At first, Carolyn Douglas was a teenager answering the phones.

Then she was a single mother on a benefit, with no idea of how she was going to support herself and her son.

Now she’s running the place — and is also one of its owners.

And it’s that message of surrounding yourself with good people and fulfilling your potential that DB Consulting Engineers’ general manager Douglas, who has been 23 years with the firm, is keen to pass on.

Originally from Hawera, South Taranaki, Douglas left high school at 16 with School Certificate to work in the office of a local engineering firm. She later moved to Taupo and worked in an administration job split between Veitch and Truss Valuers and engineer Derek Booth.

She enjoyed it and says her employers were incredibly supportive, doing things such as helping her when she needed to get her driver’s licence.

Returning from a two-year stint overseas, Douglas found the same support from her next employer, John Norrie of Murray North Engineers, who sponsored her to do the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.

“I think I was probably in my early 20s then and I thought ‘what a great business to have done that for a young person’.”

Douglas left Murray North when she became pregnant, and while she was raising son Matthew alone that Derek Booth got in touch. He had just gone out in business on his own and needed someone to work for him an hour a day, answering the phone and doing filing. Douglas agreed.

“Derek and I have always got on well. He’s just such a good person and he genuinely likes people.

“Matthew was only little and it was just an hour a day. It actually cost me more to go back to work because of childcare than to stay on the benefit, but I didn’t like being on a benefit.”

Over the years the firm grew – to four people – and so did Douglas’ hours as administrator. In 2005 she signed up for workshops run by local life coach Peter Blanks. The experience proved transformative.

“That’s when I learned that you can absolutely cap your potential and he completely took the cap off that I had self-imposed.

“It was absolutely earth-shattering that someone took the time to teach you that.”

Douglas was inspired. She got a book on business plans and that opened up more possibilities.

“I thought ‘wow, this is really exciting, there’s so much we could do with this business’.

“I spent about two weeks over the summer break writing our business plan. I took it to Derek and said ‘look, I’ve been working on this, what do you think?’ and he had a look through and said ‘go for your life’ and gave me full permission to proceed with making changes.”

With some innovative thinking, DB Consulting continued to expand and in 2015 Douglas signed up for Enterprise Great Lake Taupo’s Growth Acceleration Programme, a year-long course that boosted her career even further.

“Everyone was motivated to do really well and from that there were five of us that splintered off and we still meet to this day, once a month. They’re incredibly motivated business owners who want to do well and support the town and look after the community and it’s incredibly helpful.”

Douglas found the Growth Acceleration Programme such a boost that DB entered the 2015 Great Lake Taupo Business Awards, winning a sponsored course with business growth centre Icehouse.

“This is all stuff that hasn’t even cost us anything and it’s helped develop this business to a point where we’ve got 25 people within the business. We’ve got a great company culture — you ask any of our team, they all seem to love working here.”

Douglas is now halfway through a management degree through the Open Polytechnic.

“It’s been an interesting process because you’re learning what you’ve already gone through and a lot of it was putting labels on things that I’d already learned the hard way or through experience.”

Experience is something Douglas has in spades when it comes to her business.

“I’ve done every role in the business and now everybody in those roles are blitzing what I used to do. So my role is about talking with our team, talking with our clients, there’s so much one-on-one communication and making sure people are happy in what they’re doing and have got what they need.”

The business recently rebranded again, this time to DB Consulting Engineers, and now Douglas is the proud owner of 25 per cent of the company.

“Oh my God, I love this company,” she exclaims, “seeing it grow and develop and change. I love the people in it, I love coming to work. Our values are fun, honesty, learning and family.

“My personal mission is to be of service. That’s so strong and really close to my heart and I don’t think it would matter where I was working, that’s what spins my wheels.”

Douglas says her advice to others is to only hang out with people who will support their dreams.

“Twenty-three years ago I thought that I was a solo mum and I’d always be struggling and that was my lot. I never would have thought that this would be my journey.”



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