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Thu, 14 Oct 2021
Back in the ’80s, Bob Gardiner Garage Doors in Christchurch became one of the very first Dominator Dealerships in New Zealand. That was when tilt doors were common and roller doors were the more up-market choice. During school holidays Bob’s daughters could come and work with him to earn some pocket money adding pop rivets to the tilt doors. It was Lynda who put her hand up most of the time. Lynda always enjoyed the work and liked being with her Dad, so kept up her holiday job for an impressive three years.
Lynda thought her garage door days were behind her once she left home. She enjoyed a successful career in corporate sales, her latest role being a 16-year stint at Telecom Spark. The job included a move to Nelson for Lynda and her husband Carl, a printing manager. While there, Carl decided on changing industries and trained with a friend as a builder’s labourer. When it was time to return home to Christchurch, Bob Gardiner was nearing his 70’s and ready for his own change of pace. Carl began working with Bob and together they rebranded the business to Dominator Access Systems before Bob’s eventual retirement.
Customers are welcome to visit the showroom to choose colours and panel styles, see smartphone control in operation and experience first-hand the responsiveness of Dominator’s opening options.
For ten years or so, Carl ran the business while Lynda carried on in her corporate role but eventually, Lynda was ready for her own sea change so took voluntary redundancy. With a chance to slow down she noticed just how busy Carl was so she started to help out. “It was not even on my radar to work in the business,” she says, but fast-forward four years and Lynda has become fully involved, finding the job very rewarding. The couple works together well, “significantly better than I expected” says Lynda.
Carl handles site measures, sales and scheduling while Lynda is responsible for quotes, scheduling and customer service. They work together on business strategies, along with office manager Paula. The business has experienced good growth and now employs six installers, mostly guys in their 20’s. “We love that our team is really strong,” Lynda tells us, “the camaraderie is great. We get great customer feedback about all of them.”
Lynda and Carl have worked hard to create a good team dynamic, and the proof is in their positive customer feedback.
For three years now the business has been based in Wigram, where they have a well set up showroom to demonstrate Dominator’s products. All styles of door panels and colours are available to view, with two operational sectional doors, a residential roller door and a gate with an opener. Customers can see a Smartphone kit and camera setup in action. Carl can also show customers the app when he’s out on site, operating the doors in the showroom and receiving notifications. The group home builders partnered with Dominmator Access Systems often suggest their customers visit the showroom to choose a garage door style and colour, providing an opportunity for them to also see the upgrade options. People sometimes don’t contemplate a smart opener until they see the benefits in action, so it’s worth popping into the showroom or booking a visit from Carl.
Dominator Access Systems’ zone covers all of Canterbury, south to Ashburton and north to Cheviot and Hamner. Lynda and Carl have implemented a new scheduling system, Itrade, to which Lynda attributes some of their capacity for growth. “It has made workflow much easier. All the guys have it on their phones and mapping is an included feature, we know where they are, what they’re doing and when they've finished. It has been invaluable.”
Servicing and repairs account for a good portion of work, with a dedicated team in charge.
The type of work carried out has changed somewhat over the last couple of years. Historically the business focused on new installations for building companies and group homes. Now, with a larger and more experienced crew, they can also respond better to retrofitting in existing garages. New installations still account for nearly 50% of the work but the retrofit market makes up 20%. The shed building market has boomed in the last 18 months, roller doors now account for approximately 30% of the work and insurance jobs also get a good look in, with most due to ‘customer error’, ie. people driving into their garage door. Service & repairs and replacement openers are covered by a dedicated team. One of the installers put his hand up to run the team and the feedback from customers is consistently good. “He’s a great young guy with really good customer rapport,” says Lynda.
Above, from left: A Dominator Nevada in Charcoal is a popular choice amongst homeowners; the crew was pleasantly surprised recently when a Dominator Valero powder-coated in Deluxe Tomcat arrived for installation.
The most popular door and colour combo for Access Systems’ customers is a dark coloured Valero. Ebony, Flaxpod and Ironsand are commonly chosen colours for new builds at about 70% of what they sell, Lynda estimates. Grey Friars and Slate are favourites in the grey shades. Flat panelled doors are popular in the retrofit market, with colours more dependant on the existing property. Once neighbours see the lift a new garage door can give to a home, they’re often tempted to upgrade as well. In two Christchurch streets, Access Systems have replaced garage doors in three consecutive houses. “People are loving Smartphone Control Kits,” Lynda tells us. “Their main feedback is they like knowing their kids are home safe and that the garage door is closed. Insulation is also popular, our web queries have increased significantly”.
At home, Lynda and Carl have two side by side Valero doors in Ironsand with insulation, one also has a Smartphone kit. The doors replaced two tilt doors and the difference that insulation made was instantly noticeable. “Going down the stairs you can notice the temperature difference in that lower part of the house even if the door into the garage is closed,” Lynda says. The couple has plans to build a new home before long. For their new garage doors, Carl favours a dark coloured Nevada and Lynda is keen on Montana in Cloud like the one at their showroom… watch this space!
After 15 years in the business, Carl wouldn’t be anywhere else. “Carl loves his job, absolutely loves it,” Lynda tells us. “He has always said that even if he wins Lotto, he would still be involved.” Carl’s time in the building trade, coupled with the colour knowledge gained in his print background gives him a realistic and artistic view of what will look good with customers’ houses, so he can give great design recommendations. He’s also a natural salesperson. “People will say ‘A competitors price came in very slightly cheaper but we want to go with you because Carl really knew what he was talking about and I trust him’” Lynda tells us. “He will tell them if they don’t need to do something or give them a range of options to save money.” That’s the part of his job that Carl loves, going and visiting, giving advice and then seeing the outcome at the finish.
The same could be said of Lynda, who is surprised about how much she now knows about garage doors. Seeing the before and after transformations are a delight that she and Paula always look forward to. Customer feedback also brings a lot of satisfaction, with one retrofit client remarking recently “I can’t believe we left it this long. We sat in our garage and had a glass of wine last night.” “I have become passionate about garage doors which I never saw happening,” Linda says. “Customers pull out Dad’s old handwritten invoice from 1989 and I love it when I get to say ‘That was my Dad’. Our son comes and works with us now so the next generation is coming into the business.”
The successes brought on by Carl and Lynda’s passion and hard work has won their business Dominator’s Dealer of the Year (Large business category) prize this year. They are true industry icons whose work is not only exemplary, but they are also more than happy to share knowledge to help others achieve success. Bob Gardiner’s legacy is alive and thriving.