Episode 2 - Grahame Chevalley

April 20, 2020
Episode 2 - Grahame Chevalley

Aaron Kyle : On today's show of Build Hatch I was fortunate enough to speak to Grahame Chevalley from the Hunter Valley. Grahame is a major contributor to Hunter Valley's economy being part owner of the GWH group. During Grahame's 30 plus years in the construction industry Grahame understands both the contractors and owners perspectives. Through this experience Grahame talks about empowering his people and getting the basics right. I really enjoyed sitting down and listening to a well-grounded good old fashioned hard worker from the country and hearing his philosophy of keeping his eyes open for what works and what doesn't work, and simply having a vision for the end product in mind. I can't wait to share his insights with you. Grahame Chevalley welcome to Build Hatch.

Grahame Chevalley: Thank you very much.

Aaron Kyle : All right, Grahame thanks for coming onto the show. Before we get to know a bit more about some of the projects that you've worked on or a bit about your company. Can you first tell our listeners whereabouts did you grow up?

Grahame Chevalley: I grew up on the North Coast of New South Wales. I have a bit of a different background. I grew up on a cattle station where my dad was a stockman and we lived there for a number of years. Obviously the rural industry in those days was pretty tough. My father used to work on the cattle station. He had his own property and he needed to supplement that income and we lived on that cattle station. I grew up in the bush.

Aaron Kyle : So a hardworking family?

Grahame Chevalley: Very much so. His weekdays and our weekdays were spent working on the cattle station and the weekends were primarily spent on our own property as well. I enjoyed that aspect. Back in those days he was a cattleman basically. He would be working daylight to dark. Mostly on a horse, most of his time would have been spent on a horse.

Aaron Kyle : Really?

Grahame Chevalley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Then I had that love of the cattle work and I still until this day I have my own property at Gresford. That's where the love of the farming comes from.

Aaron Kyle : Interesting. I guess worked on the farm up until you were a teenager. Then, why building? How did you get into building?

Grahame Chevalley: Well, I didn't I actually decided farming was going to be my life. I left the North Coast and headed to the Hunter Valley and went to Tocal Ag College, just outside of Newcastle. I was there for two years. After that, I actually got a job here locally working on a farm for a couple of years and other property. It was at that stage that I was worked out that one of the things I'd learned at Ag college was Ag economics. It didn't take me long to work out there wasn't much future in working for somebody else on the land, because my ultimate goal really was to have my own property. Working for wages, pretty low wages I wasn't going to achieve that goal.

Grahame Chevalley: I looked at an opportunity. I worked around for a couple of builders and then settled down with one builder, a local builder not far from where I lived. He obviously gave me an opportunity and he was very much a hands-on builder and a mum and dad operation and I learned a lot from him. Obviously building, I was attracted to building because it's not unlike in a lot of ways like farming, it's hard work, it's long days. I enjoy building. I enjoy farming, but I think building is not dissimilar in a lot of ways.

Aaron Kyle : On the tools?

Grahame Chevalley: On the tools. A lot on the tools but I actually never did my trade as such. In fact, the guy that I worked for I think he'd had a series of apprentices over the years and he actually said I was the best apprentice that he ever had. He was never actually an apprentice. I learned so much from him because he was a guy that was agreed to throw me straight in the deep end. I basically were able to frame out a house from start to finish within probably over 18 months just because he gave me the opportunity.

Aaron Kyle : Was he a bit of a mentor back then for you?

Grahame Chevalley: Yes, obviously. Yeah, definitely he was. Probably in that he gave me a great opportunity and I think I've continued that through people that work around me today. I think I learned a lot from that, give them an opportunity and the rest is up to them.

Aaron Kyle : What construction was it?

Grahame Chevalley: Residential.

Aaron Kyle : Residential.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah. New houses, new homes and extensions and that sort of stuff. A little bit of commercial stuff, but mainly residential.

Aaron Kyle : You did that for a couple of years and then at some point made a decision that you could do this yourself or go out on your own or another opportunity?

Grahame Chevalley: Well, what I did was I worked for him for probably two or three years, probably three years. I went out and did a little, started to do a bit of work on my own, just general carpentry and building work. Then I had an opportunity to work in Newcastle with one of the major Newcastle commercial builders. I worked there for a couple of years with them and I worked my way up from basically being on the tools up to being a site supervisor and project manager. That's really where it started. Back then the opportunity was there to maybe go out and do something on my own. I had an opportunity to do that, and I took it and started that in about 1991. I formed my own company, but primarily at that stage I was doing commercial and industrial buildings.

Aaron Kyle : What was that like at the time, you're working full time for somebody else you're contemplating the move. How long did you think about that for?

Grahame Chevalley: Look, I was always somebody that was prepared to have a bit of a go. It didn't daunt me. I suppose I was young. I think I was only around about 26, 27 at that stage. I wasn't ... Probably young and gung ho ready to go. I really didn't have a second thought about it, to be honest. By that stage, I had four children. Not that I was looking for their future, I don't think it was that and primarily it was never, I never got in it to make money more so than to just take the opportunity and give that opportunity every shot that I could to achieve what my potential was, I suppose.

Aaron Kyle : Still even with four kids and working, to make that plunge there's an element of risk in that too and takes a lot of courage to do, doesn't it?

Grahame Chevalley: Absolutely. But I'm a risk taker. I think in a positive type of way.

Aaron Kyle : Calculated way.

Grahame Chevalley: A calculated way, yes and I mean really the rest of that I've done in my life, business life. There's always a risk associated with it, and yes, it's about calculating. The opportunity that I had I summed it up pretty quickly and I thought, now this is a good opportunity. Life is so much about opportunities.

Aaron Kyle : You waited for the right time, calculated the risk and then took the plunge?

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah. I think the opportunity came along and I weighed it up and now let's give it a go.

Aaron Kyle : I mean that's remarkable. Did you have architects or opportunity, you had an existing network to be able to support that calculated risk?

Grahame Chevalley: Well, what the opportunity was, was an opportunity to join forces with my now business partner, Hilton Grugeon, who was a well-known Hunter developer. At that stage, Hilton was mostly doing property development. Well both property development, he still had his landscaping business, but there was an opportunity there. He was getting lots of inquiries for land and building packages in industrial market. He obviously he only had the land and he needed somebody to come along and provide the building package as well. I'd done some work for him when I was working for the previous company. He came along to me and said, look, what about this? I've got the land, you can build the buildings. Why don't we just join forces? Which is what we did.

Aaron Kyle : You effectively complemented each other?

Grahame Chevalley: That's correct. I think then, you're right in that I had the context with already in the Newcastle area, subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers. I tapped into that and even some of my early employees were people that I'd worked with previously that I knew when I worked in construction in Newcastle.

Aaron Kyle : You had that network and it's so important, isn't it? That you don't know what the future brings. It's so important to, I guess, have a great network around you because you never know down the track, you could be working for yourself or employing those guys directly.

Grahame Chevalley: That's a risk mitigation because that's part of the calculation is, is that if you're working with people that you know, I think it makes it ... Well, you're mitigating the risk of it going wrong. They know you, you know them. I think it's important to bring them along on the journey and that's something we've continued to do. There's some of those people that I worked with back in those days are still working for me now, including subcontractors. It's been a long journey, but they are people you can trust. They know how you work and how they work. It's really important.

Aaron Kyle : That's the credit to, I guess, to have that network of people that still help you succeed these days, that's just a critical ingredient of success, isn't it? Just shows what sort of business you have and the networks that you have.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah, absolutely. I think the company that I'd worked for in Newcastle previous to this opportunity, I probably learnt more about how not to run a company than how to run a company. They were the hard nose building tenders that would get 10 prices from a subcontractor. They'd take the cheapest and then watch him go broke on the job. There was no teamwork involved and they just burned them up.

Aaron Kyle : Just cut throat.

Grahame Chevalley: Cut throat.

Aaron Kyle : No building relationships.

Grahame Chevalley: No relationships. Look and they not only with their suppliers and their subcontractors, they didn't even have relationships with the customers. They would burn them out as well. Just the variation book, we still to this day do not have a variation book. We've never had a variation book and we've built really ongoing relationships with not only our suppliers or subcontractors, but our clients, our customers since then. That's as I said, if I learned anything, it was how not to run a business. I made sure that when we took that forward into these business, even up until this stage, it's very much relationship built.

Aaron Kyle : That's incredible. I guess to relate it back to growing up, you grew up on a farm, so there's already that hardworking mentality. Then you've then gone on, you've learned from a good mentor. You've then applied that to your business relationships and the people that you work with so that at some point, maybe not knowing at the time, but you may be working for yourself. That's an amazing fit, who inspired you back then?

Grahame Chevalley: I don't think any one person inspired me. I've had multiple people that have inspired me. I speak about Hilton and the opportunities, and obviously from a building development he'd done a lot of building development before we joined forces. I learned a lot from him and along the way just the opportunities, the people that I've seen, the ability to be able to work out what is a good idea and what is a bad idea. I'm a great plagiarizer. I often say that I don't think I've had an original idea in my life. I've stolen every one of them from somebody else. But in saying that also I think the ability to be able to identify something that won't work or doesn't work, or a system that doesn't work or you watch a building company that you go now, I don't think that's ... That's not the way I want to be.

Grahame Chevalley: I think you can just about be inspired by everybody. I'm inspired by my laborers that work for me. I know some of their work ethic and their ability to get out of bed and go to work every day and what they're doing for their family. With architects and consultants and just learning from them. My business partners in my other businesses, they've all come with really high skill sets. I've enjoyed learning from them. All of them. As I said there's some bad experiences you leave them behind, but the people that surround us at the moment, I get a lot of satisfaction and inspiration from them.

Aaron Kyle : That comes back to what we keep talking about, the theme of this, which is relationships and relationship building.

Grahame Chevalley: Absolutely. We live in Newcastle, which is a big country town and it's not only ... We know each other, subcontractors, suppliers, our customers, our clients, they all know each other. We know them, they know us, and we make sure as like in a country town, we got each other's back and we look after each other.

Aaron Kyle : That's amazing. You're part of the GWH group. How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?

Grahame Chevalley: We're quite a diverse company in that we do commercial, industrial. We also do multi-storey residential, which is probably the obvious bit of what we're doing around Newcastle at the moment, but we have a background really in commercial and industrial. We also in that large industrial or less large commercial, mainly large residential, we're a local as well. Most of our competitors, particularly in the high rise, residential are people from out of Newcastle. That makes us different. I think the most unique part of it is the integrated businesses that we have, whereas we have our own design team. We have our own marketing team. We have our own precast business. We have our own ready-mix concrete business. We have our own window business. We have our own structural steel business. We bring those things all altogether.

Aaron Kyle : You can package it all up into a full suite of services basically.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah, correct. We can basically get our building, even a multi-storey high-rise almost to lock up with our own internal integrated companies. Look that's about the control, the control of the quality and the delivery of the service and the timing is why we do it. There's no other reason than that. It's really about just taking control of those inputs and putting it all together, particularly from a quality perspective.

Aaron Kyle : Absolutely. I've got to hand it to you. I mean, to have a company like that, having one trade is difficult enough. To have a full suite of packages that you're able to provide in a turnkey service is just incredible.

Grahame Chevalley: I think also that it's difficult, like the concept of it may be a little daunting to manage to the thought of it, but the action by the coordination and the integration, it actually is a lot smoother than what you would normally be doing by sourcing all of those trades. Then trying to put them all together and integrate them.

Aaron Kyle : That's really interesting. I guess from an outside, looking in it's more because you have that internal relationship and that internal family of service providers that actually mitigates that reliance on external third parties. Through time and ballooning costs and you're able to control the more pieces of the puzzle, so to speak.

Grahame Chevalley: That's exactly right. It's the ability to be able to exert that control on timing, but not only timing it's the quality as well. Then I think the other thing that we certainly do is that we push continuity of design. If we see a design that worked well on one building, we make sure that we use it again on the next. Where concrete panels integrate with our glass paneling systems which integrate with our concrete systems, which integrate with our steel systems. We have quite a ... That integration is more than just the supply and the delivery, and then the quality it's also about just if we've got a system that works, we stick with it.

Aaron Kyle : Interesting. All right. Obviously having a large family of companies in one big company. What reporting systems do you have in place? There are a lot of people listening to this who, I'm a big believer in a lot of the dispute work that I'm involved in. I'll say lack of reporting and lack of monitoring things. Even small companies should be looking at where they've been, where they are now, where they're going in future. What reporting systems particularly with a company your size, do you have in place to be able to reflect on the business?

Grahame Chevalley: Each of the businesses they report monthly at board level. They meet monthly at a management level. In the GWH they have their project status reports that each of the project managers come in and report on to the construction manager. In that it's not only the financial performance, it's the work health and safety, it's any HR issues, planning, marketing, those sorts of things. All of those report monthly, the date of that monthly meeting is set for the next 12 months. There's a discipline where they have to be prepared. They have to report. They own that report. Then generally the week after, which is about mid month, our financials for the previous month have been formulated are ready to go out, probably the week after that we meet at a board level.

Grahame Chevalley: At that board level the heads of each of the departments report to the board and it's a very structured reporting system. There's an agenda, there's a financial reporting. There's health and safety, and if there's any of the HR issues. The marketing team report, the development team report, the construction team report. But yes, they're all reporting. I suppose the one thing I suppose time has taught me is that I probably have made the mistake over the years of spending too much on some of the computerized reporting programs or some of the financial accounting systems. We tend to keep it fairly simple now. A lot of our businesses are just using MYOB and we've gone away from some of the very expensive tailor-made construction programs. We've gone to some of the more off the shelf.

Aaron Kyle : You've basically gone back to basics.

Grahame Chevalley: We've gone back to basics.

Aaron Kyle : Keep it simple.

Grahame Chevalley: Keep it simple because they haven't the ability then to tailor it for what we want it, because we've now got this experience about what we should be reporting and what you shouldn't be reporting and ...

Aaron Kyle : What works, what doesn't work.

Grahame Chevalley: What works, what doesn't work. I think if you've got a computer programmer telling you what the report should look like, you probably got it wrong. We have a very standardized reporting system that it's worked, we repeat it. It provides the information that we want. It's recorded. I think that's one of the bits of advice I don't have to lash out and get a flash particularly financial reporting program. A lot of the stuff is off the shelf available, and it does just as good as [inaudible 00:19:07].

Aaron Kyle : That's really interesting. What about with, you're obviously a very busy man Grahame, out of curiosity, do you get on a site much?

Grahame Chevalley: Look, it's not as much as I'd like, because obviously we have multiple sites. Unfortunately what happens often is generally it's a bit of the banter around the sites. If they see me on site something's wrong. They don't want to see me very much. That's the same with all of the businesses. Look, I'm very much ... My management style is very much about empowering the managers. I'm not a hands-on day-to-day, I try to make sure I've got a really good team around me and I allow them to do what they've been employed to do.

Aaron Kyle : Empowering them, giving them the tools to be able to move forward.

Grahame Chevalley: I think one of the right tools that I can give them is the flexibility and the ownership and there's that this is your site, we've got some constraints about how it should be run and particularly around safety and quality. But other than that, they know what they have to achieve. I allow them to do that by their own mechanism basically, their own devices, because we're all different. We have a broad team and each of the project managers particularly have different styles, but they generally achieve the same outcome, but they achieve it differently. But I think if you want them to rise to the top as we do, this is what we do without any of the people that are working for me at the moment. We want them to rise to the top and we just empower them and don't over manage them or micromanage them at all.

Aaron Kyle : I think the key ingredient there that you have is trust and rapport and having that relationship already established. I could tell when I walked in here today that you have that trust. It must feel very empowering working for you and your team to know that you have their backs. You've empowered them to go manage the project. You've stripped everything back to basics. There's basically no bullshit, so to speak and you're able to just get on with the job and that must feel amazing to be able to see that.

Grahame Chevalley: I sleep exceptionally well over night. I mean, I make sure that our accounting system is up to scratch and every bit of tax that we have to pay, we pay. There's no looking over your shoulder to see if the tax man's coming. Work, health and safety, I don't think there'd be a building company in Newcastle. In fact, GWH has won state awards for some of their initiatives in work, health and safety. The quality of the people that we've got working for us just allows them to do what they need to do. The mutual trust that's there they go and do their thing. I also know if they've got a problem, they'll jump on the phone and not be afraid to ask for a little bit of support. That's generally my role.

Grahame Chevalley: I'm really just there. I'm ready to answer the phone to give them that bit of support, but also empower them to develop and to really prosper. I think that the thing that gives me the greatest pride has really been watching this ... Well, just before Christmas, this year we had a lunch with four of our employees that have been with us for over 20 years. A couple of those employees now are managing the large multi-storey projects, multi-million dollar projects, and they started with me as apprentices. To watch that happen now, that's one of the greatest sense of pride.

Aaron Kyle : I bet it is. Particularly in what, 2020 now. Long-term employee, it could be 12 months or two years these days.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah. It's definitely ... Look and we have quite a good balance of we have the employees that came with us as apprentices, as trade apprentices, that then took on supervision jobs, not dissimilar to how I worked. Then they've moved up now into senior management roles, but I also have highly educated double degree honors graduates working for us as well. What I really do like is the mutual respect they have for each other and how they bounce off each other, because I'm sure that we obviously, with those guys that started with me as apprentices that have got a really strong trades practical experience. We tend to put a couple of young cadets out of uni with them and they actually work off of each other, they support each other. The same as with some of the guys that the cadets ... Sorry with the senior supervisors, we put that mix of that trade experience that practical experience and that academic experience, and it comes together. I think that makes the difference as well.

Aaron Kyle : It sounds like it. I mean, that's I guess collaborating and working as a team. Having that mixed theory approach, whether you've come out of university and then you have these apprentices, or the more practical people that think more practically and combining the two type of heads to achieve a positive outcome.

Grahame Chevalley: The really valuable people for your company are the ones that some way meet in the middle. That's got the both, the balance of the really highly educated, and the really practical as well. That's super important.

Aaron Kyle : That must have been amazing feeling to see that from your perspective. I mean, how does it feel when it all comes together and you finish a project on time and within budget. That's a very important milestone. How does it feel when you're able to achieve that?

Grahame Chevalley: I think I just get more satisfaction out of every day, just coming to work and working with the team and watching the team progress. I mean, I've got this situation whereby that some people say to me, often ask me, well, when the job is finished it must be good to sit back and look at it and watch how it completed. But I've got one of those brains that I can actually look at a plan, and I know exactly what it's going to look like when it's finished. I don't get that satisfaction out of looking at the end product because I've already visualized it.

Grahame Chevalley: I've already visualized before I start all the stages and how it's going to finish, but definitely still to drive around and look at what we've done is wonderful. But it's really the people and the customers and our employees that probably get the most satisfaction out of particularly those long-term ones that have been with us. Probably the greatest enjoyment I get is going and having a barbecue with our precast guys, which is this Friday. Sit down having a chat to them, talking to them. I mean, I used to know every one of my employees by first name, but unfortunately now when you have 350, then it becomes a bit difficult.

Aaron Kyle : Absolutely. All right. We've heard a lot about your, I guess business life. What gets you up every day? Every morning what gets you up?

Grahame Chevalley: Well I have two younger children, they're usually up nice and early. But look, I don't think I'm going to ... I know now that I'll never retire. I actually enjoy getting out of bed and going to work and going to life. I don't know if it's even going to work. It's just going to life. I just enjoy life. Even dropping the kids off at school. I tend most mornings to go to the gym for an hour or so. I'll drop the kids off at school, go to the gym. I think that's really important just to stay that extra little level of physical activity.

Grahame Chevalley: I used to get that when I was on the tools. Soon as you get off the tools, I noticed that, you know what probably, my fitness was going backwards. I hate going to the gym, love leaving it. I love that feeling of the endorphins when they [inaudible 00:26:47] I enjoy that, but then coming to work, I enjoy that. Enjoy going home to the family as well. But I've got and obviously I'll go home. I live on a rural property, so that's always nice to drive home to in the afternoons. That's really enjoyable.

Aaron Kyle : I'm assuming that's how you achieve work home life balance is that outlet with the rural property, the farm, the fresh air. You've had a big day, you get to go home and it's a bit of an outlet for you.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah. I think I've always had the ability to be able to switch off as well. I tend not to take work home with me. If I've had a tough day at work, I tend to actually just ... I've got a button somewhere mentally that I can just switch off from that and go back and don't take those problems home to the family. I think living on a rural property helps that as well, just going for a drive around the cattle, and watching what's going on there, that's also important to recharge the batteries.

Aaron Kyle : Look, that's definitely one thing I'm fascinated by is that ability to be able to switch off. I guess people who are listening to this that may be involved in the building industry, how do you do that? If you have some issue that's happening at work or there's some other problem that you're dealing with. How do you do that? How do you turn that button off or hit the pause button or the switch button, like you said, to be able to just have a bit of a break from that?

Grahame Chevalley: I think it's actually my rural upbringing that adds to that or assists me with that, because the one thing about living on the land you have control of some things but there's so much, you don't have control of. Like the weather, droughts, floods, bush fires, all of those things, animal health, those things you can do some things about. But I think you learn from a very early age growing up on the land, there's things you can control. There's things you can't control. Don't worry about the things you can't, look after the things that you can. I think it's the same in business life as well.

Aaron Kyle : It's a hard thing to do. It's interesting you say that because I guess for the non-farmers, there's this image of a farmer where life on the land doesn't finish, there's no end date. It's fascinating to hear that from my perspective anyway, that you can do that quite well.

Grahame Chevalley: I think so. Look, I think that if you can't do that while living on the land, it probably would drive you pretty badly pretty quickly, I think, because it is just so much out of your control that happens with life on the land. You learn very early that you control the things you can, and these other things you can't control, you're just going to have to do the best you can whilst they're happening and know that it'll change as well.

Aaron Kyle : Things will get better.

Grahame Chevalley: Things will get better that optimism.

Aaron Kyle : I guess, interesting reflection now. How do you define success now? Now that you've experienced these amazing fits, how do you now define success these days compared to back then when you took that plunge to go out on your own?

Grahame Chevalley: I don't see myself as being any more successful or less successful. I suppose it was the inspiration for me was never to achieve success. It's just something that's come along the way. I think that as well. I think that if you set out to achieve a successful life or this life of success and the trappings that it brings, I think you'll probably get distracted. No, I don't think I actually ... I suppose I never really see myself as successful. It doesn't really enter into the equation. I think, look, success is having a happy, well balanced, healthy family that's success for me.

Aaron Kyle : Totally. I mean, what I managed to do is I think put systems in place the right people in place. Then once you've done that, you've been able to have the confidence not to sit back, but actually sleep at night, go to bed at night, knowing you've put the right people in the right roles. You've got the systems in place. Everything else will take care of itself.

Grahame Chevalley: That's right. I think that's just important then, but it's also the personality. I think it is my personality. I probably would have been ... Living on the land if I was doing that because if I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing? I would have been living on the land probably running a property somewhere. They're not dissimilar attributes at all.

Aaron Kyle : I think it's the work ethic too, to be fair to you. The work ethic of that, if you weren't working hard in your business, then you're working equally as hard on the land as well.

Grahame Chevalley: Yes. Look, certainly, now, if somebody comes along to me with a resume and it shows that they grew up on the land and I've got 20 other applications all equally qualified. I know which will go to the top of the pile.

Aaron Kyle : We here at Build Hatch where we're absolutely big believers in you don't make mistakes I mean lessons if you learn from them. If you could pick one lesson today in your business, what's the best lesson that you've learned along the way so far?

Grahame Chevalley: Look I think it's just a continuation of those lessons that I learned from growing up. That work ethic, working on the land, the resilience that you develop you've got to be resilient. I think in the building industry, you need to be resilient because there'll be things almost daily that will be sent to try you, things outside of your control sometimes. Again, that's that resilience, but we went through the GFC as a property developer, I would say most of our contemporaries, basically, if they didn't go to the wall, they probably went very close to the wall. But I think it also reinforced, we were quite diversified in that we had diversification within our businesses. We weren't just a property developer. We had these other diversified businesses as well.

Grahame Chevalley: Along the way we had quite a good property portfolio that underpinned, so when things got a bit tough financially we always had them as backup. That's a great lesson that I took out of that. I mean, that's something I think we need to go into the future with. With GWH at the moment, we're quite a diversified business in that we don't just do residential. We do residential, commercial and industrial. We do mostly our own property development work, but we do, do some contract work, but I think that diversification of any business is important is that it's not just related to the building industry. It's probably any industry that you can weather the storm because it tends to be, if there's a crisis within the financial crisis, it might just have one particular area that it's focused on. Like it was with the GFC, which is around credibility, to be able to get it.

Aaron Kyle : What's your vision moving forward with the business, particularly with GWH?

Grahame Chevalley: Look I think it's like all of the businesses, I think you can get too big and you just got to be able to maintain that sweet spot about large enough to have those economies of scale. But also for me is that it's large enough that I can actually have the managers in place that take away from some of that day-to-day stuff for me. But I think you've got to be careful that you don't become too large and the distance between the directors board, the board level and the project managers becomes too great. You need to be able to maintain that I suppose, overview without being over the top. But just being able to maintain a good oversight on what's going on. We generally now don't do any work outside of Newcastle, much. We have done work Sydney, regional metropolitan, our regional areas as well, but Newcastle is our hometown it's close. It's easier to keep control of and look, business model is working well.

Build Hatch Host Aaron Kyle : You obviously have a lot of young people coming through in your business as well. Looking back now, what would you say to a young person coming through, a younger version of yourself, who's thinking about making that plunge. Who is thinking about going out on their own and aiming high, like you did back then. What would you say to a young person?

Grahame Chevalley: Well, the first thing they're going to be a millennial and they're probably not going to stick in the same place for very long. The first bit of advice is stick with something for a while.

Aaron Kyle : Persist.

Grahame Chevalley: Persist. Ride the highs and the lows.

Aaron Kyle : It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Grahame Chevalley: That's it. That's the first bit of advice I would give them, but look honestly, it's about opportunity. I think that what I've over my years have seen I think we all get opportunities, some choose to take it some don't and that's really the ability to be able to sum up fairly quickly. This is an opportunity and I should take it. Then there are people that don't want to progress or that they're happy just going to work, going home. It's not for everyone, but to progress yourself and to become more successful, it's about opportunity, taking the opportunities when they arise.

Aaron Kyle : Did you have a mentor or do you have one at the moment? Do you do any mentoring yourself?

Grahame Chevalley: Look, I think that all of my employees and particularly my senior employees to an extent are mentors of mine. I hope that I'm mentors of those and my business partners I think it's very similar situation. I mean, I'm a great believer in definitely of not being the most intelligent person in the room that surround yourself with eagles. That's a super critical part of what you need to do to really achieve success. I think if you think you're the smartest guy in your organization, you've got the wrong people working for you.

Aaron Kyle : That's obviously amazing to be able to think like that. What about when you're making big decisions, who do you speak to, or what's the process involved when you are thinking about making big decisions?

Grahame Chevalley: Look, I'm surrounded by lots of really good people, and I certainly get all their advice. I listen to them. I take it on board, but at the end of the day, I basically have the trigger. I'm the one that's going to make the decisions often for those decisions that require or where I need to make the decision. I definitely listen take it on board, but I think it's a super critical thing that you're able to cut out the negativity. Probably cut out the gung ho over positivity and somewhere in the middle go, yes, this is a good deal. Let's do it

Aaron Kyle : For sure. I think for our listeners, I mean, for the, I guess if you're in the other realm of being a builder where you traditionally, you may have a couple of chippies or carpenters that work for you. The rest of their day-to-day life is basically quite fragmented relying on that third party, the subcontractors. I think that's important to bring back that you can surround yourself, they don't have to be within your business. You can still have people that you trust to throw some ideas up against outside of your business and have a healthy conversation with those people and ask them what their honest opinion is.

Grahame Chevalley: Yeah, absolutely. I'll go back to what I said before, I'm a plagiarizer. I've never had an original idea in my life. I mean, I take those ideas from the people around me and very broadly as well though. I find it very interesting to listen to people what they have to say, their experiences and their expertise is an amazing wealth of knowledge out there. I just got to ... As I say just open your ears.

Aaron Kyle : All right, Grahame well, it's been an absolute pleasure having you sit down and give up your valuable time to come on, to Build Hatch. It's been truly inspiring and employing over 300 people, that's quite a fit. We definitely look forward to hearing what GWH is bringing online in the future.

Grahame Chevalley: Thank you, Aaron. It's been a pleasure.

***Aaron Kyle :* Well, that was Grahame Chevalley from GWH group. What I have to tell you that you didn't hear on air is that Grahame is a very modest person who does a lot for his local community. He spends a lot of time of effort with the RFS, and he's had an extremely busy summer fighting fires in the worst fire season in Australia's history. I want to thank him for giving up his time, particularly during that. This is a guy who like a lot of volunteers, he doesn't seek recognition for it.

Aaron Kyle : He simply just does it because he wants to give back and he doesn't self-promote that fact. That's very inspiring. That's it for this week on Build Hatch. I have some exciting guests coming up and I can't wait to hit the road and share some more of the real stories and the real people behind the pictures. I hope you enjoyed this week's show. If you'd like to reach out to me or be a guest on the show, please do so via Instagram or website. Please, don't forget to also rate our show. Thanks for listening.