MEET EVOLUTION SCAFFOLDING
When Wiremu Gray (Tainui, Ngāti Tamaoho) left New Zealand for Australia in 2007 he was open to all career opportunities that would help progress his future. Having come from a career in banking, he was looking for a new pathway that would achieve financial stability for his whānau.
Starting as a labourer, he quickly found a community of expat Māori and followed them into the scaffolding trade.
“Working with other Māori made me not miss home so much,” he shares as he remembers being away from home, on the job for 28 days each month. “Those guys took the time to teach me everything about the industry and gave me the most invaluable experience.”
His first 18 months were based in Perth before moving to South Australia to start scaffolding in the mines. He moved around the country gaining experience on residential and commercial spaces, open surface, building jetties, conveyor lines and on oil and gas plants. Over 10 years he had done almost every kind of scaffolding job possible.
While the work was great, only spending 5 days a month at home in Aotearoa with partner Vanessa and their 2 children was tough. So, in 2017 Wiremu planned for three milestone events: his wedding to Vanessa, a relocation back to Aotearoa and a new business venture.
“I was only ever a wage earner and never saw myself as a businessman, but my age and experience pushed me into it. It was all about evolving and becoming a better person every day.”
The business name, Evolution Scaffolding, took its inspiration from that transition. It also represents the ever-changing scaffolding industry and the idea that in order to keep ahead of the game, you must continue to evolve.
Although Wiremu was new to business, wife and co-director Vanessa had experience running her own hair salon. She helped set things up in Aotearoa while Wiremu pitched for tenders from across the ditch. In November 2017 he returned home to a full schedule of clients and a drive to support more Māori into the trade.
“My first six months in business was really good. I learnt some key lessons about forecasting, but once I got into the flow of business I got to confidently execute our company values and what we were going to stand for,” he shares. “We focus on quality service, continuously upskilling our staff and taking the stress out of keeping contractors safe.”
Now employing eight staff of Māori, Pasifika and Filipino descent, he is growing capability within the industry.
“We are essentially in the service industry, so service is our priority. When I look at our company, I see more than just scaffolding, I look into the deeper meaning of our work. What we do keeps people safe, it benefits children and their families and it plays a part in contributing to positive outcomes in communities.”
Evolution Scaffolding has a yard in West Auckland and services the region as far south as Pokeno and north as Silverdale, although the team have also just completed a project at the Tauranga Port. The team has built a strong reputation already, providing high quality work in industrial maintenance, commercial and public sector spaces.
“We have formed key partnerships with the ADHB and Aquaheat (maintenance and remedial works), Shae Bailey and June Espino from ATL Group (preferred asbestos scaffold contractor), the Port of Tauranga, Brent Harris from Bondor and the Chelsea Sugar Factory.”
In less than two years Wiremu and Vanessa have doubled turnover and introduced innovative technology to the team.
“I am wearing so many hats; from worker, director, sales, admin and finance,” says Wiremu.
“Going home to then do site-specific paperwork was another thing that added to the list. So we introduced a phone app to streamline our system and create live documentation for our clients.”
The app allows for the safety checks to be completed digitally, photo documentation of the site, and all site and safely plans to be recorded, in real time, by all staff. “Which is how it should be,” adds Wiremu. The technology allows clients fast access to the work procedures and inspection, giving them immediate peace of mind.
Wiremu also uses technology to help every client see the scaffolding plans for their site. With state-of-the-art software, he can accompany any quote and job description with a digital design.
“The key is to understand what our clients’ needs are, from a painter, to someone who wants to re-roof a house, to a commercial site. Showing them a digital impression helps us get clear, and confirms that we understand their needs, giving them more confidence in our service.”
As a new company there is still a lot of growing for Wiremu and his team. He has a vision to continue to grow and support more Māori into the industry, paying forward the support he received when he first started out. He also wants to collaborate with Māori business and iwi and hapū groups to service the growing needs of Māori across the region.
“Using this platform to help our people is what it’s all about for me. I want to leave a legacy for my family, not just in the business, but in the values we live by too.”
Story and photos by Qiane Matata-Sipu qiane.co.nz