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Family ties

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By sharing their passion, dedication and skills with the next generation of housing professionals, the owners of this family-run business, Chris and Melissa Snel, are helping to strengthen the future of our industry.

Gabrielle Chariton

Author

Contributor to Housing

NSync Constructions is a company that is, first and foremost, all about family. It’s run by a dynamic husband and wife team, Chris and Melissa Snel. One of their two sons, Kye, is completing his apprenticeship with them; their other son helps out onsite on his days off. Melissa proudly refers to NSync’s core group of long-standing trade subcontractors as ‘almost like family’.

‘Family’ is also fundamental to the way Chris and Melissa relate to their clients: ‘They have to be able to trust us,’ Melissa explains. ‘It’s not just about being a good builder or having the best price, it’s actually about the relationship because we’re going to be part of their family for the next six months or longer. That’s important to our clients.’

The Snels have been working together since the late 1990s, when they set up a small business called Lifestyle Decks and Additions in Evans Head on the NSW north coast. For a while, it was the ideal place to run a business and raise their sons. But when the GFC ripped through the market in 2008, they made the move to Sydney’s Northern Beaches and established NSync Constructions.

Today, after more than a decade of steady, well-managed growth, the company specialises in custom renovations and extensions, and is gradually branching into knock-down rebuilds. Melissa and Chris work ‘in sync’ as a seamless partnership to provide their clients with a cohesive service both on and off-site.

‘We go out to do the quotes together, and meet the client and talk about what they want; from that point on I’m mainly on the job site, and Mel runs everything from the office,’ Chris explains.

Melissa’s role within the business has evolved as the demands of home life changed: ‘I started off just doing the books; as the children got older I was able to become more involved,’ she says.

While working from home did create challenges around balancing family and business time (particularly during the boys’ school years), the Snels managed it by implementing rules such as ‘no business talk at dinner time’. Even now, Melissa says, the temptation to talk about work 24/7 can be all-consuming: ‘You’ve got to remember you’re husband and wife first, business partners second’.

However, the Snels really do have a genuine passion for housing and love what they do – to the point where Chris describes the business as ‘a hobby’. They get a real buzz out of sharing in the excitement of the renovation journey with their clients. ‘At the handover period, when you see the clients’ faces and how thrilled they are, it’s just the absolute reason why you do it,’ Melissa says.

With the vast majority of NSync’s work coming through referrals from happy clients, it’s clear that Melissa and Chris have cracked the secret quality/service formula for success. When questioned on what sets them apart from local competitors, they (very sweetly) reveal a deep mutual respect and admiration for each other’s professional strengths.

‘What makes us a bit different from our competitors is my wife,’ Chris says. ‘What she offers and how she is with the clients, there’s always that contact point…our clients are never waiting for an answer for too long.’

Melissa credits their success to Chris’s personable approach and technical expertise. ‘In the renovation industry, you have to be a problem solver because you can remove a wall and then there might be an issue, and Chris always seems to make it work. He is a great problem solver – that’s something the clients comment on.’

Chris and Melissa Snel with son Kye who is completing his apprenticeship with NSync Constructions. Photo: SEE Business Solutions
We think it's really important to help build good trades and support the future of the industry

Training apprentices has always been big part of their business philosophy, and NSync’s ten-strong site team currently includes four apprentices: two second-years (their son Kye and his best mate); a third-year and a fourth-year.

‘We think it’s really important to help build good trades and support the future of the industry,’ Melissa says. ‘Chris likes to spend time with them and train them himself to give them the skills they need.’ Chris adds that the apprentices benefit from working alongside NSync’s more experienced carpenters. ‘We’re always putting back into the industry what we’ve got out of it,’ he says.

Fortunately, NSync has been able to keep all staff and apprentices employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite experiencing a little wobble when NSW lockdowns were first introduced, the business has actually been able to leverage some opportunity out of it.

‘I think because people were stuck at home, working at home, with their kids at home as well, they’d think, “We really need to do this house up”!’

However, Chris is pragmatic about the possibility of further challenges ahead. ‘You’ve got to touch on COVID-19 in the sense that no-one knows when it’s going to end, no-one knows the true impact or the ripple effect of what’s happened this year,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of unknowns out there.’

An ongoing focus on professional development motivated Chris and Melissa’s decision to join HIA.

‘I heard about all the fantastic webinars and the training opportunities, and wanted to be part of it,’ Melissa explains. ‘HIA is well suited to our business. It’s been fantastic. You’ve got to continue learning and I’m getting that from HIA, 100 per cent.’

Most recently, she completed the HIA GreenSmart course, and says that incorporating these principles into their projects is not only great for the environment but also makes smart business sense. ‘It means we’ll be able to build homes that are more comfortable and liveable in the longer term, which is another way for us to offer value to our clients.’

When asked about their plans for the future, Chris and Melissa return to the topic of family: ‘Our main goal is to have the business solid enough to leave behind for our son Kye,’ Melissa says. ‘We want to be able to give him a business that’s still going strong, and be on hand to help and mentor him as he takes it on. We think, what a gift that would be.

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