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For Rebecca Bishop, the evening of 29 May did not go according to plan. A finalist in the 2020 HIA–CSR Australian Housing Awards, Rebecca, or Bek to her friends, had started the afternoon off well. With the awards moved to a pandemic safe online event, in true perfectionist fashion all preparations had been considered and undertaken.
‘The link had been tested, the family was dressed up (including the dog), signs were made, my youngest son had even organised to host a Facebook live video,’ Rebecca says. ‘But come go time, our television decided not to work so we were all scrambling to change rooms, running to quickly connect to the laptop and try to mirror it to our media room TV.’
When it came time to announce that she had in fact won the 2020 HIA Australian Business Partner award, the delay from the computer to the television meant Rebecca saw her name on the theatre screen a good 10 seconds before the laptop and the rest of the family – and they had no idea why she was screaming, and jumping up and down.
‘It was ridiculous, and so typical of my life,’ she says with a laugh. ‘It was full on.’
Her family’s business, Elite Building Services, run by her and her husband Nick, has built a reputation on quality, trust and transparency, which is underpinned by their mantra ‘Bringing people home’. An intonation she came up with during a business group session that still brings tears to her eyes, Rebecca proudly believes creating homes is about more than a build; it is designing a place for memories to be made and cherished.
But all of that emotive power of creating, as any business owner knows, requires hard work along with heart.
To say Rebecca has a handle on hard work, and all crucial parts of the business is an understatement. From customer liaison, operations, quality control, marketing and accounts, her Business Partner award submission reads like a proposal created by a large multiskilled team, not a party of one.
Noted by the judges for her success in strategy and communication, what makes Rebecca truly unique is her belief that a job site open door policy ensures that her clients feel involved in their journey from contract signature to key handover. Staying active in her local community, charitable ventures, and developing improved systems and processes, have all powerfully added to Elite’s growth, and are a representation of the perfect ‘off-site’ skills needed in a robust business partner.
Now, try adding motherhood, a law degree and COVID-19 into the mix. It would be enough to overwhelm some – but not Rebecca. In the wise words ‘what doesn’t break you, makes you’, she knows this is true more than many.
A little over a decade ago, Rebecca’s life took an unexpected turn. A potentially fatal car accident turned the law student, volunteer and social butterfly’s life upside down. Six days in hospital, a month in rehabilitation, followed by countless physical and neurological therapies, it took months for her to be able to dress and shower, let alone see her way clear to be a wife, mother to 12-year-old James, and manage two businesses.
But not only was Rebecca a miracle survivor, it also turned out that a second marvel arrived nine months later, in the form of her youngest son Harrison. Unknowingly newly pregnant at the time of the accident, not only did he arrive perfect in every way, he also continues to teach Rebecca not only what she can do, but also what she should let go of
‘I’m naturally stubborn and persistent,’ she says, ‘but I really struggle with accepting help when it’s offered, and I’m trying to retrain my brain to not reject assistance. My son and I were choosing new books to read, as I love to continue to learn, he pointed to a book titled “The power of asking”, and turned to me to say “Mum, you need to read this book, you need to learn how to ask for help”.’ Maturely perceptive indeed.
Rebecca is learning the benefits of support. In her business world this includes outsourcing skilled areas to others and taking professional advice. In the past year, not only has Elite expanded the use of its virtual CFO to help them forecast financially, but they have engaged marketing professionals and grown from the knowledge gained from business coaches and groups.
Administrative support is next on her hit list. This, Rebecca says, is so she can concentrate more on the importance of being there for their customers, guiding them through their build journey and ensuring their every need is met and exceeded – what she believes is her true talent.
While learning to accept help, Rebecca is also passionate about giving help to others. In a ‘paying it forward’ way, she wants to give to her contemporaries in the residential building industry, especially during our ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. From staying up all night to write newsletters, engaging in videos and webinars, creating support groups and providing suites of solutions they can use in their own business, her aim is to be part of creating a strong industry, where work sites are efficient, trades are taken care of and the end results are exceptional in standard. A ‘stronger together’ mentality.
‘Some may ask, why am I helping my competitors? But I don’t see them as competitors. In my opinion people in this industry don’t just want to make money, they want to do better,’ she says. ‘When you walk into a room and people are brave and honest enough to share the challenges they have with their business, there are others in the room who are going through exactly the same thing. Why wouldn’t I want to help them and offer up the advice that worked for us?’
Rebecca’s eagerness to help others though is as much about what she has learnt about the importance of personal wellbeing as it is to do with learnt business savvy. With the physical challenges post-accident came the emotional ones, resulting in depression, anxiety and PTSD, on top of chronic panic pain and the constant rounds of medical appointments.
Balancing it all, she admits is a work in progress, but every day she takes another step forward in confidence.
‘In the last 12 months I have learnt so much,’ she says. ‘I have not only started to talk publicly about my story and the things that I struggle with, I have also taught myself to prioritise my own care. I meditate, I journal and I make sure I diarise quality time with my family and be less hard on myself. Finally!’
Not surprisingly, her Business Partner award has also come as a lovely pinnacle and reward for her growth, honesty and humility.
And something makes us all believe not only will Elite and Rebecca continue to grow, her positivity and strength will shine a light on everyone she comes into contact with. Some might say that is the real miracle in her story.