I didn’t go to University. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school at eighteen. I didn’t want to study for another four or five years, just floating in something I wasn’t too sure about. I started working full time for a music store and then got a job as a buyer at JB Hifi in the music department.
My Dad is a roof plumber by trade. He started working for himself about thirty years ago on the tools, working at every aspect of the company. He saw an opening in the market for facade cladding so he moved into that space. My sister went to work for him at that time. He had no sons to take over the trade aspect! In 2007, I got over of working in retail so I thought, ‘I could work for Dad.’ I didn’t even know what a tool bag was!
I started working in the office. I don’t really have a defined role as such. You could say I’m a senior administrator. I handle the financial side of the company, the early stages of tendering and estimating, bank guarantees and contracts. I’ve learnt everything on the job. I did a brief estimating and payroll course to help out with tenders, because we need to set a job up properly and get them ready for our estimators.
People always say, ‘Oh you work with your family, it must be awesome.’ It’s great, there is a lot of perks. Though, it can be really hard because there’s no real structure or boundaries. Most of the time Dad often says, ‘Just do it this way, or that way, that’s how I’ve always done it.’ He’s pretty old school. Like most men in construction, he’s set in his way. It takes fresh eyes to make systems, this is something I try and do.
Builders and architects come straight to us because Dad has built such a name in the industry. We specialise in facade cladding, fabrication and installation. He is The Brains behind the company. He is teaching us the best way to do things, but he’s pulling back a bit now… takes long holidays. When he is away, it’s my brother-in-law and myself who run the show. My sister has two little ones, so she works two days a week. However, it is my Dad’s baby and he’s always been hands on with every aspect. So it’s going to be hard for him to wind back.
I never switch off from work. I’m always thinking of what money is coming in. As a small business, cash flow is tight. The industry is competitive. There aren’t big margins. Our labour costs are our largest costs, so I’m always trying to plan labour. Trying to find better systems to make costs more efficient.
I’ve never been a girly girl, so working around guys has been easy and I get along well with them really well. I never thought in a million years I would work in construction. My parents have always been pretty good and supportive in whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t have to go into the business. It’s naturally progressed for me to be running the show with my brother-in-law! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
The Industry can be a brutal place. You need to have a good outlook on accepting other people and how they work. You deal with so many different personalities in one day. You just have to try to relate to each person and adapt. Don’t be too much of a hardarse. Especially with some guys. Be relaxed in your approach with people.
I guess I’m there because my Dad didn’t have any sons. I think many women where I am, have started out in the family business. A lot of my friends are like ‘Oh you work in construction, you work on site all the time. You’re with the boys all the time.’ But that’s not always the case. I think they are a bit intimidated by it, but I don’t think they need to be. There are different avenues in construction, other than working with a tool belt on site. But people that don’t work in the industry don’t realise that.
Intimidation is the greatest barrier in the industry. One thing I’ve noticed dealing with different sites, is that there has been an increase in women on site, but it’s still very much male-dominated. It is however ideal for women. There’s so many roles perfect for women in construction.
I’m a Gemini so I often get really distracted. I’m all in on one thing, then I move to the next. At the moment I’m all about health, so I’m reading all about that. I’m booked in to do a pottery class. I’ve heard that it’s really therapeutic and good for stress. Try and do something when you get home that isn’t work related. I’ve been listening to a lot of e-books because when I read I get really sleepy. I find it takes a year to read a book. Since new year, I’ve downloaded Audible and I listen to them each day.
Both my parents have been very influential in my life. But Dad business-wise, more so. He has always said ‘Work as hard as you can when you’re young, so you don’t have to work as hard as I am at this age.’ It’s so true. I see him now and he’s never going to quit. He just doesn’t have it in him. He’s a workaholic. He has made mistakes, like we all do, but he has instilled in me a really good work ethic.
It’s funny sometimes, how you meet people. Despite both Justine and I having some involvement with R&R Group through tenders or work on site, neither of us had met Deonne. Yet she came recommended through photography circles and mutual friends. But voila! Some small business and non-traditional path inspiration for you all. We met one warm March evening at old haunt Prudence in North Melbourne. One of those lazy late summer nights when one feels like they should still be on summer holidays, but are sadly into the third month of work. Deonne is laid back, grounded and has a fresh view on life. At odds with the overly ambitious and competitive young people we sometime work with, she is internally ambitious and future-looking in a grounded way. She speak so highly of her father, an obvious influence on her path, but also of the industry as a place for women. A place for women which may not seem traditional, but full of opportunity if one can overlook it’s shortcomings. Deonne to us, is a vision of the slow but sure change of women taking on roles in small construction businesses. We wish Deonne the best of luck in 2017 and in the future with her family business. You can follow R&R on Insta at @rrgroup_vic.