If the accent didn’t give it away, my story starts in 1983 in South London, England. At the age of 19, I left my fathers retail business and started selling toiletries and household cleaning products to discount stores from the back of a van.
By the turn of the century, the business was employing over 50 staff and was ranked #1 in the country for productivity (revenue per employee) and ROI (return on capital invested) by wholesaler magazine.
The end goal was always to immigrate to Australia (for the weather, if I’m honest). So, in 2005, we made the decision to sell our company, liquidate our assets and apply for residency in the ‘lucky country’.
However, there was a slight problem, because in 2006 Australia wasn’t accepting ‘investors’ into the country, regardless of how much money you had available to support yourself. What the government wanted were entrepreneurs who would set up businesses and create jobs, rather than investors that were only interested in relaxing on a beach and enjoying early retirement.
What that meant was we could only enter on a skills visa or a business visa. Being an unskilled ex-business owner, the latter was our only option so we started looking for businesses to buy.
And just like England is known as a nation of shopkeepers, it became apparent that Australia was a nation of builders and tradesmen.
So, the best option appeared to be to acquire a building company. And with that, I embarked on one of the most harrowing journeys I have ever experienced…
I ended up acquiring a custom home building company that specialised in designing & building high-end homes. It was a far cry from selling discounted toiletries! In the following years, I invested millions of dollars in order to learn hundreds if not thousands of lessons about running a construction company. I was fortunate, I had the reserves to pay for the mistakes being made by my team and myself. Most builders that start their own company don’t have that luxury…
And then came the Global Financial Crisis. At that point it became virtually impossible to sign contracts on high-end homes, the banks were simply not lending so we had to pivot quickly.
Calling on my 25 years of experience in business and combining that with the lessons that had been learned from owning my own building company, we looked to provide services to other residential home builders.
From our own experience, we knew how to produce the systems builders needed, such as building contract proposals that looked professional and contained the key elements that progressed an opportunity into a sale. So, we started sharing those systems and templates, covering contract preparation, period contract agreements and safety documentation, with other builders.
The safety documentation business was the one that took off. However, it wasn’t a purchase that builders were excited to make! It was something they needed rather than wanted.
However, after each sale was made I kept talking to the builders and we always got onto the topic of sales and marketing (which is what really excited them).
It was these conversations that led my daughter Sky Stephens & I to create a Digital Marketing Agency for builders…
Read what unfolded over the next 5 years in order to launch the Association of Professional Builders here.
I live in the sunshine state of Australia on the Gold Coast with my wife. I have 2 grown kids (Sky and my son Kurt) and love motorsport. You’ll find me heading to the track to race most weekends.