Contractor profile: RW Hedgecutting

Farm Trader catches up with a determined young business owner has just launched his hedgecutting business

Heading into unchartered territory as a new business owner in 2020, the timing couldn’t have been worse as COVID-19 and lockdown threw some serious spanners in the works. Ryan decided to back himself and do his best to deal with the pandemic, taking it one step at a time and doing his best to work around the challenges as they arose. His calm approach turned out to be a wise decision, and although some rough times had to be weathered and there were some stressful moments, he rode it out.

The decision to set up RW Hedgecutting Ltd wasn’t made lightly and came about from a desire to set his own hours, have more time with family, and not be “just another number”.

Having specialised in hedge trimming and roadside mowing, Ryan has been in the industry for a long time, working with his dad straight out of high school.

“I worked with Dad for a few years, then after that I worked for another company before working with a mate,” he says.

“Then I decided I wanted to go out on my own and do hedge cutting with all the barberry hedges and things like that – that’s what I wanted to do and so set about creating RW Hedgecutting Ltd.

“I went down that line of figuring out what I needed, who to talk to, what work was around, and then went to John Deere and said, this is what I want, what can you do, and it kind of took off from there.”

Big decisions

Ryan and son Archie collecting his new John Deere 5075E

Ryan says making the decision to go out on his own was a scary one but something he had wanted to do for a while.

“I was getting a bit sick of working for someone else and having to work the hours that everyone else wanted me to. I wasn’t benefitting much out of it for myself; I was just another number to someone,” he says.

“So I was like: I kind of want to do this, and it is what I’ve always wanted to do, so while I’ve got the time, I might as well do it now.”

Ryan says the biggest challenges he experienced in setting up the business included getting machinery and financial backing.

“That was a bit tough. Obviously being a new business, no one really wants to know you unless you’ve got a good few years of financials behind you, so it’s quite difficult to get going,” he says.

“Trying to spend time to get the business going and spending time away from the family was a bit hard at times, but it’s starting to pay off now.

“Working for yourself is harder. When you work for someone else, you go to work and you come home and that’s you done. When you work for yourself, you come home, and it just seems to carry on and it never stops.

“But it’s good, I’m benefitting from it quite well and just feel a lot more motivated to do things and get out there.”

COVID curveball

Ryan has a long affinity with John Deere tractors

Ryan started RW Hedgecutting in November 2019, and it started to pick up in February 2020, and then the lockdown and restrictions hit New Zealand.

“It was starting to take off and get really good; we had quite a few things on the agenda going with lawn mowing and hedge cutting and chipping, and then COVID hit,” Ryan says.

“So, we thought, what do we do? Do we give up and go back to working for someone else or do we wait it out and see what happens?

“It was about the second week of the first lockdown where I started getting phone calls, texts, and emails saying ‘hey, we want this done after lockdown’, so we ended up saying, let’s carry on,” he says.

“It’s just taken off since that first lockdown, and it keeps getting busier. And then we got to the second (Auckland) lockdown, and we were a bit worried about what we’d do and what will happen to the workload, but it’s taken off again after that.”

Most of RW Hedgecutting’s work is private lifestyle blocks, with a few farms that need roadside mowing done. Ryan says he’s also in the process of setting up a contract with the council to do roadside mowing.

“A lot of it is to do with the private clients and other contractors that we contract to. Most of the work is done around Franklin, but we do go down to Thames and Te Kauwhata and out to Manukau Heads, covering quite a big area,” he says.

The right gear

Choosing the right equipment for his new business has been key to success

Ryan recently picked up his new John Deere 5075E from AGrowQuip NZ. When selecting a brand, Ryan says it was always going to be John Deere.

“My Dad has always had John Deeres; he’s still got them and they’re still going, and I grew up behind the wheel of them,” he says.

“For the number of hours that they’ve done to what work has been done on them, they’ve been pretty bulletproof, so I chose to go with John Deere again.

“It’s been pretty successful and working with a local dealer means good aftersales service, which is important. The AgrowQuip sales guys have been really good and the workshop too for when I’ve needed something done,” Ryan says.

The units at work together offer plenty of versatility

His choice of model wasn’t made lightly either.

“The 5075E is quite compact, so I can get into pretty tight areas without having to worry about running things over or rubbing up against things. Because it’s narrow, it’s easy to manoeuvre around, and in a short wheelbase, you can turn into sharp areas as well. It’s a light machine, so when it comes to winter, you’re not wrecking the ground and sinking and tearing everything up.”

Also part of the fleet is a McConnel hedge cutter.

“The McConnel is a well-known brand when it comes to hedge cutters and so far, it’s proved a sound decision,” says Ryan.

“There’s nothing worse than having old gear and trying to fix it all the time, so we decided to go new, so we didn’t have to worry about breakdowns when first starting out.

“We’ll get a good lifespan out of them before we actually have to start to do anything significant. It’s proven the point so far and is doing well without any major issues.”

“Having a good team behind me also helps, and I’d have to acknowledge the team at John Deere and AgrowQuip and my partner for putting up with the hard yards.”

Ryan is also in the process of adding another John Deere to his fleet – this time the 5100M and a second McConnel hedge cutter.

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