Couple relocate installation business to Otago

Mark and Hayley McHutchon from Otago Skylights and Heating demonstrate the use of attic stairs at...
Mark and Hayley McHutchon from Otago Skylights and Heating demonstrate the use of attic stairs at their Mosgiel home. Photo by Craig Baxter.

When Mark McHutchon originally moved to Dunedin, he admits it was a "bit of an eye-opener".

The talented young rugby player, from a farm at Heriot in West Otago, had been approached by a rugby club, and moved directly to the city from Blue Mountain College in Tapanui.

Back then, work involved everything from crutching lambs to flipping burgers at McDonald's, plus plenty of rugby.

He played club rugby for Green Island and also represented Otago, as well as playing for the New Zealand under-19 team.

Fast forward a few years and Mr McHutchon is back in the city, this time with his wife Hayley and their two young children, having traded his rugby boots for business.

The couple own Otago Skylights and Heating, and their work involves fire installation and removal, heat transfer systems, ventilation systems, Solatubes, roof windows and attic stairs.

Previously based in Christchurch, where Mr McHutchon had a woodburner and heating installation business for seven years, they moved back to Otago two years ago, keen to be closer to family and friends.

They continued with the business in Christchurch, but were now winding it up. Mr McHutchon was involved with Fletcher EQR, the business unit set up to repair the damage caused to homes by the earthquakes.

While the first foray into business was a little scary, becoming self-employed was also the best thing Mr McHutchon said he had ever done.

While things went on hold for a "wee while" following the earthquakes, that was fairly short-lived as chimneys needed to be reinstated and they were doing fire and safety checks so people could use their woodburners.

The biggest cause of stress last year for him and many other small businesses in Christchurch, was waiting to be paid for work.

They were owed a lot of money and were several weeks away from "pulling the pin", Mr McHutchon said. They were fortunate they had their business in Dunedin, his wife added.

The couple had bought the HomeTech franchise, servicing the area from Bluff to Oamaru.

HomeTech has been providing and installing home improvement products for the past 20 years and it was a company Mr McHutchon had been involved with in Christchurch.

Last winter, Mr McHutchon was in Christchurch every second week which created stress and it became a "mad" juggling act, he said.

They were also running their business from their Mosgiel home and their phone never stopped ringing.

Shifting the office out of the house and employing a staff member in the office had made a "huge difference". They also employed another worker.

When they first started, Mr McHutchon was a "one-man-band" and his wife was doing the invoicing at nights, sometimes up to midnight. It was very hard to achieve a work-life balance, they said.

This year, Mrs McHutchon had gone back to teaching at Taieri College. While she had enjoyed being fully involved with the business, her preference was for more of an overseer role.

Running a business was a big challenge for the couple, particularly as Mrs McHutchon came from a teaching background and Mr McHutchon was a "hands-on" person. Getting help and direction from others had been important.

The couple and their children were looking forward to moving soon to a lifestyle property at Green Island.

Having both come from farms in West Otago, it was getting back to their roots and they were looking forward to having some space, and room for a pony, Mrs McHutchon said.

Having played a lot of rugby at Green Island, Mr McHutchon joked that he had always got a bit of good-natured ribbing about living "over this side of the hill" at Mosgiel.

His rugby playing days in Dunedin had also proved useful in his business career, as he had met a lot of people and made a lot of contacts.

One of the key aspects to a successful business was "having a lot of spokes to your wheel" and they did not necessarily have to rely on the likes of the solatubes or the wood fires. They installed about a dozen products.

The couple continued to grow the business and were looking at developing work in Southland further. They were also looking at adding new products and getting more staff.

Last year had been a big learning curve - "we got real big real fast" - but Mr McHutchon said he had now learned how to manage his time more effectively.

He was spending more time with the children and was able to separate family life and work life.

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