Spotlight on Ann-Maree Brickwood
Spotlight on Ann-Maree Brickwood
J Brickwood Building Pty Ltd was established in 1998 by James Brickwood – qualified builder and carpenter.
The company specialises in home renovations, extensions and new homes for families in the St George and Sutherland Shire area Sydney Australia.
Five Questions with Ann-Maree:
How did you get started in the building industry?
My husband has been a residential Carpenter and Builder in the construction industry for many years having started his own business J Brickwood Building in 1998. After the birth of my third child in 2005 I was looking for something a little more family friendly so joining the family business was an ideal opportunity. At the time I had been working in admin and management roles in a vast range of industries and I could see that I could offer something to our own business that I had been doing for other people for years. Our business had grown to a stage where my hubby James could not do it all on his own and we wanted to take the business to a more professional level.
Over the past few years my involvement has increased as my children Daniel (17), Jordan (12) and Abigail (7) have grown. I am now responsible for account keeping, marketing and contracts administration. I have completed numerous courses with HIA including completing my GreenSmart Professional training and attended many business and building shows. More recently I have completed my Certificate IV in Contracts Administration through HIA and am a member of the HIA Industrial Relations and Legal Services Committee. This increased involvement with our industry association has reinforced that I want to stay in the industry.
What is a typical day?
A typical day in my world is never typical! Although some things do not change which involve rising at 6, getting the kids ready and off to school, run errands, then back to the office until 3pm. Then its school pick up, afternoon activities, dinner, housework, back into the office with James to run through items for the next day then into bed hopefully by 11. I still work for another business a couple days a week to keep my sanity and maintain human contact. On these days our business work is confined to the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. We try to leave business to Monday to Friday to allow us time on the weekends for kids sport and family time, not to mention renovating our own home!
What lessons have you learnt?
First and foremost - Not every building enquiry is a good enquiry. To start with I had James running all over Sydney quoting jobs we were never going to get. I have now learnt how to qualify these enquiries. This has been aided through our website which has been a magnificent tool.
Second - Set your expectations for customers, sub-contractors and employees early. We have a code of conduct and many fact sheets on the building process which all new parties are given. James and I have found over the years that if we take the time to ensure that all parties have realistic expectations and in return they understand our expectations the jobs run more smoothly.
Third - Be proactive. I have learnt that most problems remain small problems if they are tackled early. This is particularly significant in the building industry where small problems if not handled early with clients and or sub-contractors can result in both financial and reputation loss.
Any tips for new business partners or starting out in business
Starting out in the building industry is daunting. After working in a range of industries over the years it is by far and large the most legislated industry I have worked in with high financial and physical risks which need to be managed. While saying that I think it is exactly this combination which makes it so INTERESTING! To see projects go from conception to completion and move through all the physical, legislative and relationship challenges is BRILLIANT! My advice for people starting out is to take the time to understand the business part of the building business. If you don't know your operating expenses and understand your financial obligations you run the risk of working with no financial reward. Get involved with HIA. Being a business partner in a small building business can be lonely at times and result in you talking to yourself a little more than you would prefer to admit. HIA and the BPN provide lots of opportunities for you to feel like you are part of an industry and not just the wife/partner of a tradie!
Future plans for the business
After 15 years we have a solid business that has been through the ups and downs of the business cycle. We are currently looking at diversifying our business income so that when the building industry slows we have a diverse income to draw on. Our plans used to be to complete more jobs! But now we believe we have found our niche and are now looking more towards improving the quality and efficiency of the jobs we complete, not so much the number of jobs completed; and who knows, with 3 children, our family business may one day grow to include one or more of the next generation.