‘One of my work colleagues said her father was looking for a commercial manager at AV Jennings so I went and had a coffee with them,’ Simon explains. ‘I was sitting in the foyer and it struck me that everyone was walking at about twice the speed of the people at the bank, and I thought, “There’s a bit of energy here.”’
You might say he got hooked line and sinker once again because three decades after that fateful interview he hasn’t yet moved on from the home building industry.
‘They were a fabulous business to learn from,’ Simon says. ‘Working in a regional business unit like the Gold Coast, and the northern Rivers region which it covered, exposed me to all the different types of jobs you do in a housing business, from customer service to sales management, building and administration.’
It’s evident Simon values loyalty, and once earned, will offer his. For 14 years he happily worked for AV Jennings, thriving in a dynamic ‘market leading’ company and experiencing immense job satisfaction from ‘delivering people’s homes’.
‘It’s hard to beat the look on a home buyer’s face when their finance manager is telling them their loan has been approved and their dream is going to come true,’ he says.
So, it took the chance to work on a once in a lifetime project to lure him away. Headhunted by development and building company Mirvac, Simon was approached to establish and run the sales and marketing team for the Sydney Olympic Games’ athlete’s village, which was actually the development of a new suburb – Newington – in the geographic centre of the city. The job however would require uprooting his family from their comfortable Gold Coast lifestyle.
‘When we moved to Sydney my wife Kerry was crying on the plane because she didn’t want to leave. Then when we came back she was crying on the plane because she didn’t want to leave Sydney,’ he laughs. ‘It was a great three years for us.’
Simon says despite the steep learning curve – he was once asked by the managing director to present at a conference on marketing ESD (ecologically sustainable development) though had never before heard the term – the experience was a definite career highlight.
‘The project had a strong environmental base of credentials. By the time we opened the village, Greenpeace was calling it the world’s most environmentally-friendly suburb, and at the time it was the world’s largest solar-powered development.’