2017 has been a successful year, my first taste of success was back in May. I wrote about Hutchinson Builders tower cranes dominating Brisbane’s skyline. The article was received so well that it would go on to become my most read article of 2017.
2017 a series of firsts for The Travelling Builder
My first interview was with Heath from Heath Nicholson Builders about their Round House project.
And the first filmed interview for The Travelling Builder Show goes to Kevin from True Blue Building Solutions. Kevin and his smart toilets would be the most viewed episode of the series with over 1700 views.
As the year progressed, against good advice, I followed my heart and went on a hike. That hike had me walking my way around Melbourne taking photos of Raimondi tower cranes.
That one excursion has opened a countless number of doors and international recognition for The Travelling Builder.
And now here we are a few days into what is already shaping up to be a massive 2018. This year will see The Travelling Builder go from a small blog to a leading, reputable media outlet for the construction industry.
Thank you so much for being a part of The Travelling Builder’s journey in 2017. I wish everyone a prosperous and happy 2018.
Matt: The podcast was back in April, and the podcast went into your past in depth. With that, I’m not going to go too much into your history, aside from your 27 years old and you now have ten employees.
How Nicholson Builders has changed since April
Heath: We currently have 12 employees.
Matt: I recommend that everyone takes some time and have a listen to Martin’s podcast. Let’s talk about how business has been after the podcast in April.
Heath: I think in the podcast I was talking about the issues surrounding cash flow and all the standard problems that come with running a business.
Heath: Not long after the podcast, I bounced back and was going great. We are now in a position where we have grown another few levels. We have more staff; more overheads, and we are back in a similar situation. It all seems to be a pattern that occurs in business, so we are used to it now. Never the less, everything is still the same, except that we are doing a lot more work, with approximately 15 to 20 jobs on the go at the moment.
We are continually moving our guys around, as well chasing more good builders and contractors. As you know, finding the right people is one of the hardest things with running a construction business. However, everything is all going well.
Heath’s other business venture, Brother Pablo
Matt: How is the coffee shop (Brother Pablo) working out? Back in April you were halfway through setting up the store and started roasting your own coffee beans.
Heath: Yeah good, it is turning out a lot different to how I thought it would turn out. The coffee shop is very successful, we are about to start the wine bar side of the business. We are applying for a liquor license, and that is a living nightmare.
Matt: In my days as a site manager, a lot of the tradesmen had had enough of their respective trades. They would throw around the comment that they should go and start a coffee shop, something nice and easy. What do you say to that?
Heath: [Laughs] I am thinking the same thing at the moment.
I love running a construction business, it’s good money, good fun, challenging and there is always a lot going on. We get to meet a lot of people and do some cool jobs. Like most of the guys out there, it is the stress, the liability, the risk that adds up, especially when you start getting to this level. You begin to question where does it all end. You start waiting for it to all fall over or something bad to happen because it’s so likely that it will.
I have learnt to live with the stress, so it’s not too bad. I have more days than not wondering why I am doing this when I could go and work in my coffee shop. Maybe I should move to Queensland and open a coffee shop on the beach. It’s definitely a valid thought when you’re in this position.
Would you start Nicholson Builders all over again?
Matt: If you were to do it again, would you do it all again?
Heath: Yep, I think I would, just for the fact that it has all got me to where I am today.
It’s helped establish my family and our home. We have built a few homes because we can build them cheaper to help create our asset base. I mean the only reason we could afford the coffee shop was because we had equity in our home. The business has helped me learn and grow as a business owner and as a person, but also how to manage money.
Especially the stress that comes with managing millions of dollars. There aren’t too many businesses you can start at the age of 23 and handle millions of dollars. So I think I would do it all again to gain the knowledge and everything that has come from the business.
Nicholson Builders winning awards
Matt: What has been your proudest achievement to date?
Heath: My proudest achievement would have to be the Master Builders award we just won. The award took me by surprise, especially the fact that it was my first home I have ever built. It was our family home.
Matt: [Looking at the camera] Master builders is a national building association here in Australia.
Heath: I felt away out of my league being up on stage making a speech, and receiving the award. That was a considerable achievement; I loved it.
Heath: I have been to a few charity events lately and with my business dealings around town. I have come up on the radar of a few people in the council, and they invited me along to see if I was interested in the Chamber of Commerce. So I just sat in my first Chamber of Commerce board meeting yesterday.
It was pretty cool to watch how they work and the input they have in the community and council. These guys are nudging and keeping council accountable for what they’re doing and how they’re looking after small business in the area. So, being a business owner in Shepparton, and the frustrations I have with the council, it is a perfect opportunity being on the board.
That elusive work-life balance
Matt: You are a big family man, how does the business allow for family time?
Heath: It doesn’t. It’s hard. Look, I never advise anybody on work-life balance because I just don’t think there is a set formula.
Matt: Now that you employ a construction manager and a sales team is that allowing you to step back?
Heath: They are absolutely allowing me to step back, and that’s the plan to get the business to a point where I can stand back. Not necessarily be able to walk away entirely but where I can sit back, sell or whatever I want. To do that I’ve got the team and a system in place that it can run without me. So that plan allows me to spend more time with the family.
Matt: And you have your supervisors walking around the different job sites recording about the various projects. How was the request to start recording stories received by the guys on site?
Heath: Yeah, all I can say is that they’re all still nervous about recording the stories. I think some of them secretly love it. You can probably tell from some of the videos they can get a bit weird, but they know that it’s something that I’m implementing and it just needs to happen. It’s documenting what we do, and I can’t get to all the jobs all the time, so I have asked my boys to do it. And they’re excellent about it.
They need constant reminding because they don’t take it upon themselves and think, “I am going to film this today” and do it. It’s only when I remind them too that they do the stories.
Matt: One of your Instagram videos you are flying a drone from your front door over to a job site. Did the boys notice the drone? And did you receive a phone call afterwards?
Heath: They saw it coming, and in the video, you can see them poking their level and throwing nails at the drone. They knew straight away who it was.
I have been following Heath Nicholson Builders on Instagram for a while now, watching their various projects progress. So I got in touch, asked if I could write an article about one of their projects.
Heath was more than happy to help out with an article and said that the “Round House” they are currently working was a once in a career opportunity.
Before we get into the project, talking with Heath, in particular asking to write about a project of theirs has been easy. In my experience, people that are willing to help out another person is a credit to that person. A person’s willingness to help others can tell you a lot about how they run their business, and this is no different with Heath.
“I won the job because the client saw some of the different types of work we were doing on social media, and called me. She told me she couldn’t actually find any builders in the area to take the job on because it was “too hard.””
As you look through the photo’s, you can see that it’s not just a straightforward building. As we all can imagine, a circular building is going to be a nightmare. The curved walls have been creating daily challenges, especially being constructed out of timber, steel and brick. We are not talking a nice large gentle radius, the radiuses are tight.
The level of workmanship that is going into the project is second to none. As we all know doing something right doesn’t take much more time. As Heath said, they are on track and have only be slowed by wet weather.
According to Heath, the openable domed glass roof in the center of the building is going to be a fun challenge. The domed glass is currently being designed and will be interesting to see how they make this happen.
There have been no specialised subcontractors brought in for this project either. The team that Heath is using are the same contractors he uses on every project. That is a statement of the trust Heath has in his contractors and employees.
This is one of those projects that once finished, will be talked about for a long time.
I am looking forward to seeing this project unfold. If you want to follow along, the best way is to follow on Instagram (@nicholson_builders). Heath Nicholson Builders is based in Shepparton Victoria Australia.