Heron Plumbing: Employer of the Year 2023 at the 2degress Auckland Business Awards

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RBA Member
RBA Member

The RBA is thrilled to congratulate Heron Plumbing on winning Employer of the Year at the 2degrees Auckland Business Awards. The team was dressed to the nines to accept their award at the North and West Regional Gala dinner on October 5, and owners Dale and Andrea Lovell couldn’t be prouder.

“Our staff are amazing – they really are,” says Andrea, who is also the office manager at Heron. “We have quite a family culture. We know all their wives and kids’ names and what they’re doing. That’s really important to both Dale and me because we’re very family-oriented people ourselves.”

Andrea and Dale have owned Heron Plumbing since 2011, but Dale’s history with the 63-year-old business goes back decades. As a young man, he began working on original owner Bryan Heron’s farm, and two years later joined Heron Plumbing as an apprentice – a career path echoed by that of Heron’s staff today.

“Most of our staff started with us as apprentices and worked their way up,” says Andrea. “We’ve always given them a direction on where they can go within the company.” Long tenure within the business, one of the bigger plumbing companies in Auckland, is also the norm. “We tend to hold on to our employees. Our four most senior staff have been with us between 13 and 17 years, and one of our older employees has been with us for 25 years. Normally, if any staff do leave us, it’s either to go overseas or for senior positions we’re unable to offer them because we only have so many.”

But, she adds, that’s not always the end of the story. “We’ve been really lucky. We’ve had a couple that have gone and come back for the culture within our company.”

No wonder, with a team culture that values a personal connection with each and every staff member and their family. “We’re all very close,” says Andrea. “We know everybody’s partners and their kids. Dale and I have been to the weddings of all our senior staff and we’ve seen all their kids grow up. We treat everyone the same; we don’t care what race or religion they are, they’re all treated as family. It’s a really nice culture to have.”

Work-life balance is a top priority, too. “If you want a day off for any reason, you get it. If they’ve got young children, we encourage them not to miss those special events. I don’t think we’ve ever had to say no to a holiday or a day off – we’ve always been able to work ourselves around it.”

The team at Heron Plumbing team is passionate about what they do, and they’ve cultivated a strong local reputation. “We support the community, and people know that,” says Andrea. “We’re part of the Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation, and we were behind the plumbing at The Trusts stadium. All of our workmanship is guaranteed, we always leave things to a high quality.”

The staff take pride in providing customers with stress-free service options they won’t find elsewhere.

“We’re maintenance and we’re commercial, so we do everything,” says Andrea. “And we’re Rheem service agents, so there’s a few of our guys who have limited electrical licenses. That means you don’t need to get in an electrician and a plumber when your hot water heater has issues – we can do it all.”

The team also handles issues with backflow and drainage. “We’re really a one-stop shop. You don’t have to use someone for your plumbing, someone else for your gas, someone else for your drainage, someone for your roofing – we can actually do all of that.”

The Heron Plumbing team numbers around 30, which is double the number of staff who were with the business when Dale and Andrea took over. The majority are men, which is no surprise in the male-dominated plumbing industry, but four are female, with three working in admin roles and one a plumbing apprentice.

“I’m really excited about that,” says Andrea. “We’d love to have more females in the industry. It’s really hard to get women into the trades, but more and more are putting their hand up to join us.”

It’s clear that Andrea is a firm supporter of the plumbing industry, despite her laughing that plumbing was always Dale’s dream, not hers. “Dale is the one who started off as an apprentice, and it was never anything I wanted to do. But since I’ve been within the industry, I’ve learned that plumbers are really down to earth, really friendly and inviting, and the industry is really welcoming. That’s one thing I really like about it. And with us, our staff treat you as one of the boys, but they treat you with respect.”

Dale is always keen to get involved in industry extracurriculars; he is a former chairman of the Auckland Master Plumbers and has been on the executive team of the New Zealand Master Plumbers. Andrea says that meeting others plumbing business owners and discussing shared issues is another benefit of the industry.

“It is a really cool industry,” she says. “All the suppliers and merchants are nice to deal with as well. It’s not an industry to shy away from – there are definitely career opportunities here.”

With Heron’s ongoing success and their reputation for high-quality workmanship, Andrea says their goal is to maintain their excellent service – and their current size.

“We don’t want to get bigger. Sometimes you can get too big and you don’t know your staff. We like to know who all of our staff are, their family and their children, so this is a good-sized company for us.”

With the festive season around the corner, the team will soon be coming together in true family style to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and all their hard work.

“Christmas is a very family-oriented occasion,” says Andrea. “Our Christmas parties are always at our place, with all their wives, husbands, and children as well. We tried to move away from it,” she chuckles, “but the feedback was that the team prefers it at ours. And then we’ve got a mid-winter Christmas that’s just staff and we do go-karting or whatever they want to do.”

Dale and Andrea have three young adult-aged children of their own, none of whom are interested in taking over the family business, but that suits the couple just fine. “We’ve always told them to follow their own passion.” Better yet, adds Andrea, it makes the career path available to their staff all the more visible. “Our guys know that they can come up from within the company and someone’s going to have to take it over, since it’s not our kids’ passion. We’ve always made that clear.”

Congratulations once again to Dale, Andrea, and the Heron Plumbing team. For any maintenance or commercial plumbing needs, get in touch with the team on 0800 888 287, or visit their website to request a free quote: https://www.heronplumbing.co.nz/

Roundabout Magazine

This article was published in Roundabout Magazine Issue 202 (November 2023).

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