MEET RAM CONTRACTING
John Tiare (Rarotonga) and Cain McMillan of Ram Contracting are responsible for constructing some of our most remote walkways in bush areas and regional parks across the region. Their combined skills and experience in carpentry and walkway construction are seeing the pair gain tract in this industry niche. With services focussed on the construction and renewal of walking tracks, including boardwalks, timber staircases, platforms and look out points, their work isn’t for the faint hearted.
“Our line of work is not just building, or just landscaping,” shares John, “It is a physically demanding role. You sometimes have to walk kilometres into the bush with all your materials. You then need the skill to not only build the infrastructure, but also understand the underlying root systems to ensure what you’re building doesn’t damage the environment it is in.”
With the Auckland region now sensitive to a number of Kauri dieback environments, the ecological knowledge Ram Contracting has is important now, more than ever. Coming into their sixth year of business, the company is thriving. In the past, the pair would contract 40 to 50 jobs annually; today, they concentrate on four to five large-scale projects.
“When we first opened our business we had $5,000 in the bank. We owned one wheelbarrow, two spades and a motor-less compactor. We had just won a $110k contract on Waiheke Island; five renewals with an elevated timber staircase off the coast. It was our first real contract and came with quite a few sleepless nights.”
Those sleepless nights took place in a local Waiheke backpackers before the pair moved into a holiday home for the duration of their stay. With the rent costing them more than $3,000, they had less than $2,000 to work off until the following month. “We didn’t have an office or a yard, we didn’t go to the bank for a business loan, we didn’t have any capital,” shares Cain, “We ran everything off what we would make that month and reinvested it back into the company.”
They diversified to keep afloat, doing track cutting work to stay ahead of bills and barge their new digger to the island from the mainland. Their skill and creativity got them through the job, paired with a lot of hard work. And it all paid off. Since that time in 2013 turnover has doubled each financial year and today the
company boasts its own yard, a fleet of vehicles and every possible tool you need for the job. From only a team of two, they also have grown to employ seven staff. Although, they’ve discovered recruitment is a process.
“Our current employees are suited to this work because they already enjoy things like hunting, they enjoy being outdoors, they love the natural environment, especially in winter,” says Cain. “But we once posted a job and had 130 people view it, and only one person save it,” adds John. “We were realistic with the job description – you have to be fit, have building knowledge and be able to carry 60kg of timber into the bush.”
As leaders in their field Ram Contracting push above the standards and regulations associated with their industry. They prioritise environmental safety and sustainability, and offer specialised training to their staff to ensure a consistent service. “We’ve always said we won’t be the fastest, but we make sure our quality is the highest,” says John. “We set a foundation in the first three years by relying on each other’s knowledge and experience. We built up our client base and have retained and grown that base to become preferred suppliers.”
With a strong reputation the company enjoys working for large organisations like Auckland Zoo, Auckland Council, and have recently picked up a contract with the Department of Conservation.
It was during those earlier years the pair met, through their partners. Cain’s eldest child was just three months old when Ram Contracting started and they both have added a few children to the mix since.
“We’ve always been family-oriented. Kids put everything into perspective. Our family are the driving force behind Ram Contracting. Without them we wouldn’t have got this far.”
With family at the forefront and strong environmental values, the team at Ram Contracting want their work to make a difference. Each year they support local artists and help fundraise for gardens and sports programmes for low decile schools.
“It takes a particular person to do what we do,” says John. “You need integrity and skill, a bit of character, you have to be a bit nuts and a bit rough around the edges at times, too,” he laughs. “Our industry is niche and there’s a lot of people recognising that. For us, it’s about raising the bar.”
Story and photos by Qiane Matata-Sipu http://www.qiane.co.nz/