|Article - North and
House organisers who unpack and even colour code linen
scene guaranteed to reduce home-shifters to jabbering wrecks. Half-empty
boxes and packing paper strewn throughout a smart Parnell house on a stonking
hot Saturday afternoon; kitchen bench piled with crockery; beds unmade. And
where's the stereo remote?
But instead of fraying nerves, all is calm, brisk industry. Home-shifters,
corporate executives David and Linda Strickland, newly arrived from Australia,
serenely set up their office while five women they've never met before work
like a well-oiled machine in the rest of the house, stacking, folding, hanging
and arranging. 'The helpers started at midday and by 4.30 everything will
be neatly put away, linen colour co-ordinated, coat-hangers aligned, wardrobes
categorised, remote control found. And not one temper lost.
The quiet organisers work for Vanessa Godbaz, 40 and her mother Julanne,
62, who run The Finishing Touch, a unique family company helping people stay
sane either end of a house move. While there are plenty of removal firms
to shift your household chattels, this is the only company in New Zealand
that will unpack, put everything away and even leave flowers as they step
out the door.
Operating in nine centres nationwide, the business employs 65 staff, mostly
middle-aged women who have the tactfulness, attention to detail and initiative
to handle the job's sensitivities and unpredictability.
Explains Vanessa, "Most have moved many times and understand how it feels,
and a motherly demeanour helps calm people".
David Strickland, national manager of a hygiene product company agrees: "I
don't cope well with moving. I was pacing around and the ladies told me to
go away and do something useful. We moved four times in Australia and it's
a nightmare, by the end you're just buggered." This time, the unpackers have
whisked away the stress.
The Stricklands' is a straightforward job, says Vanessa Godbaz, no nervy
pets or scratchy kids, and amiable clients. But the Finishing Touchers never
know what they are walking into. "The hardest jobs are those where the client
doesn't want to shift. Many people move for unhappy reasons. We just try
to make the day run as smoothly as possible and be cheerful. There may be
arguments and tears so we try to give the clients privacy.
A huge part is reassuring people. Parents with young children worry how they'll
adjust; people new to the country don't know how we operate here and don't
have any contacts, so we try to make them feel at home, offering advice on
where to shop, for instance. We'll even feed the baby, if that's what's
There've been comical as well as fraught moments. Like the time the unpackers
arrived to find boxes piled ceiling-high in the kitchen. Vanessa: "The removal
boys are told to put all the cartons into the rooms written on the label
and the client's name was Kitchen!" Another time a power cut disabled a houses
security gate, so the unpackers had to use a ladder either side of a high
fence to clamber into the property.
Vanessa and Julanne set up Finishing Touch in New Zealand in late 1999. Fresh
from a marriage break-up and disillusioned with the corporate world, Vanessa
left her marketing job "looking for something to release my passion on."
When Julanne, then running a small recruitment firm, heard about the Australian
version of Finishing Touch, mother and daughter flew to Melbourne to meet
founder Susan Williams. They secured the license to bring it to here and
now Julanne's husband, Graeme, and Vanessa's sisters-in-law help out at the
Botany Downs home office.
Building on the Australian model, they've added room makeovers for houses
being sold; a general home organising service and, currently only in Auckland,
one-off moving day cleans or spring-cleans. An average three bedroom home
costs about $650 to unpack, with four staff working four hours. The longest
assignment took 72 labour hours to unpack almost 70 cubic metres of household
effects (an average houseload has half that). Finishing Touch now unpacks
35 houses a month nationwide.
Many customers are business high-flyers shifting between Australia and New
Zealand Then there are young mums and pregnant women; immigrants; elderly
people shifting into retirement homes; and doer-uppers.
Gaining people's trust is the key to good client relationships, says Vanessa,
and overcoming the obstinate Kiwi DIY attitude is another challenge. "There's
sometimes a reluctance to pay someone for something you can do yourself -
even if it almost kills you!"
Writer - Nicola Shepheard
Photographer - Scott Venning
North and South June 2005
| testimonials | helpful
info | free estimate | employment
| about us | contact
us | home | sitemap