Venise Reilly Managing Director Visioneer Builders  / 
Hold Your Ground

story / Interview / May 9, 2016

My parents left school at thirteen and have worked hard all their lives. That’s where my strong work ethic comes from. They valued education and encouraged me to succeed. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so fell into an Arts Degree and studied teaching – that’s what a lot of women did back then. I was originally a secondary teacher of English, Literature and History and although I enjoyed that phase of my life, I knew I wanted to do something different. It’s been a long journey.

My first move into property and construction was to develop a residential block. I engaged an architect, sourced finance, ploughed through planning, and project managed as a novice – three townhouses.  It was just before GST was introduced and there was a building boom underway. The builder I engaged didn’t put a site manager on the project so trades were coming onto site with no plans, even bricking walls out of alignment! I ended up semi site managing and learnt a lot through being hands on. I also recognised at that time that the building process really interested me.

Shortly after the completion of that project, a friend recommended me for an interview with a custom domestic building company. I was middle aged and unqualified. When nothing eventuated, I approached the company and suggested I consult to them. ‘I’ll look at how your jobs are performing from an OH&S perspective.’ That was how I got my start. They threw me into the deep end and I learnt site management and project management from the ground up. Within four years, I was the Construction Manager of a custom building company.

Ask a lot of questions. Men in the building industry can be irritated by the fact that women are persistent communicators. As I worked through my own ‘apprenticeship’, I observed that my questions would often be answered quite generally, in the hope that I would just go away. I didn’t. People started to pay attention and realised I wasn’t going to stop asking those questions. I needed to know. I needed accuracy in order to make good decisions and know which way to proceed both onsite and in communication with clients and consultants.

I decided from the outset that there were a lot of things about the building industry that could be improved. Most builders in the domestic realm come from a carpentry background and have little training in running a business. I wanted my company to feel more like a professional consultancy. People have an accountant, a financial planner, a legal advisor – why not a building consultancy team to professionally manage best practice in all aspects of the planning and building process? That was my vision.

Getting my building license was a challenge. I felt confident with site logistics, safety, programming and financial management but had to study to pass the technical examination. I think that’s a good thing – we need to encourage higher standards in the industry.

From the first day, I set up the business in the way I wanted it to continue. We rented an office, engaged a well respected accounting firm and installed an IT system which could cater for future growth. I had made a commitment to get out into the industry to try to make a difference and to learn. I joined HIA and became active on their committees and through that involvement was appointed to the Architect’s Registration Board of Victoria.

My husband is my biggest influence. He is inspirational and my mentor. We’ve always talked business, marketing and financials. A big part of what has enabled me to work hard on the business is having a partner who is hands on at home. He looks after cooking and shopping – it’s unusual for my generation. He took over that role when I moved into this industry. Our kids were fifteen, thirteen and eleven at the time and their memory now is that Dad did most of the domestic work when they were growing up. But it’s okay, I remind them, I made those costumes! I took you to dance class! For women out there who want the career and the family life, you need a partner or a support team that is going to do half.

You need to build up your resilience, find ways to be able to hold your ground and to speak your piece. But it’s also important to consider the other person’s viewpoint and not to become defensive.  Accepting a shared liability and working in collaboration is often a better way to move forward. In this industry, I see many people who want to scream and shout their own viewpoint and then make short-term decisions. In the building world, that can lead to disastrous outcomes.

We’ve raised our daughters and son to be committed, focused and aware of their responsibilities to others. They have a strong work ethic and are able to put themselves in the shoes of others. They are also strong defenders of equality at work and in our community.

At this stage of my life I feel confident in my business and industry roles, yet I enjoy the fact that I’m still learning and developing each day. Don’t give up on later life. There are roles for women in the future not thought of yet. And don’t give up on being able to manage a career and a family.  I think you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time. And you probably wouldn’t want it all at the same time…

 

Venise strikes you immediately as direct. A no fuss woman. We are always on the lookout for stories of amazing women and when we heard of her success we knew we had to meet her. We were at the NAWIC awards where she took home the award for Outstanding Achievement as a Businesswoman. Meeting her and her team on the night, we were so inspired business she has built. Venise reminds us all that it’s important to find something you’re passionate about. And it’s never too late to find it or to change your path in life. She wants to make a difference and contribute to the industry she’s involved in. Something both of us find super inspiring. Her uncompromisingly professional vision of her company and herself, has made Visioneer Builders the success it is today. We wish her all the best and thank her so wholly, for pushing the boundaries and making a difference. 

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