Picking up the pieces for business

Anton Heyrick is helping to rebuild Christchurch – and his roofing business. Gill South finds out how he’s going

Anton Heyrick believes fixing roofs is a way to rebuild Christchurch.
Anton Heyrick believes fixing roofs is a way to rebuild Christchurch.

The February 2011 earthquake literally sent Anton Heyrick spinning. The owner of Independent Roof Coatings in Christchurch fell off the roof he was working on, and watched as his van was crushed under rubble.

For eight months afterwards, Heyrick did not work while his injured body took time to recover. Held back by not having a van, he nevertheless needed to work to pay for a new one.

"Eventually, I decided enough was enough and I got stuck in on some jobs," he says. The demand in the private sector had dropped after the earthquake so it wasn't the most auspicious market to return to.

Many households were waiting for payouts from the Earthquake Commission. "Nobody in the private sector wanted to spend money on refurbishing their houses."

Luckily, Heyrick picked up some of his father's selling genes - he went door to door around Christchurch homes, telling Cantabrians that if they wanted to see the beleaguered city up and running again, everyone had to start spending again.

If they spent money on their homes, having their roof maintained, waterblasted and painted, for instance, Heyrick could spend in his community and everyone would benefit.

He was convincing. He told them: "The only way Christchurch is going to survive is, if people start spending money. If we all stop spending we will see our economy fail."

Slowly but surely the work came in again. Heyrick had people ready to refer him. He had set the business up in 2004. He also decided to take on jobs further afield, in Rangiora and Kaiapoi.

This year has been a remarkable year for the business. In April, Heyrick was introduced to Google AdWords, which are ads in the sponsored links section on Google search.

Heyrick came across Google AdWords when he won advertising over a one- to two-year period from Yellow, for becoming the face of their new digital toolbox in Christchurch.

As well as Google AdWords, Heyrick received help from Yellow by building an up-to-date website and website search optimisation, helping showcase his business online.

Independent Roof Coatings is regularly in the top five when people search for roof coating in Christchurch, sitting alongside the large companies who dominate the market.

His company's boosted image online has completely changed his business and the day-to-day running of it, says Heyrick. He no longer has to go door to door looking for work.

"I have not looked for work since April," he says.

He is now paying for Google AdWords himself and says the $250 monthly fee is well worthwhile.

"It's keeping me at the top of search optimisation on Google. We always ask how people find us and most people say on Google and with the website," he says.

"The winter months are normally a nightmare for roof repairers but this winter has been the best winter we've had on record," he says.

Heyrick's service of restoring roofs ensures includes a 15-year guarantee with the work. "It's a damn good option," says the roof expert.

With the growth in the business, Heyrick has gone from being a solo operator to having two contractors and a "sidekick". He has also employed his partner, Rebecca van der Kley, as fulltime administrator.

"We have grown exponentially, by four times our size," he says.

"We are looking at continuing to increase operations but we don't want to get too large," he adds.

As well as its residential business, Independent Roof Coatings does some commercial roofing. It has worked on the DA Lewis building in Christchurch, shopping complexes in Sumner and a number of butcher shops.

The majority of residential work in recent months has come from Avonhead, Redwood, and to a lesser extent, Halswell and Cashmere, says Heyrick.

"Some of these houses have been damaged and fixed. With some, the EQC has done the repairs but not the roof so we are recoating the roof. It's a good time to do this because the house has just been repaired."

Each residential job would cost around $2800 to $3500.

Having your house fixed up is a "massive commitment to Christchurch," says Heyrick.

The entrepreneur has strong optimism for his chosen city. "Christchurch is going to be an amazing city to live in in 10 years' time," he says.

Heyrick is happy to see his business survive the hard times and maintain his independence.

"I love being outdoors. Having the business has given me the freedom to spend more time with my family and children. I do enjoy that."

- NZ Herald

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