Michelle has been innovative in turning George Walkers into a leading market brand in the area of Used Office Furniture, last year opening a 15000sq Megastore at 318 Rosebank Rd, where they buy sell and lease Quality Office Furniture from Corporate companies that are downsizing/relocating/refurbishing.
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Executive member New Zealand Licensed Auctioneers and Managing Director George Walkers
The Maitland Family - Michelle, Serena, Melanie and George
In her mid 30s, Michelle Maitland became a single mum and the sole provider for her two daughters. She made ends meet by operating a market stall, stocking it with whatever she could find at auctions. It didn’t take long before she was hooked on the auction process and decided to become an auctioneer herself.“This is somewhat of an archaic industry and there no women auctioneers at that time. There were no schools where you could get training and no jobs available,” she says. Her solution was to door knock all the auctioneers she could find and offer her services for free.She ended up with a job at Auckland auctioneer firm George Walkers - with no pay. This was a venerable firm, established in 1908, but was suffering hard times. After she had worked there for two years, the owner of the business said he was going to shut it down because it was so difficult to make a profit.
Maitland bought the business from him using her life savings (“which wasn’t a lot”). She quickly realised the business was carrying a lot of debt and, by buying it; she had let the previous owner out of a potential nightmare. The next two years were focused merely on survival as debtors became increasingly strident. As well as working full time, she was still operating her market stall to try and keep afloat. “I see now that ignorance was bliss, however I have had the best training available through trial and error. Many times I thought about giving up but this was my passion, even if there was no profit”.
Out of desperation she started listing unsold goods on the Trade me website, but this only seemed to bring in low quality customers.To help her chances of success, Maitland took up some self-development and life skill courses and this helped her identify new opportunities for the business. Legendary businessman Richard Branson’s book "Screw it, just do it” gave her inspiration and the confidence to think big. >Many of her clients in the auction business are corporate companies who want fast easy solutions to their problems. She got the chance to buy up six floors full of corporate furniture from a major accounting firm that was moving offices. “I took a job on that competitors did not want to touch. I had to find large storage space and fund the costs of removal - for thousands of items!” However, she had found an important niche – used corporate furniture – and this has lifted George Walkers to new levels of success.
From a tiny 3000 sq. ft. back street store, the business now occupies a 15,000 sq. ft. megastore in Rosebank Rd, Auckland. A focus on online auctions through the Trade me website and a “web store” have enabled sales to be made nationally. Her success, including three finalist positions in the Westpac small business awards, led Maitland to become the first female executive of the Auctioneers’ Association.On top of her many business duties, Maitland offers her services free as an auctioneer for charitable purposes, ranging from small communities to schools and, increasingly, corporate events.