It’s always heartening talking with business owners who are passionate about their craft, their staff, and their customers. I spent some time with Darcy Wills, owner of Hibiscus Tiling to discuss the history of his business, the craft of tiling, trading through Covid, and the many benefits of being registered with NoCowboys.
Darcy’s path to tiling is an interesting one. He left school in the late 1970s and spent ten years farming, ending up in the Waikato as a 50/50 sharemilker. A trip to Sweden in 1989 turned from the standard experience of a Kiwi on OE to a new-found profession in another country. “I met a guy who was a tiler and worked with him for a few weekends. I thought it was fun and did an apprenticeship in Stockholm. I worked for other people for about four years and then set up on my own,” Darcy says.
“Sweden was a great place to learn how to tile. Swedes are well organised and build well. They want things to be really functional as well as being good to look at,” he says.
Darcy returned to New Zealand and set up Hibiscus Tiling in 2006. After six months, with the business growing he took on more staff. Combining a love of what he does with the enjoyment of meeting new customers and exceeding their expectations, has been key to his business’ success – as has a focus on servicing mainly local customers. “People underestimate the value of being close – local,” Darcy says. “Primarily 80 percent of where I work is within 15 minutes’ drive.”
When I ask him what he loves about what he does, it is obvious that Darcy not only takes pride in what he makes but has huge respect and faith in his staff, as well as joy in dealing with customers.
“I like that tiling is physical and I like the detail. I’ve always been detailed and with tiling, you have to follow the whole process. You have to get it just right and take the time to tick all the boxes.
“The two guys (Marble and Lok) who work for me are sensational guys – the best tilers I’ve ever seen in my life. They’ve been with me 11 years. They are the most honest and hard working guys, great senses of humour. To me, finding them is like winning Lotto. I’m lucky to have them,” Darcy says. The family are involved as well, with wife Mary taking care of the bookwork/admin and their two daughters helping at jobs at various times.
It is so refreshing to hear a business owner offer such glowing feedback about their staff but I get the impression that the success of Hibiscus Tiling is due to Darcy’s openness and willingness to engage with other people in a way that quickly puts them at ease.
“I love meeting people and building good relationships. People trust us. I make sure everything is in writing and I’m very clear about the job and any potential risks. Communication is number one. It’s not brain surgery – be positive, point out potentially challenging issues and offer solutions,” he says.
So how he met the many challenges of Covid? “Well, like everyone, I’m lockdown wary. But we are lucky. We don’t have much business debt and we have a rainy day bank account. The break (Level 4) was nice. You change down a gear. Usually I am up at 5am, to make sure the day is organised. In lockdown there is not so much of that, so you get to reassess, to chill. Every day I consider how lucky so many of us are in the construction industry, that we can work. A lot of sectors are doing it really tough as a result of the lockdowns. I’m now booked out till March next year.”
One only need look at the many reviews on Hibiscus Tiling’s NoCowboys’ profile to see that all the hard work, focus, and dedication is appreciated by Darcy’s growing customer base.
Darcy registered with NoCowboys in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. “I always thought it sounded like a good idea and thought, ‘I’ll give this a go’. Reviews are brilliant and it’s easy for people to review us. Roughly 80 percent of the contact I get from customers through NoCowboys turns into work.
“I’ve never used things like Google Adwords. I haven’t needed to. With NoCowboys I ask customers for reviews and while not all of them will, lots of them do. It ticks over by itself,” Darcy says.
Talking with Darcy I’m reminded of the fact that no matter how great a business is, without online reviews, fewer people will know about them. And like so many of the businesses with NoCowboys, it is great to know that customers can connect with top grade operators who not only do what they say they will but exceed expectations.
After decades in the tiling industry, both here and in Sweden, Darcy is thoughtful about a profession that he loves – “I’ve found my sweet spot,” he says