Project Implementation with Rhia Spall

Why we're good at sweating the small stuff!

It takes a particular set of skills to convince an office fit-out business that someone with a career in Marine Biology and Scuba instruction is worth a look when filling a role for a Solution Specialist.

Back in 2014, Rhia did precisely that, and to be honest, we could not be more pleased about how it turned out!

When she isn’t hanging out in the water, Rhia spends her days delighting our clients with her incredible attention-to-detail and lightning-quick solutions to all sorts of unique challenges. She is one of the safest pairs of hands that we know and has nailed the ability to multitask like no-one else.

As a Workplace Solutions Specialist in Auckland, Rhia has been integral in some of our largest projects and is a familiar face around the Europlan showroom. She also manages to spend time at our Auckland warehouse, checking installations on-site with clients and keeping tabs on some of our suppliers. Rhia’s role sees her spanning all parts of the project lifecycle, from quoting up jobs to planning installations, chasing floor plans to providing post-installation support. We keep her very busy!

We ask Rhia to share with us how she manages the big projects, what it means to sweat the small stuff, and exactly how a degree in marine biology has helped her in her career with Europlan.

I certainly didn’t expect to end up managing large-scale office fit-outs when I left university. Still, I’m a great believer that all of our experiences in life apply to the next challenges we choose to take on. After moving to New Zealand, Europlan provided an interesting and exciting challenge that I wanted to sink my teeth into.

My primary role here is to make sure all of our projects get to site, the installation runs smoothly, and our clients are happy with their fit-out. In reality, though, it involves so much more! I support our customer services and sales teams, manage project admin, and spend a lot of time in general day-to-day contact with our clients, warehouse, installation experts and suppliers! I have a lot of stakeholders to keep on-board and informed. That means that most of my day sees me attached to my inbox and my project plan spreadsheets, checklists and workflow tools.

I reckon that toolbelt of process documents and my calendar keeps me sane! Plus, they’re a bit of a secret weapon. Having used and refined them month after month, I think they’re one reason that our team and our clients have both come to refer to me as the ‘fixer’.

HLC Project – Auckland

To be a fixer, I reckon you need strengths in communication, organisation, and adaptability – all things my friends and family would say I have in abundance! You might not always know what’s coming up around the corner (for example, a global pandemic!) but by making a plan, sharing that plan and being able to make changes to the project on the fly, based on up-to-date information you’re already three steps ahead of the game.

While I enjoy working through some of the challenges I get thrown, I also really enjoy the chance to get involved end-to-end on a project. That’s where I can let my hair down!  I love getting into the nitty-gritty details.

– I know they say “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but actually, the small stuff is where Europlan really shines. 

I reckon that’s where my Marine Biology and Dive experiences come in – applying problem-solving, project management, risk assessment and attention-to-detail to real-life examples. Only, without the need for a dive tank!

Sweating the small stuff is often about providing a bespoke solution to a unique problem.  Recently we had an electrician come whip off a wall in one of our pods, to see how we could move a power socket from the floor, where it traditionally sits, to the roof on behalf of a client who needs it to work that way. In going through that exercise, we’ve found a way to do something we’ve never done before, but can now offer to other clients if they need it. Plus, if I can do the hard work before the client knows there is a problem that needs fixing, then they get to sit back and enjoy a seamless experience.

Once the install is complete we get to the fun part – the finishing touches. Making sure everything arrives, looks pristine and matches the floor-plan exactly gives me the confidence to call our clients and do the big reveal. One of my favourite parts of the job is seeing the smile on a client’s face when they step into their office space for the first time.

2020 has given me two really great reminders about that bit of the job…

We recently completed the installation of a purpose-built project with Allegion . After three years in the making, everything was looking good until COVID-19 got in the way! Managing stock, and warehousing for items that we couldn’t get into the new space due to lockdown proved to be a challenge, but it was all worth it when we finally completed the installation, later in the year.

Allegion Project – Auckland

The best part was seeing the Allegion team interact with their brand new space. On entering the building, one of the group, an artist, asked if they could contribute a piece of their own art work to the office. That project, a cloak made out of hardware that the business produces, is now on display in the reception area. It was such a fantastic contribution to the space – it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! That whole project has been a highlight of my career so far.

The second reminder 2020 has provided is the need for speedy, friendly and professional service. This has been especially important as we’ve been rushed off our feet getting work-from-home kits  installed for clients all over the place who were unable to work from their offices. We’ve had to keep our records up to date and manage every element of our stock control. When these orders come in, they need to be filled fast!  Our fastest install to date was paid for on a Wednesday and used by the Client on Friday. Success!

For now, while the alert levels in New Zealand mean that most people are back in their office spaces at least some of the time, a lot of my inbound work is facilitating tweaks and changes for our clients, as they adapt to this changing world. I’ve even had a few phone calls from past clients who are looking to shake up or refresh their workspaces and have come back to me after four or five years. It makes me proud to think that we’ve made such a good impression on them that they want to use our services, and retake our advice.

With all the work on our horizon, I’m also in the process of training up a new Workplace Solutions Specialist here in Auckland. That means handing over the keys to my world-famous-in-Europlan documents and workflows, which is a welcome step!  Hopefully, between the two of us, we can keep getting big and beautiful projects across the line in 2021 and beyond!

If you’re considering a workplace fit-out project and want some advice, or you need some tips on great diving spots around New Zealand, drop me a line, and I’ll see what I can do for you.


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"Thank you again for the great job, the fine work you and your team did to deliver what was promised, in the short time frame."
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University of Otago - ISB
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National Assets Manager, Barnardos
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