Fast Harvesting’s Ange Alexander met her husband Smiley across the bar in Tirau Pub. Many years later, with 3 adult children, 6 logging crews and a bunch of good memories, she’s looking back on their journey and looking forward to taking a step sideways within the business to spend more time out in the bush appreciating the team.
You’ll probably never meet someone as calm as Fast Harvesting’s Ange Alexander. Her peaceful demeanour naturally rubs off on you when you are in the same room.
Married to husband Smiley for the past 25 years, the couple met across the bar at the Tirau Pub.
“Smiley bowled into the Tirau Pub with the Putaruru Rugby Club boys one night and we met across the bar, where I was working at the time as a second job,” she laughs.
With Smiley already working in logging, the couple were given the opportunity to go into a logging partnership the year after they got married.
“We were given the opportunity to go into partnership with Kevin and Linda Goodwin and set up Ribbonwood Cable Logging, we never imagined we’d own our own crew, but we were so grateful to be given that start.”
“Kevin and Linda were just the most amazing mentors and businesspeople, and they’ve become such good friends over the years.”
Three kids later and with a lot of hard work, the couple have expanded their operation and number of crews.
“When we went out on our own, we changed the company name to Fast Harvesting Ltd, we got our own professional team around us,” says Ange.
Ange says a key thing she learned was the importance of getting a good professional team to advise them, including a great accountant and financier.
“It was important to have the right people advising us, that were neutral and we could bounce things off. That helped us to find our feet and grow.”
“If you are wondering why we are called ‘Fast’, it’s a combination of our long-time nick names, Fraggle and Smiley’s Team, and what a great team we have.”
About 9 years ago the couple bought out Kevin and Linda and have continued the tradition of giving other young up-and-comers opportunities to own their own crews.
“We’ve currently got about 45 staff over 6 crews, and 1 of those is a partnership in a crew, while 2 others have investments in their machines, and 2 other long-time employees have purchased their own machines and become sub contractors” she says.
“3 of our former partnerships are now out on their own too.”
“Over the past 5 years we have built up a great support team, with an operations manager, an accounts legend, a health and safety coordinator and just recently a payroll and HR manager.”
With their support team offering more flexibility in how she spends her time, Ange says she’s ready to take a step sideways in the business and spend more time going out with Smiley to the bush.
“I find it easier to understand things in the office if I can get out to the bush and see what the machines are and what they do, and I am still in awe of the skill these guys have when operating the machinery.
Ange says the business works because she and Smiley make a good team, complimenting each other’s strengths.
“We’re quite different at how we look at the business which is probably quite useful. Smiley is the positive can-do ‘yes man’ whereas I’m a bit more of the handbrake and get him to take his time to think things through.”
“In saying that he is always looking for better and safer ways of doing things and coming up with some pretty cool initiatives. I never hold him back with that.”
“We’ve definitely learned the value of making positive changes in the business rather than going around in circles. For years we’d talked about the same issues and problems, but they don’t change if you don’t change something,” she says.
“One of my favourite sayings is ‘a bad attitude is like a flat tyre – you can’t go anywhere until you change it.’”
Ange says one thing they’ve always agreed on together is the need to look after staff really well.
“We like to reward and appreciate them and their families whenever we can. We have a bbq trailer that we take it out to the bush for crew bbqs and show our appreciation to our team,” she says.
“That’s probably the thing I enjoy the most, getting out to the bush amongst the guys and having a yarn.”
“The day-to-day stuff is taken care of by our awesome team, so hopefully I get to do that a bit more now.”
Ange says she’s looking forward to planning for the future and getting to spend a bit more time with Smiley enjoying life.
“After focussing on our kids and business for so long, we will have to find some external interests as we have not really made time for that over the years,” she says.
“Smiley’s the kind of guy that won’t take the afternoon off – if his guys are at work, he’s at work. I’m slowly trying to teach him – maybe one day he’ll learn!” she laughs.