Feature - Smallbone Limited - August 2019

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Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Smallbone Limited feature is a complimentary supplement produced by the Ashburton Guardian

Editorial contributor Sue Newman

Designer Yendis Albert

SMALLBONE LIMITED Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ashburton Guardian


Smallbones, a business with its heart in its community. Family businesses are the heartbeat of New Zealand towns, and none more so than the businesses that have grown from small beginnings to become an essential part of their community. Ashburton is fortunate to have several businesses that have remained in family hands for all of their years, some still have members of their founding family at the helm, others may have changed owners, but are still very much in family hands. And one of those Smallbone Ltd, is now celebrating its 100th birthday. Over its life, the vehicle retailing and servicing business has been owned by just three families – Harold and Lillian Smallbone, Bruce and Betty Smallbone, Bob and Deirdre Grant and it is now jointly in the hands of the Grant and Carr families. Those four families have their roots very firmly in the Ashburton District. It’s been the place they’ve called home and the place they’ve raised their children, earned their living, where they’ve put their energies into supporting their community. Where some long time businesses pass into corporate hands when the original owners retire, for the second

generation Smallbone, Bruce, it was important his business stayed local and that when he chose to retire, he wanted its new owner to be someone who shared the same passion and vision as we did. Bob Grant had started as an office boy, moving up to car sales manager. He was local and he was committed to the business and the community. Bruce knew he had the right man to become the company’s third owner. For decades Bob ran the business through tough trading times and through times when the economy was strong, but like any good businessman he had his eye on the future and knew that Smallbones needed to grow and change to meet a rapidly changing market. That meant a reshape of the business and a decision to bring in a partner. He found that partner in the Carr family. Today Bob and the Carr family are continuing the Smallbone Brothers original dream of a business that was more than just a business, they held firmly to the belief that a good family business should also be a vital part of its community. Over the past century, the men and

women behind the company have been more than the businesses owners, they have been part of the fabric of the Ashburton District. It has been their place of business and their home. While Smallbones may have started out as a two-man business, just Harold and Frank Smallbone, it quickly grew to become a big employer in the district. Over the past 100 years, it has provided the livelihood for thousands of families and each of those families has become part of the Smallbone family. The ‘Boneyard’, as it has been affectionately called by generations of staff, was also a place where many school leavers gained work opportunities, where many learned a trade and while some moved on to other workplaces, many stayed. Across the years, the company can count the number of long serving staff into the hundreds. It has not been uncommon for staff to log 50 years on the payroll, spending their entire working life under the Smalbone banner. And like any company that has weathered fluctuating fortunes of trading for a century, the Smallbone team is looking to the future. It has already expanded from its

original Cass Street base, relocating its Holden business to a site on the corner of Fords Road and State Highway One. A second base was opened for Isuzu also, along State Highway One as well as two outlets in Timaru. The century-old business is not standing still. With a board of directors, family owners, and a general manager at the helm, the business is well positioned to respond to trading in the rapidly changing world the motor industry has become. While many of the changes that will come in the years ahead cannot be predicted, Smallbones now has the business agility to respond quickly and to take advantage of new ideas and new opportunities as it enters its second century serving the motoring needs of the people of Canterbury. This week the company is celebrating its 100th birthday with a series of events, which started with an official unveiling of the company’s timeline and an afternoon tea on Monday.

A public celebration will be held on Saturday, August 31 at the Plains from 10am to 2pm.

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Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A YOUNG MAN WITH A DREAM BUILDING A BUSINESS ON HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION Over the past century the name Smallbones has become part an integral part of the Ashburton District’s motoring, social and business history. And while that business today spans two sites in Ashburton and two in Timaru, its beginning was humble, just a small service garage on Cass Street. Smallbones began as the dream of two ambitious young men, Harold and Frank Smallbone. While they shared the load in the business’ early days, the garage was to become very much Harold’s passion. Like many family businesses that have stood the test of time, Smallbone Bros was built on sheer hard work. The motor industry was in its infancy but the Smallbone brothers believed motor vehicles would be the way of the future, that the day of the horse was if not over, then fading fast. For three months before the doors opened, Harold literally spent every moment of his life in the garage – sleeping, eating and working on site.

He had three old blankets and a bag of straw for a bed. And once the garage opened, he continued to offer a 24-hour service, with advertisements from the time telling customers they could call the business number day or night. The building, where the foundations of the Smallbone empire were laid, had previously been a garage – abandoned by its owner, and prior to that it had served a local rugby club as an indoor practice venue. With the doors open, the business quickly expanded with additional workshops added.

Initially Harold and Frank were a team of two, but the business grew and four more staff were added. Over the years staff numbers continued to rise, hitting 64 when the company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1969. Unlike the multi-armed business that Smallbones is today, the company, in its early days, dealt in motor car repairs only. The garage held no agency, but all makes of vehicles were welcome in the workshop. Harold and Frank remained business partners for 15 years, but in 1934 the part-

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nership dissolved and Harold struck out on his own with the support of some farmer investors. And that put the pressure on. Not only was Harold making an income for himself and his family, he also wanted to make sure his shareholders received a decent return on their investment. While others in the motor industry ventured into selling cars, for many years Smallbones stuck with what they did best, fixing cars. However, in 1942 a visitor walked into the

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SMALLBONE LIMITED Wednesday, August 28, 2019

workshop and asked why they didn’t have an agency. That man turned out to be the New Zealand manager for Dodge and he challenged Harold’s refusal to take on an agency saying selling new cars was the easiest money they could make. Harold Smallbone quickly changed his mind and at 25 pounds ($50) a car sold, selling motor cars became a field day for the business. And for Harold, that move into vehicle sales saw him spending many hours canvass-

ing farms for sales. He has been quoted as saying that one of the keys to selling motor cars on a farm was to always wash up the dishes for the wife and, if there were children around, to always make sure you had lollies in your pocket. With cars now firmly part of the Smallbone business, the company turned its mind to tractors, but selling tractors to farmers, who had for decades used horses, required a little education. Overloading was the biggest problem as farmers assumed their tractor would do four

times as much as one horse. And that mean broken axles were common. For Harold, selling cars and tractors might have earned the business good trade, but repairing vehicles remained his greatest love. In 1941 the company bought its rented site on Cass Street (now part of the Eastfield development) and in 1955 it bought the neighbouring property – then owned by Brays Cordial and today the site of Braided Rivers restaurant and bar. For more than 50 years Harold continued

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to be the company’s leader as its governing director and until his death in 1977, he continued to maintain a strong interest in the business he founded in 1919. Harold Smallbone built his business through sheer hard work and sticking with his policy of always being of service to the public. If the company gave its word on anything then nothing would make it break that word. Servicing what it sold and servicing it well was the company’s byword.

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Congratulations to Smallbone Ltd. for 100 years in business

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019



Above left – Bruce Smallbone.

Above right – It was a proud moment for Bruce Smallbone when daughters Mary (left) and Anne bought their first vehicles from the company’s yard, matching Vauxhall Vivas.

Bruce Smallbone might have grown up as the son of a motor vehicle business owner, but like many sons of many business owners, he learned his trade from the ground up. In his memoirs, Bruce writes of his very clear recollections of spending enjoyable hours as a lad in short pants travelling around the district with his father Harold on company business. His first active role was as a school boy when he had to cycle from school at lunch time each Friday to collect a hot meal, neatly served up on a dinner plate and then wrapped in a tea towel. This had to be delivered to his father in the Cass Street workshop because his dad was too busy to bike home. From the time he was able to pump petrol and handle cash it was his job to open the petrol pumps each Sunday and from 8am until noon he was on duty. Inevitably when it came time for Bruce to start work, the family debate centred around whether or not he should go into the family business. His father was keen to see him become a lubrication operator in the garage but his mother, Lillian,

wanted to have her son initially trained by a stranger. She encouraged him to apply for an office boy’s position at Wright Stephenson and Co. and his father was not impressed when told his son had landed the job. Bruce started work at the beginning of 1940 and over the next two years moved from office boy to retail clerk. The war, however, was to cut his retail career short and he joined the army in 1941 and went on to spend his war years overseas. During the war years, Harold’s health began to fail and he was keen to sell the business. A deal was on the table with Wright Stephensons who wanted to buy Smallbone Bros as a going concern for 12,500 pounds. They intended to retain Harold on staff for 18 months, but after that the family’s ties with the business would have ended. This was a turning point in Bruce’s life. At his mother’s pleadings he reluctantly agreed to go into a partnership in the business. The sale was off and both he and his mother were made directors. Bruce then had the heart breaking job of writing to his former employer saying

he would not be returning to his earlier position. In 1945 following disembarkment Bruce started work in the family business. That coincided with a revamp of the company’s premises to accommodate vehicles in the General Motors franchise. The first vehicles that arrived in their first allocation – a 1946 Chevrolet black Fleetmaster and 1946 two Chevrolet Wellside trucks Bruce was also faced with the unenviable task of travelling around the district, calling on customers who had not used the company for more than six months. Most had closed their accounts, but he managed to woo many back into the fold. On January 11, 1946, Bruce negotiated and purchased the sole remaining shares in the company that were held by earlier farmer shareholders. And Smallbone Bros was now owned by Harold, Lillian and Bruce. Being part of the General Motors stable also meant being part of national training courses and Bruce and Fred Jary had their first real experience of dealer-


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ship responsibilities at a service managers’ course in 1946. In 1949 when his mother died, Bruce inherited her shares, giving him onethird of the company. In 1953 he took over as managing director but Harold was to remain governing director on full pay, until his death at the age of 91. In 1965, the company came again close to being sold for 145,000 pounds, but General Motors would not agree to transfer the franchise, and the sale fell through. If Bruce sold Smallbones, they made it clear they would be looking to appoint a completely new General Motors dealership in Mid Canterbury. The potential sale and the likely loss of the General Motors franchise infuriated Harold. Smallbone Bros remained in family hands with Bruce taking over full financial control in 1972. A third attempt at a sale was to come in 1984 after Bruce suffered a stroke and began to put in place what would become a successful sale, this time to staff member Bob Grant.

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uary 9, 2018

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

AND SMALLBONES GO A LONG WAY BACK It was December 1972 and Bob was a schoolboy, looking for his first job. His dad knew Alan Copping, the office manager at Smallbone Bros, they had a vacancy for an office boy. Bob put on a tie, quietened his nerves and headed in for an interview. “I ended up with the job and I was servant to 10 office girls,” he said.

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He might have been at the bottom of the office rung, but young Bob loved the job. It was a workplace before the days of computers – Gestetners as photocopiers, manual bookkeeping and adding machines and manual typewriters. He remembers the day the boss bought the office’s first calculator. It cost $180 and while it did little more than add or subtract, it was a modern day marvel in the very manual office. Back then the Smallbone Bros office was an old, cold two storey brick house on the corner of Cass and Burnett streets. The building was once home and office to one of the town’s GPs, Dr Wells. For about three years Bob spent his working days in accounts but life was about to change. The boss Bruce Smallbone decided the young man had a different future as a salesman. Bob’s mother wasn’t so keen. In those days car salesmen were viewed with

a bit of caution and she said that wasn’t quite what she wanted for her boy but if he had his heart set on the job, then she gave her blessing. Day one and Bob realised he wouldn’t immediately be the slick salesman in flashy shoes doing deals in the first year. “Bruce gave me a tin with Conquer and kerosene in it and a toothbrush and said I was about to learn how to clean and groom cars. That’s how you did it, you learned the hard way,” he said. It might have been a tough introduction but Bob said he takes his hat off to Bruce Smallbone and Alan Copping for the way they taught new employees about the job. You didn’t just learn a function, you learned how it fitted into the whole picture, they ensure you understood the whole process, he said. continued on next page

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Ashburton Guardian

Ski town turns into trail town By SuSan SandyS


Getting pitch perfect for their production later this week are Mid Canterbury Summer Singing School students (from left): Lucy Clough, EJ Stockman, Emily-Jane Farr and Annah Casey-Solly. practice, before director Alice Sollis steps in to help with the actions from Wednesday onwards.

Three 80-minute performances of Time Travellers will take place on Friday night, Saturday after-

already assessed. Then we’ll do another desk top review and pick up the ones we may have missed and we’ll work with them,” he said. Buildings that have not been assessed will be given the lowest rating until an assessment is done, Wong said. There had been a proposal to change the rules so the cut-off date for engineering assessment would have moved forward to cover all buildings built before 2004 and that would have seen hundreds of buildings around the district bearing stickers, he said. The consultation process ensured there was no date change

Te Araroa walkers are on the rise, benefiting the summer tourism industry in Methven. Many who do the 3000-kilometre trail, which runs the length of New Zealand, end up in the ski town, as it is a natural resting point near the uncrossable Rakaia River. Methven i-SITE consultant Lyndsay Agnew said December to February was peak season for assisttrail walkers, and she was assist ing about half a dozen per week. “Most of them are doing the whole trail or the whole South Island, depending on how much THE time they have got,” she said. “They are really interesting people, you have to be a certain breed to want to go and walk 3000 kilometres.” They mostly came from Europe and North America, and walked north to south, hitch-hiking into Methven from above Lake Coleridge. They generally stayed in the campground or backpacker lodges in Methven. “It’s nice to have them here and they spread the word when they go back,” she said. Walkers rejoin the trail on Blackford Road in the Rakaia Gorge, and Methven Travel provides transport on the “empty” section of its school bus run, and operates an on-demand shuttle service in school holidays. After a couple of days rest in Methven, the Te Araroa trail beckons once again for American hiker The Te Araroa section through Mid Canterbury goes from here to the Hakatere Heron Road, taksouth. “A lot of Kiwis don’t even hitchhiked to Methven, and left fered a Hikers’ Special made it all ing a public access easement over know about the trail,” Beckett at the weekend aiming to hitch to the more attractive. Glenariffe Station, then crossing said. north of Lake Coleridge to resume “My feet were pretty banged up, the 60,000-hectare Hakatere ConHe was not worried about being the trail. so I decided to hang out for just servation Park. without a cellphone. Beckett said the trail to date had one more day,” Beckett said. Among those undertaking Te “If you don’t have service it’s had many river crossings, and He flew into Auckland in midAraroa is American Clayton Becknot going to help you and you are some mountainous terrain, as December, and had his cellphone ett. His trail name is Chef, he has not going to get that in the mounwell as farm tracks and dirt roads. stolen in his first two days. He a travel blog at chefspecial5.com tains,” he said. Besides the road walks, which he flew to Queenstown and shuttled and is from Connecticut. He was confident enough from did not like as they lacked the wilto the southern end of Te Araroa The 26-year-old is walking the previous trail walking in Chile derness appeal of true trail walkat Bluff, and walked 555 kilomeSouth Island section, south to and America not to worry about ing, and a lack of markers in some tres north to Twizel over the next north, and was in Methven at the an emergency locator beacon. areas, he was enjoying the scenfortnight, staying in high country weekend. He said he ended up In the 12 months to July last ery and meeting lots of people. huts and his tent. With last week’s staying two nights instead of one year, 550 people walked the full Of the few fellow hikers he had storm system forecast he decided at Snow Denn Lodge because he length from Cape Reinga to Bluff, met, most were walking north to to skip the next section and he needed the rest, and the fact it of-



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noon and Saturday night at the Event Centre, with tickets now available from Ticket Direct.

From P1 Near Methven, Lucy Raisbeck’s free range egg stall was also burgled on Sunday night. While taking out the bins yesterday morning, she said she noticed that the security camera had been taken and the padlock had been cut off from her honesty box. All money had been cleared from the box before the theft, but Raisbeck said she was still gutted to discover the break-in, which she presumes is the work of people “who don’t care about other people”. However, with new security methods for Raisbeck and an ultra-secure honesty box for Billie, both stalls are continuing to operate.

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and that dramatically reduced the number of buildings coming into the net locally. If a building is required to have a placard displayed it will contain information on the percentage it complies with building standards and the year with which it will need to be strengthened to come up to code, Wong said. Older buildings that have been assessed and found to be up to strength or that have already been strengthened will not need to display placards. Details on the placard-bearing buildings will be held on a public register with the Ministry of Building and this is accessible to anyone.

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half of this year’s newcomers. ge in age from 9 includes mem-A and first-year nts. production is avellers and will heatre and tunes ages – from My Bing Crosby to Hamilton and ith everything in ow said. “Among yone knows the na, but they find inging the older h,” she said. does the theme ng for everyone e, she said, but singers the oprn about various group received month ago, and olo positions on re currently undays of musical

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Clayton Beckett. PHOTO SUSAN SANDYS 080118-SS-003

compared to 350 in 2015-2016 and 210 the year before. Te Araroa Trust chairman David McGregor said the trail, which takes five months to complete and officially opened in 2011, was attracting people from all walks of life. “From students and young people taking a gap year to retirees and workers taking an extended holiday. “It’s a great way to connect with New Zealand and to really get to know the landscapes, people and climate,” McGregor said.

Call Dan at Hydraulink Mid Canterbury today for all your enquiries 39 Robinson Street, Ashburton Phone 308 8848 | Mobile 027 223 0105 Email: dan@hydraulinkmc.co.nz | www.hydraulink.com


Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


from P21 “It was great training.” In sales Bob found his natural workplace. “I enjoyed the interaction with people and the satisfaction that came with seeing people walk out happy with what they’d bought. And we still make sure that’s how it happens today, that it’s fun, fair and good for everyone.” And with the new job came opportunities. Bob was sent by Holden for a 12 month stint in Perth where he learned the hard way

what it took to be a successful salesman but that school of hard knocks would set him for a future that in 1979 he could never have imagined. The next year he became sales manager. The winds of change were starting to blow through the Smallbone empire as the 1980s arrived and by 1985 Bob’s life was about to change. Bruce Smallbone was now in poor health and wanted out of the business. He offered Bob the chance to buy the family out and with the confidence of youth, Bob agreed. “I was 30 and the youngest dealer/prin-


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cipal in New Zealand but I look back and realise how ill-equipped I was,” he said. The harsh reality of the business world would soon come thundering home for Bob as the impact of the 1987 sharemarket crash was felt. “It was absolute hard work. I was just two years in and facing the worst economic times for decades, our turnover dropped by half overnight and that resulted in a need for a restructure. I was so ill-equipped for this as most business people were, but we survived.”

The reality of Smallbone’s survival was the loyalty of its customer base and the tenacity of staff to dig deep and make things happen, Bob said. That tough time also meant Bob had to let some staff go and he had to bring in outside investors on a short term basis and to buy them out when business recovered. The plan worked and Bob said he’ll be indebted to those willing investors for life. “Once you make those tough decisions you just have to move on, to move forward. You don’t drive a car by looking out the rear vision mirror, you have to look ahead.” With the economy recovering, Bob and his team settled into growing their business and for the next 20 or so years, it became ‘business as usual’ in the Boneyard. As the years ticked by, Bob knew he needed to start planning for a future where retirement would one day figure and it was fortuitous that at the same time the Carr Group was looking to expand its holdings. He and Greg Carr met, chatted and found they were both looking towards a similar future, one that had a shared vision. Between the two families they hammered out a deal

SMALLBONE LIMITED Wednesday, August 28, 2019

GRANT and in 2012 a new joint venture company, Smallbone Ltd was born. The new era brings a new way of doing business – a board and a general manager, but it’s a way that sees the company well positioned for the future, Bob said. “It’s a change for the good and it ensures we can grow and develop.” And development has already happened with Smallbone Ltd moving from its long time home in Cass Street to a new site on the corner of State Highway One and Fords Road for Holden and establishing an Isuzu base also in Tinwald. Two franchise stores have also opened in Timaru. “It’s about security of our brand through a greater geographical footprint. We’re well positioned for the future. Business is evolving, business is changing and the rate of change is getting faster,” he said. Change might be a constant in business today, but what Bob hopes will never change is the family feel of the business and the opportunities that can be created for employees to progress their careers. “In Bruce Smallbone’s day, he was extremely good to me, he provided me with


opportunities and I’m indebted to him for that. He made this happen and I want to encourage people to take opportunities. I’m proud of having been part of the process and to have a company that’s helped people to get to where they wanted to get.” While there are no Smallbones in the company today, it is an important and easily recognised trading name, one that brings with it a strong and positive history. “Retaining the Smallbone name was the smartest thing I did. I’m very proud of its heritage,” he said. And that brand has played a huge role in

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hundreds of families’ lives across the Ashburton District through wages paid. Looking to the future, Bob said the Smallbone business would continue to evolve. It had forward vision and it was well placed now with a great structure in place to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. “But in saying that, you have nothing if you don’t have good staff, good products and a good client base.” There was a real sense of pride in the continued local family ownership of the business, he said. “We’ve had three owners, but we’ve

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got lots of miles on the clock. I’m ever so grateful for the continuing support of our customers. Over 100 years we’ve worked hard at relationship building and I still believe that people talking with people holds true, going forward. The motor industry was heading into interesting times, into a future that had no knowns in terms of the fuels used, the ownership of vehicles or the style of vehicles, he said. “We’re looking to exciting times. Change is coming much quicker than ever and you can’t even imagine what the industry will be like, even 10 years from now.” Being adaptive was the key and that was the position Smallbone Ltd was now in, Bob said. Present director, Bob Grant, took control of the business reins of Smallbone Ltd in 1985. On August 13, 2012, a joint venture between Smallbone Bros Ltd and Ashburton based agri-business The Carr Group was announced. This joint venture has strengthened the Mid Canterbury company. The new organisation is now called Smallbone Limited which consists of two franchises, Holden and Isuzu Trucks / Commercials.

Congratulations to Smallbones on their 100 Year Anniversary!

We wish you all the best.


Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A PROUD MOMENT 100 YEARS IN BUSINESS When he unveiled a timeline of his company’s 100 years in business and cut a birthday cake, Smallbone Ltd co-owner and director Bob Grant said it was a ‘pretty proud moment.” “Over the years we’ve employed heaps of people and plenty of those people were real characters, he said. Many of those who worked for the company stayed many years, many became ‘lifers’, Bob said. “I’m so proud to have been involved with them.” Across the years Smallbone Ltd had touched the lives of most families around the district, as an employer or as the place they bought their vehicles, he said. “Some of our customers today are direct descendants of Harold Smallbone’s original customers.” As a business, Smallbone Ltd was indebted to loyal customers, many of whom had bought vehicles, had them serviced and purchased fuel from the company, Bob said. For anyone involved in the motor industry, it became something that got in your blood and never let go, he said. “Smallbone evolved over time and will continue to evolve in the future. We cannot predict that future, but one thing for sure, it will be different tomorrow to what it is today.”

Bob Grant and Anne Griffihs presenting the company’s 100 years in business timeline. PHOTO HEATHER MACKENZIE 260819-HM-0075

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ashburton Guardian 25



Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

GLEN MOORE STEADY HAND GUIDING THE SMALLBONE SHIP For Smallbone Ltd general manager Glenn Moore, there’s a real sense of pride in being part of a team and an organisation that has been operating within the motor servicing industry for 100 years. And it’s even more impressive, Glenn said, when you realise that for all of those years Smallbone Ltd has been owned by just three local families. Glenn took over as GM in October and said it was very clear the company continued to operate on the strong family values that had been part of its structure since day one. The foundations laid by Harold Smallbone and carried on by his son Bruce and then by Bob Grant and since 2012 the Carr and Grant families ensured that, in spite of its growth over four sites, the company still retained a family feel, Glenn said. “This business has been built on the back of establishing strong relationships


with customers and with staff and on providing top quality customer service and 100 years later those qualities are still absolutely front and centre,” As a company Smallbones was fortunate to have a fantastic team of staff involved across all branches and all facilities, he said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, customer service is king; customer service is very, very important to us.” Smallbone was one of the rare companies that could count its history in local family ownership and while the name may have changed from Smallbone Bros to Smallbone Ltd, the ownership had remained local, rather than becoming part of a national organisation. “That’s four local families with strong family values. We’ve been part of this community and community spirit for a century and that is absolutely part of the fabric of the business,” Glenn said.

In August 2012 Smallbone Bros owner Bob Grant made one of the most significant changes in his business’ history. While the company had traded for many years under Bob’s ownership, a conversation with Greg Carr laid the foundations for what was to become a new future for the company. The two family businesses decided to join forces to create a new venture, Smallbone Ltd – a slight name change that brought with it plans for business growth that would include new premises and expansion into Timaru. Since 1919 Smallbone Bros had operated from Ashburton’s town centre, fronting Cass Ctreet, but the new joint venture was the catalyst for growth. The reshaped company was committed to making the new

headquarters for Smallbone Ltd on the corner of State Highway One and Fords Road into a destination. It was a high profile location with the ability to accommodate business expansion. For Craig Carr, becoming part of the Smallbone business was a great opportunity to not only be involved in a long standing company but also to be part of a business that was one the Carr Group was already familiar as customers. For the group the opportunities were there in options to grow Smallbone Ltd and expand its borders into South Canterbury, Craig Carr said. “Looking into the future, it’s all about giving our customers the best of local service and experience,” he said. Both Craig and Greg Carr are members of the Smallbone board.

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SMALLBONE LIMITED Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ashburton Guardian



Over the past 25 years Lyndon Moore has sold thousands of cars from the Smallbone yard to hundreds of customers around the Ashburton District. And over those years he’s now hitting his third generation of Holden buyers in some families. He joined the Smallbone team in 1994 and said that, while the industry has changed quite dramatically over those years, the pleasure of selling cars has not changed and neither have many of his customers. “When I started I was selling VR Commodores and did I think I was great in one of those. We got to drive them and going away my first Christmas here in one of those, it was magic.” Back in his early days families would often have a Commodore as their main car and a single cab ute as their ‘working’ vehicle, Lyndon said. Today double cab utes and SUVS are the order of the day.

Over the years Lyndon said he’s made lifelong friends among Smallbone customers – he’s been to many of his clients’ weddings, funerals and plenty of birthday parties. They’ve become like family, he said.

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Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

’ KEVYN S LIFETIME LOVE AFFAIR WITH CARS Kevyn Begg might be 90 and long retired from the Smallbone workshop, but he’s still a die-hard car fan. In his garage, and in sheds across the Ashburton District, he has cars, trucks and tractors stored. Some are in good running condition, others are not, but Kevyn loves nothing better than tinkering on his collection, using the skills he learned decades before as a young apprentice. The one vehicle he keeps his hands off, however, is his 2013 Holden Commodore, he’s been told in no uncertain terms by the workshop crew that that engine is off limits. That’s part of the changing world of motor vehicles, a world where diagnostic tools have replaced the mechanic’s intuition, he said. Kevyn’s ties to the motor industry go back to the end of his school days. He signed on and off at several garages – Newlands, Protheroe’s and Doug Robins before moving to CE Baileys where he completed his apprenticeship. That was a job he had no intention of leaving, but a casual conversation when he was in the Smallbone workshop was followed by an offer he couldn’t refuse. The boss Bruce Smallbone spotted the young mechanic, offered him a wage that was double what he was currently earning and a bonus that was eye+wateringly large and the deal was done. Kevyn joined the ‘Boneyard’ team and for 37 years he worked as a mechanic, later becoming manager of the Methven branch. For 10 years he was service manager in the Cass Street workshop and when Bruce asked him to take over the Methven branch he wasn’t keen.

“I’d just built my own home and I didn’t want to go up there. It took him 10 years to talk me into it and I went up and down every day. “I got a new vehicle very year for doing that,” he said. That was typical of how Bruce looked after his staff, Kevyn said. “Bruce was like a brother to me, even when I retired, he’d come down and visit. He was a fantastic boss.” In spite of initially being reluctant to take up the Methven job, Kevyn said he loved his years in the branch and built many great relationships with clients, town and country. “I got to do plenty of hands on work up there too and we did tractors, trucks, cars, whatever came in really.” When Kevyn started in the motor industry apprenticeships were five years long, tool allowances were paid and the vehicles he worked on were generally large, heavy Chevs. Mechanics were generalists and working on an engine often meant virtually taking a vehicle apart. A good mechanic in Kevyn’s day would diagnose a problem through listening to an engine as well as through observation – and they could fix just about anything with innovation, ingenuity, and a bit of lateral thinking. “We had to suss it out and fix it and we spent hours trying to sort things out, but today they just plug the electronics in and that tells them what’s wrong and where it is. If you gave the mechanics today what we had to do and to sort out they wouldn’t have a clue.” Kevyn might be 90 and long retired, but he’s still mad about cars. He’s kept up to date with his Holden Commodore, but admits he still has a love for the old girls – his

Kevyn Begg with his 1961 Vauxhall Victor, a vehicle originally owned by his father and now taking pride of place in his yard with his 2013 red Holden Commodore. PHOTO SUE NEWMAN 050819-SN-0016

dad’s Vauxhall Victor, the handful of vintage cars he has scattered in sheds around the district and for his latest passion, tractors. At least he can tinker with those engines, unlike the Holden where just about everything is sealed – and off limits. “My mechanic keeps telling me I can only touch the bits that are coloured yellow,” he said. Cars today are a far cry from the models of Kevyn’s early days in the industry,

they’re safer, more efficient and their performance is improved dramatically. “They’ve improved so much, I always wonder how they’ll improve them any more, but they always do, they always come up with something.” While he’s got a lot of respect for today’s young mechanics, Kevyn reckons it still takes a lot to beat the satisfaction of fixing a problem with little more than a handful of tools and a bit of intuition.


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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ashburton Guardian 29

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ONE THING HASN’T CHANGED SINCE 2000. Thank you for 19 consecutive years at No.1 in New Zealand. A new millennium begins, Y2K passes without widespread, ISZ14753_19-Years_DT_FP_R01.indd 1 computer failures, Olympic Games in Sydney Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Queen Mother dies, Bali bomb kills 203 people, Brazil wins Soccer World Cup Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Boxing Day Tsunami causes widespread devastation, First privately funded human spacefl ight, Janet Jackson suffers ‘wardrobe, malfunction’ at Super Bowl Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Five cent coins are dropped from circulation, Italy wins Soccer World Cup, Google purchase YouTube for $1.65m Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Barack Obama elected fi rst African American US President, Global Financial Crisis, Sir Edmund Hillary dies Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ First Canterbury earthquake causes widespread damage, Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is arrested, Chilean mining accident, remarkably all 33 miners rescued Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Summer Olympics open in London, Mars Rover successfully lands on Mars, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Malaysian airliner goes missing, Russia is reportedly in control of Crimea, ISIS take control of Mosul Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ Donald Trump elected US president, NZ highest ever Olympic medal tally, UK votes for Brexit Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ 12 Thai boys and their football coach are rescued from a cave, Meghan Markle joins the royal family, New Zealand picks up 2 medals at the Winter Olympics Isuzu Trucks No.1 in NZ

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

8/04/19 17:00

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Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

CARS AND ENGINES A PASSION FOR SHAUN Shaun Allan, one of Smallbone Ltd’s top team of experienced mechanics, hard at work in the Holden workshop. When you’ve spent your childhood tinkering under the bonnet of a car with your dad, it’s an odds on bet you’re likely to chase a career in the motor industry. And that’s exactly what Shaun Allan has done. He’s just over a year out of his apprenticeship at Smallbones and says he couldn’t have landed a more perfect job. “I’ve always been into cars and the passion just took off. I used to play round in the garage with dad when I was little and I had a project car on the go,” he said. Like most young men looking to make a career in the motor industry, Shaun did a one year pre-trade course at Ara Polytech three days a week with the other

two days spent gaining experience in the Smallbone workshop. Course completed and a job offer came from the Smallbone team, an offer Shaun said he had no hesitation in grabbing with both hands. While diagnostic tools take most of the guesswork out of identifying problems with engines today, Shaun said there’s still a fair amount of old fashioned listening, looking and thinking involved in the job. He may well be one of the exceptions to the new wave of mechanics, however, as he’s still happy to do the hard work the old way. “I’ve rebuilt the engine on my ’59 Thunderbird. It’s been in the family for around 29 years,” he said. That meant no diagnostic scan, no fault code and no diagnostic path to solve problems, just intuition, inventiveness and a bit of resourcefulness on the side. The rapidly changing vehicle world makes this an exciting time to be in-

volved in the car business, Shaun said, as there is plenty of variety with every working day. When it comes to his own vehicles, he admits his work car cost $150, but it gets him to the job and home. At the weekend, however, it’s a different story. Then it’s all about performance – the ’59 Thunderbird or a manual XR8 Falcon. His dad’s a mechanic, his grandfather worked with motors and engines, the love of engines is in the blood, Shaun said. “What else could I do? I had to do something with cars.” For today’s new apprentices, a pretrade course is almost a requirement and while it takes a year of study, it does mean you hit the ground running once you get a job, he said. He’s one of a team of seven on the floor in the Smallbone Holden workshop and said he’s part of a great crew. “This is definitely a great company to work for,” he said.

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Congratulating Smallbone Ltd on 100 years in business.

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Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Above – Left to right: Workshop crew – Shaun Allan, John Fuaso, James Guevarra, Ross Thomson, Warren Carr, Ernie Firanans and Ross Van Tongeren.

Above – Alec Wood and Graeme Wilson.

Above – Cameron, Deirdre and Bob Grant. Below – Lyn Bird, Jenny Scott and Janene Donaldson.

Above – A century in business is well worth celebrating.

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SMALLBONE LIMITED Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ashburton Guardian

Above – Deirdre Grant and Lyndon Moore. Below – Glenn Moore, general manager and John Tavendale, director.

Above – Shane Hill congratulates Pat Burrowes – winner of the $500 guess the number of balloons competition. Below – Anne Griffiths, Deirdre Grant and Sandy Smith.

Insurance work Insurance Work Insurance Work

Above – Every celebration deserves a great cake.

Specialing in



of Cars, Trucks, Buses, Horse Floats & Motorhomes, Caravans, Trailers, Farm Machinery, Jet Boats, Light Engineering and Aluminium Welding

Congratulations to Smallbone Ltd for their 100 years in business. 17 Range Street, Ashburton Phone: 307 0378 Mobile: 0274 274 007 busandtruckbodywork@xtra.co.nz

Congratulations to Smallbones on their 100th anniversary. We wish them all the best for the future.

Ashburton 34 Robinson Street, Riverside Industrial Park, Ashburton Phone 308 6415 www.thetoolshed.co.nz


34 Ashburton Guardian

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


THANK YOU We would like to say thank you to our clients, suppliers and the wider Mid & South Canterbury districts for your support over the last 100 years.

We have enjoyed sharing this special milestone with you all.