Minding your business
Former workshop owners, current Vehicle Inspector and part time travelers; Tony and Lynne Collings offer their services to other workshop owners desperate to take a holiday.
Former owners of Taihape Auto, Tony and Lynne Collings, are living the semi-retirement dream - combining travel with providing a locum service for MTA members around the country.
“People who own our type of businesses work really long hours and find it difficult to take time off for a holiday, even just a week or two,” says Tony.
The couple had a lot of discussions about what they should do once they retired. Lynne says, “We’ve had our motorhome for about 12 years and loved going away in it and planned to do more of that, but Tony wasn’t ready to stop working completely.”
She says they were at an MTA gathering a year or so before they closed their business and talked to MTA Business Advisor Michael Bradley about their idea of doing relief work in MTA workshops around the country. Lynne says Michael told them he was sure a lot of members would want to pay to have someone experienced and reliable who could keep their businesses going while they took a holiday.
The couple sold up in 2016 and started the next, more relaxed stage of their lives together. They offer a combination of house and pet sitting as well as filling in as workshop manager/mechanic and office administrator – depending on what is needed. Tony has his WoF Vehicle Inspector qualification, which has been a huge bonus for those looking for relieving staff.
“When we first talked about starting this type of service about 10 years ago” says Tony, “vehicle inspectors could only work at the business they were employed by. When NZTA changed the rules around this, it made our idea much more viable.”
Over the past two years the couple have filled in at workshops In Auckland, Manawatu, Wellington Whanganui and Blenheim. “We try to do just one or two weeks at a time, and if it’s local we can fill in for just a few days if needed.” They usually arrive a day or two early, to familiarise themselves with the business and get a handover. “Most workshops use SAM and between us we can do the paperwork as well as the mechanical work that’s needed.”
Tony says he’s enjoying the range of different jobs he comes across in each business. “We have filled in at small to fairly large workshops. One, in Coatesville, had a lot of customers with very high-end cars - Mercedes, Saabs, Range Rovers and so on. A bit of a change from the utes of Taihape.”
Lynne said it was an eye opener for her to be preparing invoices for $5,000 for a service and new tyre. “The customers don’t even question it, they just swipe their cards,” she says.
Tony helps at Taihape’s Wilson Motor Company occasionally. Owner, Rob Wilson (above), says “Its great being able to step away and know warrants will continue to be done and work will still be coming in and out.” He says his business has been busier since Tony closed Taihape Auto.
The Collings’ can freedom camp or use Motor Home Association sites when they travel and work. “However, most of our clients also want us to house sit, which we are happy to do. But we prefer the bed in the bus, so tend to sleep there.” Lynne enjoys the jobs that come with pets to be looked after. “We’ve had some really cute dogs to keep company.”
They advertise their service in Radiator magazine, and word is spreading. Tony says they already have lots of bookings for this year and are careful not to accept too many as they still want to spend time in their own home in Taihape.
However, he did hint that bookings from coastal towns where there was good fishing would take priority.