Stepping back key to business growth

In 2016 sheep contractor Tim Anderson realised he was ‘‘on the tools’’ too much to enjoy time...
In 2016 sheep contractor Tim Anderson realised he was ‘‘on the tools’’ too much to enjoy time with his young daughter so he took on more staff, and that was when the growth of his business began. He is pictured with partner Angela Burrows, daughter Sophie Pine (6) and son Michael Anderson (20 months).PHOTO: SUPPLIED
For sheep contractor Tim Anderson, the key to his business growth has been not being there himself.

Mr Anderson first started a sheep crutching, conveying and tailing contracting business in 2005, selling it after four years before buying it back in 2015.

“It’s the old story of burnout that so many owner-operators go through; if you’re on the tools and the phone all day long you can get sick of it all pretty quick.”

It was in 2016, a year after buying the business back, that Mr Anderson realised he was falling back into the same work patterns and unable to spend time with his young daughter, whom he had shared custody of.

“I decided enough was enough. I needed to find a way to run the business but also be there for my daughter for half of the week when she was with me.”

Moving away from the day-to-day labour of the work was his first step, and “cloning” himself with good staff to get on with the job.

“I would tell the farmer that we would be there to do the job, but I wouldn’t be as I had to look after my daughter.”

It’s not what farmers were used to hearing from a contractor, and for some it was quite a surprise.

“They got over it pretty quick when they could see that I had good staff to take my place.”

Mr Anderson now also has a young son with partner Ange, and feels he has managed to find that work/life balance by adding another layer of management to oversee the day-to-day work in different locations, giving him the freedom to plan ahead and be strategic.

The addition of staff meant Mr Anderson needed to scale his business up and look further afield for the work. At present he has a tailing crew of 28, and a full-time permanent staff of 20 which covers crutching, conveying and tailing from Canterbury down to Southland. This year Mr Anderson added a sixth tailing crew due to high demand.

“The lambing season has been really good for most. I don’t really take too much notice of the numbers coming through daily, but this season we are probably looking to tail 500 to 600,000 lambs.”

Finding good staff is a never-ending part of the job, and Mr Anderson’s role as coach of the Kurow rugby team has doubled as a useful recruitment agency, scouting for good workers with sound ethic.

It was in 2015 through coaching rugby that Mr Anderson employed four young guys from his rugby team. Two of them were from Tonga, and they developed a good working relationship.

“They spent the first year living with me, so I got to know them pretty well,” he said.

From there, Mr Anderson established connections and he has subsequently had more Tongan workers join him; two are now crew leaders.

As far as the work goes, Mr Anderson said the Tongan staff were a “blank slate” and he could show them how the work should be done, and the high level of accuracy needed.

“The Tongan guys tend to be quite particular and don’t like to let their standards drop. And they don’t mind pulling others up when they see something amiss.”

Going forward, Mr Anderson is keen to stabilise his crews with permanent base locations, so they are not travelling long distances each day.

“I also don’t want to be running with old gear. If you have new and reliable gear, staff tend to make more effort to look after it and keep things right. I am only as good as my staff, they have been key to the success of the business.”

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