By Brett Beatson

Virgin Concrete Ltd, situated in Kamo just north of Whangarei, has been supplying ready mixed concrete to the local market as an NZRMCA member since 2009 – almost seven years.

In this relatively short period of time the family owned business, established by Dick Fisher and managed by his daughter Suzy Fisher, has created a history built on determination and a commitment to excellence, and also involving the odd famous name or two.

Dick Fisher started his working life serving a five year watch making apprenticeship in the family jewellery business now known as Fishers on Cameron - a Whangarei institution for over 80 years.

Dick’s cousin (Sir) Michael Hill, who went on to achieve national and international business success, not to mention a knighthood, was also employed b

At some stage however, Dick must have decided the jewellery game wasn’t for him, and founded Avon Industries Ltd in Kamo, a sizeable heavy engineering company that operates a state-of-the-art galvanising plant. This business is now owned by Dick’s son, (Suzy’s brother) Richard, who is currently busy rebuilding a CON-E-CO batch plant, recently purchased from Counties Ready Mix, next to Virgin Concrete’s existing plant.y the business in a sales role.

Exact details are a little hazy, but the family were advised that the chunk of land they owned adjacent to Avon Industries on the north side of Whangarei was an ideal site on which to locate a concrete plant. Seen as a strategic business opportunity, a plug-in-and-go CON-E-CO batching plant from the USA was ordered along with five new Isuzu concrete trucks – a point from which there was no looking back.

The origin of the name Virgin Concrete is also testament to Dick’s tenacity and refusal to back down easily.

Dick came up with the name Virgin Concrete for obvious reasons; it was a new venture in which the family had no previous experience.

He went off to register the company, and low and behold a person by the name of Sir Richard Branson had registered the term “virgin” in over 3,500 business categories worldwide, therefore making it unavailable to a fledgling ready mixed concrete company in New Zealand.

What followed was a protracted Dick vs. Goliath battle, in which it seemed impossible for the local hero to prevail.

High level legal discussions were held on the other side of the world, but despite the threat of huge legal fees and only the slim possibility of victory, Dick remained determined to succeed.

As it transpired, an interesting chain of events and coincidences played out which saw the underdog win the day, and be permitted to use the name Virgin Concrete.

Aside from a lack of experience the name represents many meanings in the battle between a principled local businessman and global corporate giant.

Virgin Concrete has grown steadily since its unique beginnings, and is now well established and respected within the Whangarei and Northland concrete market.

Currently operating 13 Isuzu trucks, the family’s other main business interest are clearly evident in the trucks’ many galvanized external parts.

The company gained its NZRMCA Plant Audit Certificate soon after operations began, and this forms the basis for setting a high standard of concrete quality and customer service.

Beacon Technical Services has been involved as plant engineer and technical adviser throughout.

Virgin Concrete was very fortunate in the early days to have the experienced services of the now late Bob Bruce.

Bob had worked in the Northland concrete industry for a long time, representing several companies over a wide range of roles. Bob was also the NZRMCA Northland branch secretary/treasurer for over 30 years.

Living just around the corner from Kamo township, Bob undertook part time work with Virgin Concrete, mainly because concrete was in his blood and he just had to be involved.

Bob was the answer to Virgin Concrete’s prayers; as there are aspects of concrete production which can only be learnt by many years’ experience and Bob was able to impart this knowledge to the newcomers.

Unfortunately, Bob passed away in December 2010 aged 78 but he made a lasting impression at Virgin Concrete. Doing things right has been fundamental to the company’s success.

Taking on board and listening to those with the ‘knowledge’ had them set on a good heading right from day one.

Many interesting projects across Northland have been undertaken with the assistance of Virgin Concrete since it has been in operation.

Perhaps the most notable is New Zealand’s most expensive residential project near, located near Helena Bay between Whangarei and Russell, and owned by billionaire Russian steel magnate Alexander Abramov.

Many truck loads of concrete have been delivered to the multi-million dollar luxury resort development constructed by Northland Coastal Developments. In fact, such has been the scale and complexity of the project that Virgin Concrete has continued to supply for over five years.

Suzy manages the day to day running of the batching plant and it is usually her who customers will speak to when they call, be it early in the morning or late in the evening.

This hands-on approach is very important in keeping a finger on the pulse and making the decisions which are necessary throughout a normal day at a busy concrete plant.

Customer service is an important part of Virgin Concrete’s success. Communicating supply changes or production delays goes a long way to ensuring risks are minimised and relationships maintained.

Suzy is keen to point out that “It takes an awesome team for a business to run smoothly, and I have that team.”

While the company can by no means still be considered ‘virgins’, the name will not be changed, and continues to represent the family and company’s values and attitude towards the people it deals with and the local community it serves.

Taken from the June 2015 NZRMCA Newsletter
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