HISTORY – Written by Director of QBS Troy Jury
I completed my apprenticeship in 2006. At this point in my life, it was my greatest achievement. Having made the decision to drop out of school at just 15, I was naive about what full-time work would be like. However, I was confident and committed, have never shied away from challenges.
I had represented Auckland in both Rugby and cricket to the highest level and spent over 20 years as part of both Teachers Eastern Rugby Club & University Cricket Club. So teamwork was nothing new. However, I had no idea that the many years as part of these sports teams would help me adjust and adapt to the teamwork & physical commitment required on a building site, specifically the early days where fellow tradesmen basically tried to break you.
I started at the bottom of the food chain, cleaning sites, digging holes, doing lunch runs, and moving materials. Once I had survived and endured months of heckling, demanding physical tasks, and showed I could turn up to worksites on time and be reliable, the senior builders agreed I was worth giving an apprenticeship to. To this day, I still put my own apprentices through the same tests before awarding them with the opportunity to become qualified carpenters.
Within weeks of starting my apprenticeship, I was beginning to be shown the basics of the trade. I knew I had found my career and never looked back. I was privileged to work alongside skillful carpenters and tradesmen, true master craftsmen, many of whom had more than 45 years on-site, on the tools running jobs. The projects we worked on were all of a very large scale and always high-end. I was lucky enough that our company N.cole also did Joinery & Heavy construction so the
variety of tasks and jobs was great, along with getting to use different tools and machines.
I was 18 when I became a qualified carpenter. Towards the end of my apprenticeship, despite my age, I was regularly given the responsibility of starting jobs for the Senior foreman or taking over jobs that
were near completion.
While at times I was absolutely out of my depth experience-wise, and I had to wing a few situations, I found that if I put my mind to a task and focus, I could get the job done, and this has become one of my strengths today as a leader, business owner and father.
Post apprenticeship, my confidence grew due to the projects I was given. Eventually, I found myself in charge of some of the same tradesmen who had trained me. I must admit that this was not easy at first. However, over time, my belief in myself and my commitment to my craft allowed me to take charge of situations. I soon realised there was a difference between great carpenters and those capable of much more, like leadership and management.
After a few years of working as a foreman and site managing high-end projects on some of Auckland’s most high profile homes, I had reached a senior role within the company and was beginning to think about what’s next? It was a huge decision to leave a senior position with a stable income and risk it all. But the itch and the what-if had finally become too much. I had been working with a safety net long enough and needed a new challenge, so I decided the time was now.
I started trading as Qualified Solutions in 2008. I never had to produce an invoice, track my time, or provide a quote as part of my old job, and very, very quickly, I got a massive reality check.
Things changed drastically for me financially. On the building front, I went from running large and complex projects, without having to worry about the budget, to fixing small fences, rebuilding retaining walls, installing letterboxes and doing what I considered was handyman maintenance work. Pay wise I was earning less than I was as a carpenter with no responsibility.
I had come full circle and found myself needing to earn respect from clients the same way I did as an apprentice. So, how do I build a rep on these tedious small jobs? Building a name for myself was not easy, and I would be lying if I said I never thought about quitting.
I had a small stint at contracting to another building company. This didn’t last long as they went under midway through my first job for them, and it was then I experienced my first loss as they went under, owing me a month’s wages which really hurt.
I decided against contracting and went back to looking for my own projects. After 2.5 months, I managed to lock in a 4-month renovation of a property in Hillsborough. During that time, I did a lot of flyer drops and managed to line up a renovation of a bungalow in Onehunga. This was my chance to get rolling, and I wasn’t going to let it slip.
This was my turning point, and it couldn’t have come any sooner. My partner and I were barely living week to week, and financially I could not sustain much more. Suddenly things just took off.
The jobs went very well, not without pains, but I finished them, got paid, and got my first review! Which, to me, was a success. Another small renovation followed, and suddenly, clients’ friends were calling and asking if I had time to come and look at a job! It was a great feeling, and for over two years, Qualified Solutions completed half a dozen small-medium renovations and obtained some great testimonials.
In 2011, Qualified Solutions became a limited company, and I made a slight change to Qualified Building Solutions Limited. After two and half years, I realised the need for systems, software and scheduling.
The leads were there but managing them wasn’t smooth. Works were lined up and flowing, but things were being missed, lost or mixed up. Until today, I am still looking for the next system or programme that might help my day to day business run and improve productivity.
In late 2011, QBS was contracted to build a brand-new house in Grey Lynn (33 Dryden Street). This was the first high-end job I won and the first time I had a chance to put everything I learnt to date to the test.
It was a complex architectural build that had many architectural bespoke details. The house consisted of 6 architectural precast panels, 132 pieces of steel, a glass roof, an interior bridge spanning 10m above the living area, lots of glass joinery and ceilings that were 6m high. Add a couple of cantilevered decks, and you start to get a feel for the complexity of this house (which was designed by a great architect Tom Rowe (RBstudio).
The house was a great success. Today, photos of it are displayed at our office entrance as a reminder of our first real opportunity to produce quality carpentry by QBS.
While this project was underway, QBS made a second impressive build. It involved building a brand-new contemporary villa at 9 Parawai Street, Grey Lynn. Again, the new build was a great success and a QBS-built home that we all are very proud of.
Over the next three years, QBS completed multiple re-clads, renovations, and new builds across Auckland, adding to a growing portfolio of projects.
In 2014, I had the pipeline and resources to expand my business and take on more work. We went from running two sites at a time to four, at times five.
We began to hire more builders, and I recruited two reliable, skilled foremen whom I knew outside of work. Naturally, apprentices followed this. By late 2014 we had grown from a team of 6 to 20 builders, and I had moved off the tools into full-time project management, overseeing sites, communicating with my clients and generally running the company.
There were new things to be learned, and one of the hardest lessons was knowing our limits. I thought I could be everywhere and do everything, and it wouldn’t affect me. It became apparent quickly that this was not the case. It was a bad business decision and burned me out.
There were always going to be some growing pains. With some minor tweaks here and there and a realistic workload, I managed to find a happy medium which we have kept until today. I have figured out what works best for me and what doesn’t. During this learning period, I also married Millie, who now runs our day-to-day accounts, and I became a father to three beautiful little girls Indi, Madison & Savannah.
In 2014-2015 we were engaged with The Block NZ. Initially, this made me very nervous as any mistake would be broadcast to audiences NZ wide. If it goes wrong, it not only will be disastrous for the contestant, it could negatively impact our brand and our business’s future. Despite this risk, we went for it. I got the guys looking sharp with new uniforms, and we went to work.
QBS built for James & Maree, who would take second place in the Pt Chevalier series. Martin, my builder on the show, turned into a celebrity builder overnight due to his quality of work, and NZ couldn’t get enough! This result was great for our brand reputation and marketing. Over the next 12 months, QBS featured in a range of popular home magazines, which we now proudly display at our office in Parnell.
In 2015, QBS returned to help Hayden and Jamie on The Block NZ Villa Wars edition. Again, the team smashed it. We accomplished ridiculous amounts of work to the highest standard. This all took place while cameras stood watching, hoping for any slip-up.
Since the show, we have completed another renovation show in 2018 doing “The Ultimate reno”, where we spent 7 months renovating a home in Glendowie, Auckland for Caleb & Alice, the 2013 BlockNZ winners.
This show was broadcast on TV3 at 7.30 pm each night for 2months.
Fast forward to 2021 – we have a couple of staff in our Parnell office helping with admin and accounts. We also have two team members studying quantity surveyors and regularly have a couple of students studying QS’s gaining their work experience with us.
On-site, we have a strong team culture with a focus on quality. We have clients coming to us because of our reputation for quality building work. We have a saying here at QBS, “Kill Em with Quality,” and that’s our mindset. We believe that price is no longer the key deciding factor when we can guarantee quality building work and our client trusts our workmanship.
We are constantly blooding new carpenters and have put 12 apprentices through their trade. We have also started taking on tradeswomen as part of our team, and this is also something I’m very proud of as it breaks the mould.
We continue to run between 3 and 5 sites at a time across Auckland. In more recent years, we have been working on some amazing projects with architectural firms like Matter Architects, Milieu Architecture, RTA Studio, Studio2, and many others.
We have over 200 reliable and skilled sub-contractors with whom we align and share our vision. We can rely on them to provide excellent service to our clients with their exceptional plumbing, electrical, and painting skills.
We are officially 12 years old as a limited company in a few months. Many lessons have been learnt – some good, some not so good, though all were necessary.
I look forward to adding more to our company history in the future.
1 September 2021