Petrie Construction

Petrie Construction is an Architectural building company in Christchurch specialising in mid to high-end residential projects.  Their projects span from new builds, renovations, and multi-dwelling developments.

The owners Sam and Honor make a formidable team. Honor, a former teacher has confidently transferred her skillset into all aspects of business management and development at Petrie Construction.  In the partnership, she is the business planner, the forward thinker and the numbers person.  Essentially, the backbone of operations.

Sam holds the title of Project Manager and builder, but if you dig a little deeper you will find he is quite the industry enigma. Holding a national cert of carpentry and Registered Master Builder he has the qualified skills, attention to detail, but his ‘piece de resistance’ is his Degree in Architectural Design.  Clients experience the Petrie Construction magic from vision to completion. 

Sam and Honour image and lounge image together.

Image credit – Sarah Rowlands

We capture Honor in Akaroa in the midst of having one of their houses being judged as a first time entrant for House of the Year.  Time has been invested into the detail of presentation to complement the building itself.  For each house the judges have a whooping 2000 points to assess against.  Honor explains, ‘ although it has added to our workload, we are really proud of the work we produce and this gives us a chance to showcase our craftsmanship and expertise.’  Results aren’t shared until July at the official awards night, so for now their part is done and dusted and it is back to business.

Speaking to Honor about the previous  year, she confirms that 2023 was slower than usual.   So as a small business they used it as an opportunity to review high level strategies that would weather future ebbs and flows of the construction industry’s demand.

Entry to building

Image credit – Sarah Rowlands

As with any small company, when business is good it’s enjoyable but being agile and having a few tricks up your sleeve to ride the tough times will make the difference. 

“Understanding that as a business owner you will encounter challenging times and the key is finding ways that work for you to maintain a positive headspace to ride through these.” – Honour

A friend, experienced in business, suggested speaking to other builders.  Initially it was uncomfortable and Honor describes their approach as needing to show vulnerability.  They engaged with builders who had experience and managed the roller coaster of demand, and were doing well in business.  Curiosity and a keenness to learn gave the Petrie team valuable insight into how to do better and continue to improve systems and processes. 

Image credit – Sarah Rowlands

Something that wasn’t expected was that these conversations also opened some opportunities for business collaborations on projects.  Honor mentioned that when agreeing to work on a shared project, it is important to ensure business values align.  

For their employees, one advantage of being part of a small business is the ease of relationships, feeling valued, and exposure to different aspects of business.  During the quieter time throughout COVID-19, employees were being tested on their abilities to read and interpret plans, and interviewed about their future aspirations in and outside of the business.  The Petrie’s see this is all part of returning investment into the team.

For every small business, awareness of your lead generation cycle is crucial. “We know the building planning cycle is about a year to 18 months.  We are booked up until May 2025.  Referrals generate leads for us, but we now make sure we are not complacent and totally rely on this for new business.”

 

Outdoor rear right

Image credit – Sarah Rowlands

In a couple of months, Honor will look to produce targeted marketing to strengthen brand awareness and attract the right clients.  “Marketing requires spending money and you want to make sure you get the return on your investment particularly with a small business budget!  We schedule our marketing dates in advance so it brings in future business at the time we need it.  We are careful not to over promote our availability and then find we can’t deliver on expected timeframes or have to say no.  We want our clients to have a positive experience from start to finish.  Also, we’re wasting time and marketing money if we are turning down responses”

Once established, the Petrie team found a successful feeder into their planning was to work the numbers backwards.  “Starting with your ideal profit, work the numbers backwards taking into account margins, cost and then find what you need to achieve this.  Honor’s suggestion, “Plan, plan, plan and numbers, numbers, numbers.”