It seems an unlikely career change. Susie Martin originally trained and worked as a physiotherapist but is now business manager with the family design and building firm, Aaron Martin Construction in Strathalbyn, South Australia. Yet many of the skills she developed in her previous career are now crucial in her new role.
Susie’s accomplishments were recognised earlier this year when she won 2018 HIA Australian Business Partner of the Year. It’s a significant award, acknowledging not only her achievements in the business but also the importance of similar positions, so often under-estimated, within the wider building industry.
‘Sometimes there’s a perception that wives who take on the business partner role just do the books,’ she says, ‘but there’s so much that goes into running a business, in particular a building business, that the skill set required is extensive.’
Aaron Martin Construction is located in the picturesque town of Strathalbyn, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, some 50 kilometres south-east of Adelaide. Her husband Aaron has worked in the building industry for 20 years, first as a carpenter and now as a builder. Susie, meanwhile, chose physiotherapy as a profession where she could help people achieve change in their lives, and be her own boss.
She began that career in a hospital setting, also completing a doctorate in aged care and a post-graduate fellowship.
‘To leave this wasn’t a decision taken lightly,’ she says. ‘I had started to cement a fairly clear career path in clinical and research physiotherapy when I went on my first period of maternity leave.’
But, gradually, the focus of the family business changed. ‘At first, my role was limited to bookkeeping and a bit of marketing,’ she recalls.