A Memorable Milestone

A stalwart of the New Zealand roofing fraternity, Tauranga-based Harkin Roofing recently celebrated 40 years in business… and a whole lot more.

Harkin Roofing has gone through some exciting changes lately. Firstly, in October last year they moved into a brand new building in order to expand their manufacturing capability – they also imported some new machinery and have since expanded their flashing division. To celebrate the expansion into their new home, and also to commemorate their 40-year milestone in roofing business, Harkin Roofing threw a wee party, inviting their clients, suppliers and staff to a special event. In all, around 100 people attended and a great evening was had by all – no-one more so than the patriarch of the company, Rex Harkin, who was guest of honour in recognition of his four-plus decades at the helm. The evening also marked Rex’s retirement and the handing over of the company he founded in 1979 to his children Brad and Deborah.

Rex started out as a sheet-metal worker at Industrial Sheetmetals in the early 1970’s. It was not long after this that he met his future wife Sue… and her father Bob Eaton, who, it turned out, would have a deep effect on Rex’s future. Bob was a very successful businessman, and with Bob’s thoughts in his head and with a trade as a sheet-metal worker under his belt, he realised that there was an opportunity in roofing. Despite receiving a lot of negative feedback, especially from his father, who did not think you would be able to make any money in roofing, Rex decided to pursue it.

Rex started off with a ladder on top of his car and went out and found himself some roofing jobs. He did this for a few years, before he and Sue went off and lived and worked overseas for a spell. It was shortly after their return that he really got the roofing business off the ground and formed Harkin Roofing in 1979. It was tough going in the early years. Rex would work long hours all day on the tools, then at night he would do the paperwork side of the business. In the early 80’s Rex suggested to Sue, who was teaching at the
time, that they form a team and work together. So that’s what they did.

Rex and Sue formed a great team, and it was in those years that Harkin Roofing really took off and flourished. Sue went on to become extremely successful in her own right in the industry. She helped to form the Roofing Association of New Zealand (RANZ) and was its first president. Without Sue, Harkin Roofing and, in fact, the roofing industry in New Zealand would not be where it is today.

Even in those early years Rex was always trying to win the bigger job. Early on, when he still only had one guy working with him, he wanted to win a packhouse job in Te Puke. So Rex went into the meeting and fought to get given the job, convincing them that Harkin Roofing was the company to do it. The job was well outside his scope at that time, but once he had won it he worked out how he would do it and never let anyone down. As the years went on Rex worked less and less on the tools and more in the office.

He became an extremely successful businessman, which his daughter, Deborah, believes is down to these five key things:

1. His handshake was binding and if he shook your hand on something, he would not break the agreement. People knew that about him and knew his word was his word.

2. Relationships are everything in business. He learnt this early on, and therefore always ensured he had great relationships with both clients and suppliers. He always went round and wished everyone merry Christmas and took them a Harkin Roofing branded gift.

3. It sounds obvious, but he always ensured you’d get paid for the work you’d done.

4. Communication is everything. If you say you will be there, make sure you are on the job.

5. Lastly, but the most importantly, you are nothing without your staff.

“These are the five principles Brad and I have learnt from Dad and we continue to live by them,” says Deborah. “Brad and I are extremely thankful to Rex that he held on to Harkin Roofing for us, and are forever grateful as he allowed us to fulfil our dream of running Harkin Roofing.”

Deborah goes on to say that her brother, Brad, is very similar to Rex in many ways, forever hunting out the next big job; and the success and growth Harkin has had in the last few years is a testament to Brad and how hard he works and how he continues to grow his knowledge of roofing. “Brad lives and breathes roofing,” she says. “When most people are enjoying their weekend, Brad will be driving round the lakes with his wife Lacey, looking at what is currently being built and making sure we have plans for it. I will frequently get texts
and calls in the weekend from Brad as he has an idea and wants to discuss it.”

With the handover to the next generation complete, together with a guiding set of principals to work to, it looks like Harkin Roofing is in safe hands for the next 40 years.