Unity comes to construction
There was a furniture maker, the son of a butcher, who ran the estate of a cocoa merchant and then became a builder. It is the start of a good story and some of the background to Unity Construction, a small but fast growing firm based in Riccarton, Christchurch.
Richard Keown, founder and main hand at Unity, says the pieces of the jigsaw that is now Unity have all held important lessons:
"I started out as a French country furniture maker, a craft requiring high quality and attention to detail, along with good customer service," he says.
"I also knew from early on I wanted to be self-employed, a result of my time helping in the family butcher's shop as a teenager. The furniture business was a good start but I was young, made some youthful decisions, learnt a lot and the business didn't survive, so I decided to head overseas," he says.
This became another part of the puzzle, as Richard picked up a job running an English country estate for a wealthy cocoa merchant. He also worked in France and did some renovations, and then after getting travelling out of his system he came home, still wanting to be self-employed.
"I retrained in building, did some sub-contracting and then five years ago I started Unity with a nephew," he says.
"Looking back, it was definitely the right time to start building in Christchurch but the one thing I wanted to avoid is make the same mistakes I did with the furniture business. So I approached Taurus early, before the earthquakes, and took them on as my accountants," he says.
"This has been one of the most important decisions I've ever made. It's great to have ideas but they need to be translated into dollars, cash flow and profit. I needed someone to keep me on track, pull the reins when needed, tell me my ideas were bad when I thought they were good, be my mentor, adviser and greatest supporter – and this what I found at Taurus," he says.
"Proper advice and guidance, gives you the confidence to think big, while knowing you are being kept on the financial rails," he says.
"Here's a good example - we realise the current upbeat construction climate won't last forever, so a long-term plan is essential. Taurus and Unity have been looking at this for months," he says.
So with the help of Paul Wouters and his team at Taurus, Unity is in the process of becoming a developer.
"Taurus has helped us acquire a site and attract investment, and we've completed concept drawings with work starting soon," says Richard, "this is a logical step and will take all our experience and lessons and apply it to an evolving business, so we can provide jobs and incomes long into the future."
The unity Richard has created over the last few years is now shared with 17 team members and a growing list of clients; and with a long term vision Unity is on a path for growth.