SmartLift - remaining relevant in Canterbury

Congratulations to SmartLift in Canterbury who are number 3 on our Deloitte Fast 50 index this year! These smart business owners are making strides in the Canterbury rebuild since starting their business six years ago. This article, by Chris Hutching, from the 2016 Deloitte Fast 50 Ezine explains how their business got off the ground and the impact they're having so far. 

The Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 set off a roller coaster ride for Craig Burrell and his business SmartLift Systems.

SmartLift specialises in levelling and repairing foundations for commercial and residential buildings, and was the fastest growing services business in this year’s Deloitte Fast 50 index and third fastest growing company overall.

When the earthquakes struck Christchurch Burrell’s building, work dried up overnight. The self-employed builder specialised in concrete work, drawing on his 11-year background in bridge building, tilt slab construction and foundations and concrete floors for residential and commercial clients. But after the earthquakes he and fellow workers spent weeks doing voluntary work, cleaning up streets of liquefaction and helping immediate neighbours get back to some sort of normality.

The following two years were a mixture of contracting, doing driveway repairs and odd jobs to try and keep his team of 15 men together. Times were tough and staff numbers dwindled.

“While all this was happening I patented a lifting device I had designed to lift reinforced and unreinforced concrete floors. It turned out to be extremely robust as well as fast and economical.

“By the time I had the system ready to launch I was financially in bad shape.

“My cousin Martin Pekham, who had been running his own successful company in Brisbane for 15 years, agreed to drop everything and come to New Zealand with his young family and help run my new company SmartLift even though it was unproven.”

His brother Stephen Burrell also agreed to join forces.

“We all agreed that working in the insurance paid world meant the one thing that would make us stand out in the crowd was integrity.

“In practice we would deliver great service, a fair quote with no 'milking the system', and a safe work environment.

Since setting up, SmartLift has increased staff numbers to more than 60, with Craig Burrell and his wife Kim Burrell running the office, quoting, banking and office duties.

The company now has multi-million dollar annual turnover which continues to grow.

“We’ve completed every job - more than 400 to date. We’re currently completing close to five homes per week.”

SmartLift staff use the only patented relevelable jacking system in the market.

“Our system far exceeds the Ministry of Building and Employment guidelines and we have an exemption from the Christchurch City Council for inspections, with special conditions.”

The SmartLift system repairs lateral spread in concrete slabs, and can lift huge weights.

In one example it lifted a concrete floor brick house 48 centimetres with all the cladding intact.

“We’re very mindful of the trauma our customers have endured so we pride ourselves on our conscientious repair of every house as if it were our own.

“We’re generally in and out of the property in five to ten working days in most cases.”

SmartLift works with Hawkins Infrastructure which has helped lift its market presence.

Great stuff SmartLift - keep it up (pun intended)!


Emily is a Senior Advisor in the Deloitte marketing team who knows that behind every great business lies a great story. She loves talking to inspiring people who are thinking outside the box to create a thriving SME sector in New Zealand.