Family-owned business Conroy Removals celebrate 50 years in 2022 and despite one of the most challenging times in their history, dealing with both the COVID pandemic and a flood wreaking havoc at their Onekawa, Napier base, the father and daughter-run operation has emerged stronger than ever. Just prior to COVID, general manager Fiona Conroy followed in her father David’s footsteps, joining The Icehouse business owner’s Programme at the Hawke’s Bay Business Hub.
Growing up, there was a hard and fast rule for Fiona Conroy – no joining the business until she had been out in the world to decide if it was a path she was really interested in.
Ever since she can remember, Fiona has been immersed in the family business. “That was just life, there was always the trucks and holiday work in the office.” After a “much-loved” OE and finishing a Bachelor of Business Studies, an opportunity came up to join the Wellington branch. “I thought I’ll give it 12 months and see how it goes” plus having finished uni’ studies meant there was a back-up plan “just in case things didn’t work out”.
Fiona eventually took the Conroy’s sales rep’ position in 2003 covering the Wellington, Manawatu and Wairarapa regions. Now back in Hawke’s Bay, Fiona is Conroy’s GM, based in the original Lipton Place Onekawa offices, juggling three children and being a director of local business, Pacific Powder Coating run by husband Joe Koenigsberger.
Off the back of the property market, this year’s growth at Conroys has been significant.
“There is a big push for house moves out of the cities. The continual lockdown for Aucklanders meant if they have the opportunity to leave, then it into the regions.
“The trucks are definitely seeing a north to south flow. We thought our international part of the business would tank post-Covid but Kiwis are coming back from all over the world.. “In August last year the inquiry for the sales team from Aussie spiked and it really hit us in December. Then we saw a plateau because people couldn’t get a booking in a quarantine hotel but now, with the bubble, we are seeing another lift of Trans-Tasman traffic. But the international shipping is a real headache. We have a contract as a moving group for preferred rates and space and it’s still a real struggle to to get any space at all.“
The commercial side of the business was also busy with people buying new furniture and doing home renovations.
Looking back on the lockdown Fiona admits initially it felt like a panic. “Getting everybody home, we had a full diary – there was massive pressure. Only some small elements of the business were considered essential and effectively 70% of our work stopped at Level 4.”
“Dad and I came into the office and sat at opposite ends of the boardroom and just worked through how we were going to make it work.”
Fiona had joined the Icehouse in early 2020 to develop her management and leadership skills.
“I had enrolled in the Owner Operator Programme but suddenly when Covid hit, I felt overwhelmed with the unknown ahead and thought, what am I doing starting now but actually in hindsight the timing was ideal. We have been foot down ever since and that’s where I have appreciated being in the Icehouse. I have been able to step out of the office for a few hours or Zoom with the other owners in the programme while also having the one on one coaching with Michaela Vodanovich. The coaching time has been totally invaluable to pause and reflect. Michaela is so experienced and has been direct and straight up. You tend to lose focus when you are really busy and the strategic plan gets lost, so now I have been able to work on the plan during coaching sessions instead of trying to do it in the weekend. Being able to do the Programme in Hawke’s Bay has also been a godsend.”
And then there was the November flood to deal with – repairs are on-going.
“It’s a disruption and a whole layer of something we didn’t need to deal with. Our main challenge this year is keeping up with demand for moving services and recruiting staff. The driver shortage nationwide is huge and we need to focus on enticing people into the transport industry and learning our trade – not easy when there are so many jobs opportunities available. We are hoping the government will ease border restrictions in the months ahead – we need people which is a challenge we share with many Hawke’s Bay businesses.”