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Customer story: Dean’s Auto Electrical print Print

  • 3.9 out of 5 stars
  • from 46 ratings

Shaken by the Canterbury earthquakes, Tracy and Dean’s Auto Electrical business lost a lot of clients and they almost closed the doors. But they took the hard road instead, and with an innovative mindset, are flying along.

The year was 2010. The first of the Canterbury earthquakes, with a magnitude of 7.1, struck the Canterbury region on September 4. Kaiapoi, a small settlement north of Christchurch, was hit hard.

Deans Auto 1

Small, busy business Dean’s Auto Electric, founded by Tracy and Dean Inwood, lost 80 clients after the earthquake.

“We were one kilometre down from one of the worst damaged areas in Kaiapoi, and we saw many of our clients lose their homes and move from the area due to red zoning,” Tracy says.

It was a tough period, and by the time the February 2011 earthquake struck, the couple was thinking seriously about whether they should close the doors on their then 19-year-old business.

They didn’t; instead Tracy and Dean started working with Enterprise North Canterbury on a mentoring scheme.

“This made us look at our whole operation and where we could innovate in the changing environment. We realised we needed to manage our growth and have the right team around us.”

As the Inwoods worked through their future plans, they realised they needed a supportive bank behind them and made the decision to switch providers and partner with ANZ.

Tracy says their ANZ business specialist, Scott Murray, is available when they need him and understands the business environment in their local area.

On Scott’s advice, the couple recently attended a ‘speed dating’ business network workshop, where they met potential customers, including Waghorn Builders, which are now clients.

“The boys from Waghorns brought a truck in to us after it caught fire. We managed to sort out the problem and get it going and back on the road the same day,” Tracy says.

Deans Auto 2

One of the main changes for Dean’s Auto Electric since 2011 is recognising that with an innovative mindset, the Christchurch earthquakes could represent a business opportunity, as well as a challenge, Tracy says.

To assess the damage caused by the quakes, various drainage teams in Canterbury had to work around the clock, assessing the damage and repairing as quickly as possible.

Cue Dean’s Auto Electric, who converted a number of their clients’ service vans into mobile offices with computer equipment. This allowed drainage teams to film pipe damage and inspect the footage on the spot, instead of going back to the office to view it.

“Vehicles these days have had to be kitted out as 24/7 mobile offices – some of our clients spend lots of hours sitting in them.” Downtime is costly for their commercial customers, which is why the skilled team has also developed other solutions to keep their customer’s fleets on the road and fit by the new standards set by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority – such as fitting commercial vehicles with LED lighting and light bars.

In addition, the company has joined Battery Town, a national network of privately-owned auto electricians, and has invested in new technology to diagnose vehicle problems, which will expand the company’s scope of work.

Dean and Tracy now have six staff, and are looking to expand their workforce further.

Tracy’s top tips for start-ups:

  1. Make contact with your local economic business development team for training and support.
  2. Never overpromise to clients, because that way you can meet and exceed their expectations.
  3. Remember the power of word of mouth. “A happy client will bring you ten clients, an unhappy client will lose you twice that many,” she says.
  4. Build a good team and culture. “Happy, valued employees are loyal employees, and bring value to a business”

Find a local ANZ Business Specialist, or attend a free ANZ workshop for business owners.

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