‘People First’ a Winning Formula for Totalspan


With a personal motto of ‘People First’, Jamie and Ellen Petersen were always destined to succeed in business.

And since taking over the Totalspan North Canterbury franchise in 2014, succeed they have.

In 2018 they took home the MainPower Supreme Award and the Enterprise North Canterbury Manufacturing and Trades Award at the North Canterbury Business Awards. This added to their already extensive award list which includes four awards from the 2017 Totalspan National Conference, including Franchise of the Year, and a Finalist award in the Professional & Technical Services Award at the 2016 North Canterbury Business Awards.

Totalspan Family imageAsked what makes her team so successful, Ellen Petersen says, “The hard work Jamie and myself put in in the early days of setting up robust systems and processes meant that all our staff knew what the expectations were. From here, ensuring we built a positive work culture in the office and with our contracting staff meant that everyone took great pride in their roles. 

“Our staff mean a lot to Jamie and I. We take pride in the fact that they all take pride in their own roles and that they do their best for the customers. We treat our team and our customers as our number one priority and enjoy building long lasting relationships with them.” 

The couple’s motto of ‘People First’ has been evident since they pair took on the local franchise. Their first step was to listen to their customer base via a 12-week intensive study into the building experiences of North Canterbury residents.

“Through this research we uncovered a weakness in our market,” explains Ellen. “Many customers had bad experiences with building companies blowing out on price, hidden costs, timeframes, and quality of service. Additionally, research showed customers want three things when building: exceptional service, personalised service and a stress-free process.

“To make customer service our biggest strength, we’ve worked hard on developing a positive staff culture, sales training, and customer service initiatives.”

Totalspan buildingWhen the Petersens took over the franchise, they say there were a large number of dissatisfied customers, complaints to head office and limited repeat customers. With the long list of customer-focused changes that they have implemented, the couple have seen a significant turnaround in these three areas.

“We now receive positive testimonials at least weekly, we have many repeat customers and customer confidence in Totalspan North Canterbury has risen, as evidenced by market share increase from 15.2% in 2015 to 34.4% in 2018.”

Staff satisfaction and workplace culture were also problems that the couple faced from the outset. But once again, their focus on the people who make up their team has proved exceptional and they have turned staffing problems around.

“Before we took over, staff absenteeism was high, employee satisfaction was low and communication was disjointed,” says Ellen.

By introducing an open-door policy, welcoming input from staff, seeking HR advice and carrying out weekly team meetings and monthly one-to-one catch-ups, Totalspan North Canterbury has managed to retain a core team of staff for the past four years, has increased productivity by 30% and created a workplace culture that is fun, welcoming and encouraging.

The judges of the 2018 North Canterbury Business Awards praised Jamie and Ellen for “the way they developed an excellent, customer-focused business plan to achieve their customer service goals, exceed their business results and dramatically increase market share, whilst developing a great team culture.”

Enterprise North Canterbury Business Development Manager, Miles Dalton, who organises the Business Awards agrees with the judges. “Jamie and Ellen are amazing,” he said. “They bought a business that needed some attention and completely turned it around. Even though Totalspan is a franchise, the work that has been done to turn Totalspan North Canterbury into a successful business is totally the work of Jamie and Ellen. Totalspan North Canterbury is considered the model of how the franchise should operate. This is now a business with excellent processes and systems, fantastic customer service, awesome HR practices and tightly watched financials. The change that Jamie and Ellen have achieved is awesome and they are definitely worthy winners of both titles they won at the 2018 North Canterbury Business Awards.”

totalspan meeting

2018 was the second time the Petersens have entered the North Canterbury Business Awards. “We entered in 2016 for the first time,” explains Ellen. “At that stage we were still going through setting up our new business and systems. We found the entry process beneficial and it helped us learn a lot more about our business by doing so. We felt it also helped raise our profile in North Canterbury. This time around we felt we were in a good position to have a chance at some of the awards so were keen to enter again. 

Ellen says the couple were “thrilled” to win two awards in 2018. “We were extremely happy to take out the Enterprise North Canterbury Manufacturing and Trades Award and then to hear Totalspan North Canterbury's name called out for the MainPower Supreme Award was a huge honour. It meant so much for our team and really went towards rewarding them for the hard work they put in every single day. To be honest we were a little shell shocked, but we are very grateful that our hard work has been rewarded and recognised.”

Totalspan North Canterbury is based in Woodend, but operates throughout the North Canterbury region. Find out more about this award-winning business here >>