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Paving the way


Auckland-based concrete and paving specialist ByDesign is an unusual but enthusiastic member of Registered Master Landscapers. Unusual because of its primary focus on concrete work; enthusiastic due to the range of benefits being a member delivers to the business. Director Darren Maxwell explains more  


The type of work ByDesign does marks it out from a typical Registered Master Landscapers (RML) member – but its array of bronze, silver and gold Landscapes of Distinction (LOD) awards in residential and commercial categories demonstrates both its level of expertise and the way in which it has embraced the organisation.


Darren Maxwell and co-founder/director Peter Robinson (his uncle) became RML members in 2021, recognising the advantages of joining a network of the industry’s best practitioners and having the opportunity to test themselves in an elite competition – and to prove to customers that they really are “the best concrete contractors in Auckland”.


“As much as anything, it gives our staff an incredible sense of achievement to see their work recognised like that,” says Darren. “It’s also a great way to advertise our skills to clients, who often tell us they want to hire us because they can see the quality of our work and the awards we win for it, which is a massive bonus.”


Grassroots talent


If the LOD is the World Cup of the landscaping world, the RML’s other competition – Young Landscaper of the Year (YLOY) – is its Super Rugby.

 

YLOY sees New Zealand’s top 10 landscapers under 30 years old go head to head over two days to see who will emerge as the nation’s best.


ByDesign’s Michael Dudley entered three years in a row and made the final cut each time – an experience Darren says was extremely beneficial.


“We push our young staff to enter the competition because it’s a great opportunity for them to learn. When Michael was doing it, he’d go to planting courses with [fellow RML member] Luijten Landscaping and they’d send their young landscapers to come concreting with us. It’s a great way to upskill one another’s staff and work together for the greater good.”


Around 85% of ByDesign’s work is concrete and paving focused, with the other 15% comprising softscaping and retaining walls. Because most landscaping firms contract concrete and paving work out, Darren says the networking opportunities provided by his RML membership have been lucrative.


“The work we’re experts in will often complement the skills other RML members have and we’ll get recommendations to do work they can’t. That works both ways; so we’re constantly feeding work to other RML members around Auckland.”


Walking the walk


Darren says there’s a pretty even split between the concrete and paving work they do for driveways, sidewalks and patios.


“We like to work with lots of exposed acid-wash finishes, coloured and polished floors, and paving using high-end materials like granite,” says Darren. “We also do foundations and floor slabs, but it’s not our bread and butter.” 


Darren and Peter are also shareholders in Permcon – a permeable concrete solution that can be used for driveways, car parks, footpaths and private outdoor spaces, such as pool areas or outdoor entertaining areas. 


“That product is a lot more popular now than it was five years ago. Developers especially like to use it because it doesn’t contribute towards site coverage percentages; it allows water to filter into the ground, reducing stormwater runoff and allowing groundwater recharge. 


“When we started, we’d have Permcon jobs once or twice a month. Now, we’re installing it practically every day!”


Masters of all trades


ByDesign’s team of 43 are masters of all trades within the business. Darren says there’s no specific division of labour within the company, as everyone is expected to chip in on different jobs from time to time.


“Our team is very versatile. The ones working on pavers can do concrete and vice versa. Plus, they can all do softscaping work when it comes up.”


To find staff when the job market is tight, ByDesign is happy to recruit from overseas, and Darren says calling on professional help takes the stress away.


“We use an employment agency, which helps us stay on top of everything when it comes to visa requirements and regulation changes, and we would recruit from overseas again if needed. Thankfully, most of our staff are longstanding employees, so we don’t have to go to market too often.


“We work hard to retain staffby creating a culture they enjoy working in. Plus, they’re well looked after with a vehicle and tool allowance.”


Hooked on concrete


When Darren started in the industry around 26 years ago, he worked for his family installing pavers and never managed to shake off the career – no matter how hard he tried!


“When I left school, I tried some bartending and went over to Australia to do some other bits and pieces, but I always drifted back to the industry. I became more passionate about it once we started to work with exposed aggregate concrete, which diversified my job list away from the monotony of doing paver after paver!”


Darren’s next step was to learn the ropes under the guidance of his uncle. He liked the work so much that he stayed on when Peter sold the business. However, when Darren wanted to go out on his own three years later, his old mentor didn’t take much persuading to comeout of semi-retirement and return to the game. 


With that, ByDesign was formed and has been going for close to a decade; and Darren is just as enthusiastic as when he first started.


“Taking a customer from initial consultation to seeing them over the moon with the final result; there’s no better feeling!”


It’s that kind of passion, matched with a high level of expertise and community spirit, that marks out a ‘typical’ RML member –in whichever area their related skills lie. 




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