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Embracing change

Embracing change

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The residential housing industry – and the world itself – has changed, expanded and adapted since Suzanne Burke was awarded the 2013 HIA Australian Business Partner of the Year award. Discover her proficiency for process and her ability to adapt.

Kerryn Ramsey

Content Writer

A decade ago, the world was adjusting to new technology and ways of communicating. Terms such as selfies, bitcoin and cloud computing were current buzz words. 2013 was also a memorable year for Australian women. Quentin Bryce was the country’s Governor-General, Julia Gillard was Prime Minister and Ita Buttrose was Australian of the Year. 

It was also the year that Suzanne Burke, General Manager of Amerex Renovations in Perth, won the HIA Australian Business Partner of the Year (now known as Small Business Management) award. 


The Amerex Renovations dream team, Suzanne and Steve Burke, at Uluru in 2019

Q: What are the most useful skills you’ve used to build and manage Amerex Renovations?

My undergraduate degree was in Business with a major in Information Systems, focusing on systems and the importance of business processes. At Amerex, this has translated into a practical and analytical approach. Where possible we find ways to systemise our processes. Success is not an event; it’s a process. If the process is followed, success is repeatable.

Rather than set and forget, we perform an annual stocktake where every employee takes stock of the business and their roles. We then create a roadmap for business improvement across the year.

It’s this drive and commitment to continuous business improvement that has enabled us to adapt to market changes, pivot when necessary and keep relevant in a challenging industry.

Q: What are some worthwhile courses/skills on offer for HIA members who are expanding their business?

You must embrace software and technology to enable your business to systemise as much as possible. As a minimum, you need to know how to use project management software and transition your technology infrastructure away from desktop software.

Moving towards cloud computing minimises the risk of hacking and catastrophic data loss. Other skills, such as social media and website management, bookkeeping and human resource management, can be outsourced to experts.

Suzanne with Steve winning HIA's business partner award and HIA WA Professional Small Builder/Renovator of the Year in 2013
The couple with their children Lily and George at their book launch of π˜•π˜’π˜ͺ𝘭 𝘠𝘰𝘢𝘳 π˜™π˜¦π˜―π˜°π˜·π˜’π˜΅π˜ͺ𝘰𝘯 𝘞π˜ͺ𝘡𝘩𝘰𝘢𝘡 𝘎𝘦𝘡𝘡π˜ͺ𝘯𝘨 𝘚𝘀𝘳𝘦𝘸𝘦π˜₯

Q: How do you stay on top of technology and internet trends?

My mantra in life is that the only constant is change. You must keep changing and adapting or get left behind. For me, keeping up with change is enjoyable. Within Amerex, a transition to cloud computing reduced paper usage in the office by 90 per cent. With all data and software in the cloud when COVID hit, we were already prepared and set up for remote working.

On a personal level, over the years I’ve gained skills in search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, content writing and website management. Everything I learn, I apply to Amerex. I also transfer knowledge to others in the business to make sure skills transfer takes place. That way, when individuals upskill, both the business and the individual benefit. 

Currently, I’m exploring and learning about AI and finding ways to use AI technology to save time and be more productive in the workplace. Alongside this, I’m creating a new small business, providing SEO services and content to help small business owners. I’m looking for ways to incorporate AI education for small business owners into this new venture too. 

Q: Apart from winning HIA’s Business Partner of the Year award, have you won other HIA awards in the 
past?

Amerex Renovations has been awarded the HIA WA Professional Small Builder/Renovator of the Year five times over the years and has been a finalist in every year we have entered since 2009. We see this as industry endorsement for our commitment to continuous business improvement and the professional approach and high-quality standards we always strive for.

Q: You’ve co-written the book, Nail Your Renovation Without Getting Screwed, with your husband and Amerex Managing Director Steve Burke. What inspired you to take this on?

After writing many articles for the Amerex blog, I realised there was enough content to form the basis of a book. I did some research and discovered there were not many books in the renovation area. They didn’t talk much about planning; they’re more about handyman projects and how-to stuff. With a gap in the market, we took time putting together the book. 
Suzanne co-wrote the book with her husband Steve Burke
Celebrating the book launch with family and friends

Q: You’ve been involved with many HIA events, including HIA Building Women. Why do you think these events are important for our members?

Industry events are a great opportunity to chat to people working in the same industry. It’s normal to talk to trades and suppliers regularly, but we wouldn’t chat to many other builders. Sharing challenges, successes and ideas benefits everyone and lifts the sector as a whole. I always come away from an event with a great takeaway. Whether it is a new contact, an idea, a better understanding of the economy, or by taking home an award, it’s all worthwhile.  

Q: Are there any tips to help give women more confidence and determination when working in the residential building industry?

Women are told to be a lot of things and are a lot of things in life. We are told we should back ourselves more, be more confident, negotiate better, support each other, strike a balance between work and home. So, rather than providing some tips for other women in the industry, I have a tip for the male leaders in the industry. The change starts with you. An effective CEO needs to proactively address the gender imbalance in the industry. 

Q: You and Steve have so many projects on the go. Do you find time to have a good work/life balance?

The great thing is we both love what we do so it helps if you like going to work each day. Finding balance is important though and we do our best (well, we try) to keep our fitness levels up and stay healthy. We also take time out every day for off-the-grid time, whether it’s walking the dog or doing a downward dog. 
 

First published on 26 May 2023

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