Caitlin Sykes

Your Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small business: Intergenerational business - Joan and Nick Blair, BOP RV

Joan Blair and her husband John established a Bay of Plenty-based business, BOP RV, with their son Nick last year.

Standing are John Blair, Nick Blair and Nick's fiancee Faith Adams, holding their daughter Aliya Blair; Seated are Joan Blair and Lochlan Blair.
Standing are John Blair, Nick Blair and Nick's fiancee Faith Adams, holding their daughter Aliya Blair; Seated are Joan Blair and Lochlan Blair.

Can you tell me a bit about BOP RV?

Nick: We import American-built, 'Keystone Cougar' fifth-wheel caravans. We overhaul each RV, retrofitting them to New Zealand's regulations.

Joan: Prior to this venture, John and I were dairy farming. We sold the farm, spent six months touring the US doing research on fifth-wheel suppliers and then came home and put the business idea to our eldest son. Nick is a qualified builder by trade so we all bring different skills to the business.

The business has now been operating for a year and it's run primarily by Nick. He deals with most of the phone, email and walk-in enquiries and coordinates all of the outsourced work required. Nick purpose built our sales yard, which as well as being in a good location, also provides him and his family with a country home and area for their two children. As Nick's fiancee is a nurse and works full time, this allows him the flexibility to work from home and look after the children as required while still running the business.

I support Nick in sales and office admin and my husband John does some of the conversion work required on the RVs and a lot of the day-to-day running around.

Why did the different generations of your family want to go into business together?

Joan: We felt working as a family was a 'win win' for us all. We all get on well and appreciate each other's strengths and are able to bring a variety of skills to the business. Being family we are all focussed on the same goals and driven to make the business a success.

Nick is a real people person and gets on well with everyone, so there is consistency of care with all our customers. We want our customers to feel comfortable with us and gaining their trust is paramount to our success.

What do you like about working together?

Joan: Working together is easy and fun. Nick and I often run the yard alone with his two children, so putting a one- and a three-year-old in the mix results in some hilarious moments.

Being a family that cares for one another we see things differently from a traditional employer. If you need time off to do something, we just have a quick chat to that end and it is done. We can happily work around each other's needs and family duties. No one person has to carry all the load.

What have been some of the challenges?

Nick: Being new to this industry certainly posed its challenges. Again we worked through these together and are now happy and confident in all we offer. The challenges we've faced have related more to finding specialised trades people to do the specific work involved in retrofitting - as well as dealing with travel logistics. It has taken time to find exactly the right people prepared to provide the quality of workmanship we required.

Have you been conscious of a need to separate your working and personal relationships?

Nick: We spend a lot of time together as a family, often having dinner together as well as spending weekends at the bach. Conversation will inevitably head towards the business but as a family we are always happy to just chat things through.
This doesn't seem to bother anyone - but we are an outspoken bunch so if it does you are bound to hear about it!

Lastly, what advice would you have for others looking to go into business with their mum/dad or son/daughter?

Nick: Working with family is a big no-no according to many. Personally, I can say it is the best thing for our business. I think you just need to remember everyone has different strengths, to talk all things through and presume nothing. Good communication is the key for us, as is an appreciation of each other. You can't all be chiefs, you can't all be indians but you can all be equal partners that assume different responsibilities.

Coming up in Small Business: Cashflow is king, particularly in smaller businesses. So what are your tips and tricks for getting paid faster? If you've got some to share, get in touch: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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