Posted in: Dealer Spotlight
Published: 28 Feb 2022
When Pete Michielsen bought Dominator Taranaki back in 2016, he knew nothing about garage doors. But this self-confessed ‘jack of all trades’ - having renovated five houses and worked for many years in the building and plumbing industries with a family “full of builders” - decided he was up for it. We caught up to talk about how it’s worked out for him.
After years of working as a manager in corporate roles, Pete wanted to set his own margins and make his own rules. He’d had enough of making businesses work for others with no real control over how the successes were carried over. Buying a business was the way for Pete to use his experience to create his own destiny. As it happens Pete knows the previous owner of Dominator Taranaki and when it was time to move on, he suggested Pete take over. Thinking ‘How hard can it be?’ Pete dived in headfirst. “How hard was it?” We asked. “Well, after five and a half years I can tell you that I don’t know everything and there’s always something more to learn. It’s a fun but intense learning curve”.
There were a couple of employees at the time but for one reason or another they moved on and Pete’s team consists of two full time and one part-time installer/servicemen and Pete’s wife Karen on admin. Along with managing the business and maintaining relationships, Pete is very much hands-on, joining his team on installations along with repairs and servicing.
Karen was a practice nurse who came into the business after her department was closed. “She came to help out during lockdown and now she pretty much runs the place”, says Pete. “Well, she tells me what to do so that’s more or less running it!” Karen’s duties include quoting, ordering, and scheduling, along with being in the office to greet customers. “She came on because she’s free,” Pete chuckles.
Full-time installers Gary and Chris have been with Pete for 4.5 years and 10 months respectively. Dean has been with the business for 4.5 yrs and works for Pete at least two days a week. His engineering background has been of great benefit to the business.
The team recently installed a Valero, transforming the street appeal of this home.
The guys often work in teams of two, carrying out installations and repairs in one area at a time. If it’s repairs-only for a particular area then generally that will be done solo, everyone in the team is very versatile and can perform all aspects of the job. Pete likes to focus on sharing knowledge within the team. “We mix the teams up so for instance when Dean is here on Wednesdays and Thursdays he works with a different person each week. We share ideas so that no one team is the better team. There’s nothing to be gained from one person or one team having more or better knowledge than another. If someone is weak in something they learn quite quickly from the others how to be better at it. The customer is always entitled to the best service we can give, I can’t think of anything worse than saying to a customer ‘we’ll send our best team.’ They’re all the best”.
Garage door installation is heavy work so Pete tries to spread the load a bit. “We try and do one day a week of just repairs, services and measures so the guys have a day free of installing. We want to keep variety in their jobs so they’re not stuck on the same stuff day in day out. Variety keeps people occupied, makes their brains tick. They’re clever boys who are great at finding solutions to issues and we want to keep them fresh”.
Two new Roller Doors replaced the old tilt doors on this home, providing a fresh update.
The services offered are free measuring and quoting, free advice, repair and replacement, installation and servicing of garage doors. The team can perform minor modifications as required on existing homes but when it comes to major works Pete calls in his contacts. “There are guys whose job that is,” he says. “We work with Group Home Builders and also carry out a lot of retrofitting work. Our focus is on domestic doors and that keeps us very well occupied. We don’t try to offer every aspect. We have a very good name and get a lot of referral work with domestic garage doors”.
Pete and the team are always improving on the systems and methods they were shown at takeover. They’re happy to change their workflow to accommodate changing components and better methods as they all gain further experience.
Dominator Taranaki has a showroom with display panels for all Dominator profiles and an interactive Nevada garage door. It’s situated in a popular retail area just across from Harvey Norman, with Karen welcoming customers to the office from 9-4 Monday to Friday. There’s a workshop at the rear to accommodate insulation prep and carry out timber work etc. Locals can spot the sign-written vehicles about town, all kitted out for the job.
Flaxpod was a popular colour for The Block contestants last year. Tim and Arthur's Valero shown here.
When asked what’s popular with his customers lately, Pete says he’s noticed more pickup of the smartphone option. “People see it as a better option because if they have people coming to stay or visiting their property they don’t have to give them a key. They can simply add them to their list of approved users and then remove them when they’ve gone. One of our customers runs a business from home and he can give couriers access without a problem. Everybody has a smartphone now so you don’t have to give your kids a key or have a keypad on the outside of your house, they just have the app on their phone. And if a phone gets lost you can simply remove that number from the system.”
When it comes to garage door profiles, Pete has noticed that customer choices are slowly moving from black (Ebony) to dark greys and dark earthy tones. “Flaxpod is hugely popular,” he tells us. “Insulation is also popular for garages that have internal access and particularly if they’re road facing because of the noise insulation as well as a reduction in heat transfer.” Pete and Karen’s own garage doors are two insulated 'Futura' in Karaka. Their 1970’s home with a roughcast basement and summit stone exterior go nicely with the clean horizontal aspect of Futura panels.
Pete and Karen's own garage doors are Futura in Karaka, similar to the above.
Asked what he likes about the business and what drives him, Pete replies “The ups and downs of garage doors! I spent most of my working life in customer service, I see my role as a problem solver. Particularly on private work, if people have a problem I like to get it fixed and I like to know that we have given the best service we can provide. Customer service is a no bull profession and I get a buzz out of knowing I’ve done the right thing. If I bump into people down the track I don’t have to hide my head. I’m 6’8” so I can’t hide my head anyway! You meet a really interesting variety of people. They have a need and we fill it. It’s rewarding sorting out people’s issues for them.”
For the future Pete is happy to maintain the business, it’s not a large region for growth so he intends to continue keeping the standard up, giving the same great service and eventually retire knowing that he’s leaving behind happy customers. It’s enough for Pete to “keep learning new things and promoting new innovations that make people’s lives better and easier. Things like the smartphone app, Auto-lock and insulation. We’re improving their lifestyle and that’s what it’s all about”.
Dominator Garage Doors Taranaki services New Plymouth and the Taranaki Region - Mokau, Urenui, Waitara, Lepperton, Inglewood, Stratford, Eltham, Kaponga, Hawera, Patea, Oakura, Okato, Opunake & Manaia.
You can call them on 067583981 or drop in at 12A Smart Road, Waiwhakaiho, New Plymouth from 9am-4pm Monday to Friday.
Like her father before her, Lynda Malloch has introduced her son to the garage door business. Only time will tell if he becomes as passionate about the business as she has
As we round up 2021, see which garage doors are trending, along with the most popular options and accessories.