flooring market they would target – commercial. This immediately lends scale to the jobs they take on, an advantage over most domestic jobs.
“Domestic is personal and owners tend to have their own design in mind. We do some domestic work and enjoy what we do, but commercial we enjoy for the scale and complexity of the jobs. The jobs have more parts, are more intricate, have a faster turn-around and we are able to input a lot more of our design and technical advice,” explains James.
On big commercial jobs, sub-contractors like ourselves can be quite exposed if the main contractor falls over, so Synergy pick their jobs carefully, says James.
“We do watch who we do work for. Our business has been built on discretionary work and it’s been built on relationships, so a lot of the work we do is for repeat clients. That’s a point of difference for us. We put a lot of energy into building those relationships and earning their trust.”
That approach has led to repeat contracts within the education sector. Synergy rate themselves in the top three for education fit outs now and, as Alex says, while the work is pressured, (being scheduled for the two-week holiday breaks), schools are good payers.
The company has also enjoyed strong growth in the construction sector and handled all the flooring at the huge B:Hive, a flexible office space within the Smales Farm complex on Auckland’s North Shore.
“The client wanted us to take all flooring aspects under our umbrella – one contract for all floor coverings,” says James. “At 7,000 sqm of carpet and the additional 3,000 sqm of polished concrete – this has been our largest project yet. We also did all the atrium stairwells, the orange rubber tiles, the carpet was a custom design which we worked with an architect in Australia to come up with and had manufactured in America.”
Synergy are being noticed for the quality of their work and, crucially, service levels, with major clients like the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, Watershed Limited and Construction By Design (CBD) all giving them repeat business. Martin Gunman, director of CBD, hits on an aspect that gives Synergy an advantage: “They have a highly skilled installation team who work in well on site and their project managers are hands-on to ensure quality assurance.”
Alex says they made a deliberate decision to combine the roles of sales and project management, so clients get the best result possible.
“From start to finish clients have one point of contact, instead of one person measuring the job and another managing the job. That makes for a busy role for our guys, but we see that as being quite an advantage in terms of quality of service,” says Alex.
They also make every effort to ensure their installers – all independent contractors – are heavily invested in delivering Synergy’s promise of quality.
“The installers are a very big part of what we do,” says James. “They’re contractors but we look after them well, such as providing prompt payment and booking their development courses. We treat the relationship like a big family, going fishing golfing and activities every quarter. They’re a huge part of the story.”
The success James and Alex have enjoyed in just two years is due to not just their own synergy as a partnership, and their ability to form successful partnerships with clients, but also their laser focus.
Hayes Knight director, Brendon Cutler, has worked with Synergy for two years now and says from day one the couple were clear about their goals, for business and for building wealth.
“I found James and Alex very engaging, open to advice and keen to improve. Alex ensures quality monthly financial accounts are produced and has a finance background and James has industry experience and a very strong sales focus, so they complement each other well,” comments Brendon.
Talking to James and Alex, you get the feeling that while pleased to have already knocked off some of their major goals, they are only just getting started. As Alex says, “At a very early stage of our business and our life, with the help of Brendon at Hayes Knight, we feel we’ve set things up really well, establishing trusts and structuring our debt and business correctly.”