Floored business gets back up with guidance of business mentor

The Natural Flooring Company Limited was a little over three years old and employed seven staff when the devastating Christchurch earthquake struck on 22 February 2011. 

A supplier of tile, timber and cork flooring solutions for home living spaces, The Natural Flooring Company lost its pipeline of orders, its showroom and warehousing facilities on that day just over four years ago.

Owner David Buckby says that the business is only operating and succeeding today because of the guidance and support of the business mentor he was matched with after he contacted Business Mentors New Zealand for help.

“The whole situation was overwhelming and we needed help to get a recovery package in place. We had Business interruption insurance but finding our way through the claims and settlement process was going to be a nightmare,” said David.

“At the time I thought we were too young a company to be able to survive. We’re here today because of Russell’s input. Having a business mentor has taught me to think about the business in a different way and to behave in a different way.”

Russell Wheal is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has also been a business owner and works as a business broker with Tabak in Christchurch. Buying and selling mid-size companies has given him huge exposure to different businesses and the drivers of their performance.

“David was facing massive troubles as were many Canterbury business owners immediately after the quake. The possibility of having no home and no business was very real. The first things we identified were to front up to the creditors and get a bit of breathing room to restructure the business and then to agree a finance package with the bank. Breaking the challenges down to a number of actionable steps gave David the clarity and the focus he needed to get on with it,” Russell said.

Russell says his experience in business sales has taught him that business life for owner-managers is pretty lonely. He was encouraged to become a mentor to share his experience and make a contribution to the Christchurch SME community.

“Most business owners like David can benefit from an outside view and the chance to talk things over. I see my role as a mentor like a navigator, providing a compass to help the owner find the right way. I listen and make suggestions and often reflect back what the owner has told me. It can get a little tough when owners don’t listen to their own advice!”

David and Russell met weekly in the early days of their mentoring relationship. Four years and a number of triumphs later they still talk regularly by phone.

“The Natural Flooring Company is a very different business now than it was in 2011. We’ve structured our operations to suit the ‘new normal’ circumstances and environment for doing business in Christchurch,” David said.

“The approach and discipline needed to spend time working on the business that I got from Russell has been invaluable. Our focus on cash management, outsourcing installation work and keeping overheads down has been the formula for success. I felt alone when the earthquake struck and wondered if it was just me because all our historical reference points to operate the business were gone. Russell has been a lifesaver.”

Anyone interested in registering for a business mentor or finding out more about Business Mentors New Zealand should visit www.businessmentors.org.nz or call 0800 209 209.

Image caption: The Natural Flooring Company owner David Buckby (left ) with business mentor Russell Wheal.