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Our thoughts are with our members and their organisations impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle. Boards have a key role to play in the wake of any crisis. See guidance for chairs and directors

Step by Step

For Aaron Rink, Director and Chief Executive of CF Reese Plumbing, the successful progression from having 'coffee mentors' to a full board was a matter of timing. It happened at a pace that suited him - a step at a time.

By Institute of Directors
1 Apr 2014
read time
3 min to read
Aaron Rink profile photo

Aaron Rink and CF Reese Plumbing

CF Reese Plumbing was established in 1946. Aaron Rink began his apprenticeship there in 1990 and was appointed general manager six years later. He went on to purchase shares in the business from the founder, Colin Reese, and in 2002 he and his wife took full control of the business. It trades today as the CF Reese Plumbing Group, with its head office in Hamilton. The Group is governed by a board chaired by an independent director, Margaret Devlin. Other board members include Kevin Gallichan, Sarah Pratt and Aaron.

In recent years, the business has undergone significant development, expanding and specialising in different areas of the plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying industry. CF Reese Plumbing now has two operations divisions. The Services Division specialises in plumbing maintenance and response, covering everything from a simple tap washer or blocked drain through to a kitchen or bathroom renovation. It also operates a 60-minute 24/7 service, with its after-hours phone dispatch system referring callers with emergency work to a local security company that guarantees a call will be responded to within 30 minutes and a plumber dispatched within the hour. The Contracts Division tackles tendered or priced work, from a new home or large commercial renovation through to rest home or hotel works such as the recently completed Ibis Hotel in Hamilton. Within this division are specialist housing and commercial teams along with the drainage department, fully equipped with an excavator, trucks and other machinery and equipment.

Making good decisions

Aaron's experience demonstrates what statistics confirm – that regardless of their size, businesses with more formal structures tend to develop more quickly and with a better and more clearly defined direction than those without.

If your business is expanding or changing direction, it is bound to benefit from the ability to see what lies ahead and avoid unforeseen obstacles.

If you don't have a strategy or desire to make a change from your current position, maybe you don't need a formal structure or external advice. Remember, however, that nothing stands still and change will happen anyway. Instead of waiting until the external environment may force you to make a change, it's often a good idea to anticipate change and devise a strategy for dealing with it.

Taking the final step

Success brought complacency and the advisory board's role diminished. After attending an IoD company directors' course, I knew I needed more independent help. I enlisted the IoD's appointment service and two independent directors were appointed to the board, with one independent director as chair. Some may say I've given up control of my own company, but I have gained tremendous support from our independent directors and the board. They bring a wealth of business knowledge to the table, and they ask the hard questions and challenge my thinking. I have not given up control, I have finally gained control.

Having me working in the capacity of CEO reporting to the Board has proved very successful for CF Reese, both financially and structurally. The business is forging ahead in what are difficult times for the construction industry.

With the support of the board, our company is in good hands going forward. We have addressed the issues that face small family-owned businesses. I look forward to the future in the knowledge that I am no longer alone in my own company.

First steps to governance

Early on, I realised that being a competent technician didn't automatically mean I was a competent business person. I was incredibly passionate about CF Reese and growing the business was easy, but building the business and putting processes in place didn't come naturally. In the early years, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I needed help.

After attending a business development course, I called on the help of a business coach. At the time, I was forging ahead with the business and my wife and fellow shareholder/director, Sarah, was working as a nurse and raising our family away from the business. She felt out of the loop and at risk.

The solution was to form an advisory board. Systems, processes and delegated authorities were put in place and the business grew in a more structured way, with the staff going from two to 35 in a few short years.

In 2005, CF Reese was named Master Plumber of the Year for New Zealand.