New Zealand’s most trusted builder, GJ Gardner Homes, began building its 20,000th family home, in Ngaruawahia recently. That’s equivalent to the size of many New Zealand towns.
Grant and Ellie Porteous, the owners of the New Zealand master franchise of GJ Gardner, watched on Zoom from lockdown in Auckland as the concrete slab was poured for the new home of Jonathan and Rachel Tily and their two young children in River Road Estate, celebrating the milestone with their head office team.
GJ Gardner marked 10,000 homes in 2014, after 17 years in the market. Doubling that number only seven years later is a mark not only of the ever-increasing buoyancy of the property market, but also the “crawl, walk, run” strategy for sustainable growth that has led to GJ Gardner being the largest home builder in the country across 31 franchises.
“We never set out to be the biggest home builder in New Zealand,” Grant says.
“Our ongoing goal is to be a great business, with good family values like keeping our promises, and respecting everyone from customers to trade partners to the people in the supply chain.”
That focus on values has endured as the business has grown to 31 franchises nationwide. In many instances, new franchisees have come from long-serving staff within the nationwide team.
The Hamilton franchise, like others in the group, is run by second-generation family members. Hamilton was one of the early franchises, and while achieving the honour of building the 20,000th home also recently celebrated building its 2000th home in the Waikato region.
Grant and Ellie both have no doubt those core values, and having a close-knit team, have helped GJ Gardner to be named year on year the most trusted builder in the Reader’s Digest Trust survey, as well as putting them in a robust position in the post-Covid environment as supply issues challenge the industry.
“Many of our trades have grown their businesses with us over the past 24 years,” Grant says.
“Equally, our relationships with suppliers are strong and longstanding. Thanks to our industry-leading systems, we are working to try and secure materials six, sometimes 12, months ahead of time for our customers and our trades who we view as part of the wider GJ family.
“We must do everything possible to try to overcome the challenges of the current pandemic environment,” he says.
“For most of our customers, building a home is a huge investment for their families, a responsibility we don’t take lightly,” Ellie says.
As one example, she and Grant last year invested in training in communication skills for staff members nationwide to ensure that every part of the business was able to effectively keep customers informed and reassured during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Open and good communication is another component we see as critical in building trust between our team and clients,” she says.
Trust is the absolute key, Grant adds. When he and Ellie joined GJ Gardner in 2002, according to a Master Builders’ Association survey, fewer than 30% of people who had built new homes said they would ever do it again.
“Our vision is to have every customer recommend us to their closest friend,” he says, “and we are fortunate the team nationwide strives to achieve this by their actions every day.”
As an example of how the vision has been realised, the Hamilton franchise has built 11 homes for the members of one extended family in the region. And Jonathan and Rachel’s new house is their second family home built by GJ Gardner.
“There’s no better endorsement than that,” Grant says.