For Grant, working with cars was always on the cards
Whether it was driving them, fixing them, learning more about them, he was obsessed with them It made sense that on leaving school at 17, he enrolled in a pre-trade course at Waikato and found an apprenticeship on offer at a local mechanics in his small town of Ngatea, in the Hauraki Plains Realising this was a natural fit, Grant took some time off work and enrolled in a few short crossover courses at the Manukau Institute for Technology, to finish his studies and qualify as a mechanic.
Grant reflects on his studies with good memories. “I really enjoyed my time studying at MIT I spent a couple of weeks in Auckland doing a number of block courses and I just threw myself into it. I studied really hard and wanted to do my best. I was pretty stoked to score the highest marks in the trade certification that year and was awarded Apprentice of the Year.”
“It wasn't because I was the brightest kid there, I just really wanted to do well so I swotted as much as I could.
I tell my apprentices now that no-one is born knowing everything about a particular area or speciality We all start at the same point at the bottom and have to learn it, it takes hard work”.
Finishing up his studies at MIT Grant went back to his job as a senior technician at the local mechanics where he enjoyed honing his skills But as a young 24 year old from a small New Zealand town, the travel itch started to grow It was time to venture out into the world and explore.
“I went off on an OE, and spent 4 years travelling around the world working to pay my way. I took on loads of different jobs in different industries; I was a builders hand, worked on internal partitioning, on ski-boats and outboards, whatever came my way really! I really enjoyed the diversity of working and also travelling and meeting different people”.
Although only in his early 20’s he learnt a few things during his time travelling, pearlers that have stuck with him to this day, and he's made sure to encourage his employees with these insights.
“The most important message I would give to young people is that ‘people are people’, no matter where you are, whether it's New York, London, Paris, we are all the same people. We are born on a level playing field and we can make good with our life with determination, hard work and perseverance The second thing I learnt travelling was how valuable my MIT qualification was - I could use it anywhere in the world for work, an apprenticeship from NZ is really valuable”.
After four years travelling, Grant felt it was time to head home and settle down. He was in his late-20’s and in a little bit of limbo as to what to do with his future life. Setting his sights on car dealerships he applied for a couple of technical roles advertised that were at a higher level, off the tools. Though close, he didn’t land these positions.
Out of the blue an opportunity came up to buy his own mechanical workshop and Grant decided to see if he could make it work, pretty courageous for a then 28 year old He admits, “It was a bit risky, and yeah, I was pretty nervous about it A good mate of mine really encouraged me and he said, Mate, you have travelled the world, you have studied and done an apprenticeship and you can do this too Go for it” That was enough to push him over the line.
But facing the banks was probably the scariest part about it! He explains, “My parents were awesome, they went guarantor for me but the bank was ruthless They sat me down and drilled into me that most small businesses in NZ fail, and that my parents would lose their house if that happened I was terrified, but I also knew that if I put in the hours and hard work, I could do it I was probably a little bit naive!”
Fast forward to today, Grant has been in business successfully for 17 years, has a team of 11 mechanics in his Penrose workshop and he owns another mechanical workshop at Mount Maunganui “It's been an interesting and satisfying ride To be frank, owning a business is not easy, you will fall down a lot and fail often but through failure you learn and you grow Getting up again and doing it better next time gives you the grit to succeed New Zealanders can be pretty negative, there are a lot of naysayers who will say you can't do it But I truly believe with determination if you tell yourself you CAN do it, you can”.
And for Grant, he admits it’s never been about making the big bucks, he laughs “I wouldn't be in this industry if it was about that” The relationships he has developed and the pleasure he has gained from supporting young apprentices like himself to grow in their self-confidence and prove they can learn is hugely rewarding for Grant.
He reflects, “The biggest joy for me is having past and present employees who have gone on to succeed in life and create these great lives for themselves Being able to support them as a role model and encouraging them to study hard, work hard and believe in themselves has been so satisfying I've seen two of my staff own their business, two have gone on to work on Formula One racing teams, staff have gotten married and had children and have just created these great lives for themselves. I've really valued spending time with my apprentices encouraging them to believe in themselves and push harder to succeed People often think that other people have it better than us or are more talented or clever than us but it's just not true We all have potential and power within us to succeed”.