Building a lasting family business

Phil and Cheryl Brogden’s secret to creating a successful contracting business is in the strength of their relationship. Now, using their accountant and Xero, they’re working to future proof their business for their son Mark.

A great partnership and plenty of banter

Phil Brogden always knew he wanted to drive tractors for a living. And when he started his own contracting business at 17 years old, he already had five years’ experience under his belt – working for a local contractor after school and at weekends.

His wife Cheryl, however, was working in an accounting role for a paper company when she first met Phil, so her introduction to the rural lifestyle was a bit of a shock.

“I was a townie born and bred,” she says. “So when I started going out with Phil I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the mudguard of a tractor because that was the only way I could see him.”

After getting married, Cheryl and Phil went into partnership together and formed their own company, P. J. Brogden Contracting Ltd. The fact that it’s still thriving 44 years later is all down to their great relationship.

“We’ve always got on really well together, both in business and personally,” says Phil. “We always have plenty of banter and it’s made a good partnership, it really has.”

And from Cheryl’s point of view, being co-owner of the company gave her the opportunity to develop her business and accounting skills while allowing her the freedom to look after their two children.

“I was able to do things with them around the business,” she says. “If the kids had a sports day or a school camp I could go and do that.”


Future proofing the business


Family plays an important role in both Cheryl and Phil’s lives and they’re starting to prepare the business to handover to their son Mark – who’s currently second in command – and his partner Abby.

Knowing that Mark will eventually be playing a bigger role in the business has given Phil a new lease of life.

“I’m glad Mark and Abby are coming into the business,” he says. “It gives me more incentive to keep investing in new machinery and new technology.”

As part of future proofing the business and at the suggestion of their accountants at FARMit, a few years ago the Brogdens moved their accounts over to Xero. And Cheryl has found the transition pretty seamless.

“Xero just streamlines everything,” says Cheryl. “Our finance manager, our accountant and our bank manager can all have access to it. And it gives us that ability to see what’s happening straight away, which is excellent.”

As well as using Xero to run the business more efficiently, Cheryl is also able to show Phil and Mark how the business is performing year on year.

“With Xero, Mark can visually see and compare the profit and loss over the last three years,” says Cheryl. “And it’s also been really helpful with valuing assets, so that when the succession plan finally takes effect everybody knows what direction we’re going in.”



I'm glad my son Mark is coming into the business, it gives me more incentive to keep investing in new technology. — Phil Brogden, P. J. Brogden Contracting Ltd

Making more time for themselves


As part of getting the business prepared for the future, Phil and Cheryl made the decision to move away from their house in the depot where they’d lived for 25 years.

“With some great organisational skills we’ve bought a property just ten minutes drive away. It means we can drive out the gate and Phil can forget about work” says Cheryl. “So now he has the weekends off and Mark, Abby and their children live in the yard house.”

Moving off site has given Phil the freedom to put some distance between him and the business at the end of each day. And in his spare time he’s been able to work on customising his drag tractor.

“I couldn’t switch off when we lived next to the depot. I bought a tractor three years ago – it was going to be my pulling tractor for Fieldays – but I just didn’t have time to work on it,” says Phil. “Then last year I took it home and over a four month period I’ve turned it into a full competitive pulling tractor. That was unbelievable.”

Over the next few years, Cheryl’s goal is to hand some of the day-to-day management of the business over to Abby, and eventually get her working week down to three days.

“With Xero I can work quicker and it means I don’t have to spend the hours in the office that I used to,” says Cheryl. “And it means I can spend quality time with the grandchildren, especially as they’re little still and I just love it.”



Alice at the kitchen table eating honey from the jar.

Mark still finds time to be with this daughters.

Rory shows Kieran a bee on his finger by one of the beehives.

Phil's aim to spend less time on the tools and more time tinkering with his toys. 


"With Xero I can work quicker and it means I don’t have to spend the hours in the office that I used to.”

- Cheryl Brogden, P. J. Brogden Contracting Ltd

Want to see how accounting software can work for you?

Explore how Xero works for small business.

Learn more

Explore more customer stories

Starting a farming business in a flat market

Simon started two farming businesses in a bad market. Find out how he made it out the other side.

Learn more

The perfect partnership behind an artisanal bakery

Ryan loves baking. Ed loves running a business. Together the two of them have created a thriving bakery in the Waikato.

Learn more