Aaron Kyle: Hello, I'm Aaron Kyle and welcome to another episode of Build Hatch. On this week's episode of Build Hatch, you're going to hear a remarkable story about Dale Cheesman and The Melbourne Builder which Dale runs with his good mate Shaun. Dale and I sat down and had a really genuine chat and you're going to hear about this incredible journey going from an apprentice carpenter all the way to building some of Melbourne's finest construction projects. These include the amazing Arbory Bars on The Yarra, the wonderful spring racing carnival events and of course, one of Australia's greatest ever football player's family home renovation.
Aaron Kyle: This is one of those stories where you get to hear the real story going from beginning to now. And as you'll hear, Dale is such a genuine and humble person and he's really passionate about relationships and the importance of being grounded and not getting ahead of yourself. He is such a good guy and took the time out to show me around The Melbourne Builder headquarters where I got to meet The Melbourne Builder family, as he called it. You'll hear more about this on our chat. Now let's get into it.
Aaron Kyle: Dale Cheesman from The Melbourne Builder, welcome to Build Hatch.
Dale Cheesman: Thanks Aaron. Thanks for having me.
Aaron Kyle: Now today we're recording this in your Carnegie Project and we're sitting here and this is an amazing renovation. And I believe this is coming up into a bit of a feature down the track. Is that right?
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. We just got confirmation that it's being shot in Home Beautiful. So, yeah, pretty excited that there's a few pages on our home, which is good.
Aaron Kyle: It's always good to have your own home because there's always a running joke, isn't there, about builder's and tradesman's own houses.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. I learn off my old boss where his house, I think it's still not finished, so I reckon I've got 5% left. So I'm trying to bury that but yeah...
Aaron Kyle: Well looking around, I can't tell that there's 5% left to complete. It's just about perfect. So we're recording this in Melbourne and you obviously grew up in Melbourne?
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, South-East Melbourne, so Ferntree Gully, Rowville. Yeah, we moved a couple of times but it was within a kilometer or two. So yeah, out that way.
Aaron Kyle: And what was your childhood like growing up?
Dale Cheesman: I was very lucky. I look back now and think mum and dad were perfect role models for me and they just gave me a life of freedom really. We'd go to Bonnie Doon. We'd go on to Bonnie Doon and we went there every weekend from when I was born to probably 15. So through summer we would just... It was a caravan park there and... I suppose I'm a city boy but I suppose half the time I was country. We were just riding around on bikes and water-skiing. I was on one ski when I was five, driving the car when I was 12, driving the boat when I was 10.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, that's the classic Australian way to grow up, isn't it? And it's often now when you look back on those time, particularly when you become a parent, like we have, where you look back on your childhood and you start to think about those simple things. Those simple pleasures that you had back then.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, 100%. The last probably three years since having children, I can definitely look back at childhood and you think, sometimes the simple things are the best things. And had everything there, golf, cricket, mates. Like it was really good.
Aaron Kyle: Now growing up through school and high school, did you have any aspirations to enter the building or construction industry?
Dale Cheesman: No, not... No. Yeah, I probably would've thought I wanted to be like a physio. Year 10 work experience I did a week with a builder and a week with physio. So probably a little bit of me did like the building game. Mum and dad built our family home when I was about 12 and I have memories of always going... Or probably 10 I was, going there and picking up all the [inaudible 00:04:16] nails and really I suppose looking up to those guys that were building our home. So maybe that was a little bit of a-
Aaron Kyle: Like a little taste.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, a little taste back then. And mum and dad designed the house themselves. So I think I lived and breathed it for two years through the whole thing.
Aaron Kyle: So what about through school? Like what did you sort of aspire to do when you were finishing up with high school?
Dale Cheesman: I'll do sport. I just loved sport. Footy, loved footy. Mum and my sister was playing softball. So our family was really heavily involved in softball, so we spent most Saturdays down there. I didn't really like... I suppose I was good. I was okay at school but I didn't really want to go trade, I don't think. It was just until year 12 I got caught up in, "I've got my license," and loved footy and I just didn't really study much. Mum said, "It was when you got your license in April, that's when you went off..." Not went off the rails but I went from a B-plus to a C-plus. And yeah, so the mark wasn't going to get me to a physiotherapist, that's for sure.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, I think it's still like 90-something percent to become a physio.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking, to be honest. But I did come out of school and I tried to become a myotherapist, and again that wasn't me. And I mean, mum and dad just must've been shaking their head the whole time but they never pushed me into anything or they never stopped me from doing anything. They just let me experience it myself and work out that it wasn't for me, but they were always there to catch me when I fell. Dad always reminds me that four grand was wasted on that myotherapy [inaudible 00:06:17]. And yeah, I got out of that and still like I went and worked at a pallet yard, which I was working through as a teenager through school and it was like repairing shit pallets and making new ones and... Yeah, I was 19 and a mate of mine who ran the business kind of tapped me on the shoulder and he said, "You starting to slack off here. What are you doing here? Have a look around. Do you want to work in a factory your whole life? Go and get a trade. Go and get an apprenticeship," and he kind of kicked me out, [inaudible 00:06:49]. He said, "You should stay here but I want you to start looking for an apprenticeship," so I do thank him for that.
Dale Cheesman: I haven't spoken to him for 15 years, but, yeah it was that moment. That was the turning point that I organized an electrical meeting with [Otus 00:07:03] and a builder. And luckily enough, the builder was... The week before, and walked in there on the Wednesday and I thought, "How am I going to get this job?" And he pretty much threw me the uniform and said, "You start next Wednesday." And yeah, the rest is history, I suppose.
Aaron Kyle: Well that's good. You obviously needed that kick in the butt to be able to, I guess, head in the right direction. And I think that's really important to be able to try different things and be open to, particularly being a young guy, just be open to trying different things and saying yes and taking advantage of that opportunity. So it was nice that your impression in that interview meant something and he threw you the uniform.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. And I think too, being a first year, I didn't care what I did because I knew that making pallets was shit, sitting in a classroom was even worse. So I didn't care what I did. I cleaned the boss's car. I'd pick up all the cigarette off his floor. Like I actually did not care what I did.
Aaron Kyle: You obviously made an impression with that building apprenticeship. So what was that like doing your apprenticeship?
Dale Cheesman: Like it just taught me life skills... Reversing a trailer, driving a manual, driving a truck, the tipper.
Aaron Kyle: It's true, isn't it? Those little things that you-
Dale Cheesman: It was just the little things.
Aaron Kyle: -take for granted.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, yeah, it was just the little things. And that was my boss, Jeff, and I still talk to him every day. Like I think I was so grateful that he gave me a go. Now I buy him a Christmas present every year. Like he was tough, really tough on me, which was great. He always would say that, "If you make a mistake, I'm going to go through you because you'll always remember it." And I suppose I'm a little bit different now and doing a full circle that I'm a little bit of a different manager. I'm a bit more, I don't know, lenient I suppose. And I just let the guys go a bit more. But yeah.
Aaron Kyle: I think too having that faith and the confidence, that comes back to those early beginnings where you mentioned about having a bit of an arse-kicking or a hard-line approach, "If I'm not doing the right thing, tell me, so I can do the right thing moving forward." So you probably have that same approach with your people as well?
Dale Cheesman: Yeah definitely.
Aaron Kyle: Just expect the right thing.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, you just honestly expect them to do the right thing by the business and yeah, if you're not doing the right thing then you're not the right fit.
Aaron Kyle: Your company's called The Melbourne Builder. So where does that come into the mix? It's a great name, by the way.
Dale Cheesman: Thanks. So 2009 I finished my carpentry apprenticeship and Jeff pretty much said, "Time to move on." Not that I was-
Aaron Kyle: Not in a bad way.
Dale Cheesman: Not in a bad way but I think he knew that I needed to experience it myself. And the mistakes cost you, rather than just a slap on the arse. Shaun, I went to school with, and he finished his apprenticeship at the same time. He was more in [Simonds 00:10:31] Homes, [inaudible 00:10:33] lockup fixes, and I had never really experienced that. I suppose I had the network and I was getting your decks and your pergolas thrown at me and he just had abundance of work. He's a very good carpenter, so-
Aaron Kyle: So that's a really good mix. So-
Dale Cheesman It was a great mix.
Aaron Kyle: -reading between the lines, he's the more on-the-tools, practical guy?
Dale Cheesman: Yeah.
Aaron Kyle: With the, I guess, side activities and you're involved in the client and the project side.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Kyle: Back then.
Dale Cheesman: Back then. The first year or two it's all done on purchase orders through the Simonds and the big builders, so you're not quoting. It's just like turn up, work, work hard and you get pretty good money. And Shaun taught me a lot with carpentry. Like I probably would've hung like a handful of doors in my building apprenticeship whereas he was hanging five, six a day. So, he taught me a lot when it came the carpentry side. So I was still learning in my fifth, sixth, seventh year. So it was a perfect mix. And then we would go off and do a deck the next week.
Dale Cheesman: So we had to pick a business name and we came up with All Round Building... All Round Carpentry, I think it was because we just wanted everything. We wanted every bit of work there was. Then it changed into all round building when we kind of went into renovations a bit more. And then it would've been around 2014 when I got my builders license, around that time where, I think, Instagram was becoming a thing. And there was lots of bloggers, I suppose, and I just thought, "Oh, how good would it be if there was a channel that was like Melbourne builder, that showcases building products and building-
Aaron Kyle: Anything to do with construction.
Dale Cheesman: -projects," anything. Yeah. And Melbourne based. So I went to a couple of agencies to say, "How do we market this?" And someone turned around to me and said, "Why don't you make this your company name?" And I'd never really thought about it. And we took it to a marketing agency, Mkt. Communications, which my wife worked at a few years back. And they just put it all together. And just that TMB, the M really stands out now.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, it's a great logo.
Dale Cheesman: And we probably did it properly then because I knew we went through so many rebrands at the start that you really have to spend the money and get it right then. And that's where The Melbourne Builder came from. So it was meant to be an Instagram thing but it ended up looking pretty cool and becoming our building name.
Aaron Kyle: I think that's an important lesson too. If you're listening to this and thinking about starting a business in construction or design or anything to do with building, you spend that money up front. That money spent up front with good marketing with good people, that's a pretty good investment.
Dale Cheesman: It's huge, yeah. Even an email, like you want the email coming from your host address. It's those-
Aaron Kyle: As opposed to a Gmail account-
Dale Cheesman: Correct.
Aaron Kyle: -or something.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, yeah. It makes such a big difference.
Aaron Kyle: So you didn't pursue that like Instagram account based on, "Right, we're going to use this as our own. This is our new company name."
Dale Cheesman: So we were on Instagram as All Round Building and so you just edit the name. So we changed that over to The Melbourne Builder. I think I would've had maybe 2,000 followers back then. And then just with the branding. And we've never put up a post that's not ours. Like it's always been our projects. So you do start scrolling through the feed and going, "We are getting better because the feed's getting better." So we've always kept it organic.
Aaron Kyle: So you were able to check in and go all the way back to the beginning and see the progress from where you've come from basically.
Dale Cheesman Yeah. Well I've deleted a few because you always put some in the bin.
Aaron Kyle: Of course.
Dale Cheesman: But yeah, pretty much, and then you see how powerful social media is. And I suppose I pretty much jumped on it early.
Aaron Kyle: Okay. So you mentioned Shaun, your business partner. So what were those early conversations like in the beginning? People who will listen to this, they want to know the real story. So what's it like? Do you go have a beer after work and have a chat and say, "Hey, Shaun, I've got this idea."? Or how does it work?
Dale Cheesman: So it probably went the opposite because we spent every day with each other. So it was like weekends we wouldn't call each other. And in terms of making decisions, like we're both very stubborn and like we have some ripper fights, they're funny. We're husband and wife.
Aaron Kyle: I won't ask which one's which.
Dale Cheesman: But I'm quite stubborn myself so I think that Shaun... I'm probably the spender, Shaun's a saver. So-
Aaron Kyle: It's a good mix then.
Dale Cheesman: It's a great mix and we didn't really have a business plan. The reasons why, I suppose, I don't love business plans in construction because you just got to jump on leads and it can take you left or right, and off you go. You do a really good job for someone and that opens the doors up for doing maybe bathrooms or opens up the door to doing events. Just so many different paths that I don't think you can really write a business plan. And for us, we were just ticking along. We had our apprentices. Shaun was pretty much on the tools, foreman. I was running around on the computer writing the emails, doing all the invoicing and stuff like that. Yeah, so Shaun and I, we were mates, but we didn't really interact... Every year that got on it was probably more work and only work. And sometimes you come to work, you don't even ask, "How was your weekend?" It got a little bit like that. Not in-
Aaron Kyle: Not in a bad way. It's just-
Dale Cheesman: Not in a bad way. It was just-
Aaron Kyle: An evolving, evolution.
Dale Cheesman: -an evolving thing. Yeah. But then in 2017, Shaun, unfortunately lost his fiance, tragically. So she passed away and left behind an eight month year old son. So it was kind of a bit where-
Aaron Kyle: That's extremely tough.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, it all hit us and it made me realize that we actually do have a friendship and that meant that you do ask each other, "How was your weekend?" And, "How you going?" And things like that. But Shaun, from probably taking a backwards step under me because I was making the decisions and pushing go on a few things, but he really stepped up to the plate and grew as a person and took on a single father, at the same time we bought a CNC machine. Like it just all happened and we kind of said, "Well Shaun, why don't you jump into the joinery and try and learn this machine?" And Shaun wasn't great on computers. And he said, "I'll give it a go." And he's pretty good with machines.
Dale Cheesman: So he was only like working three, four days a week, trying to keep that life balance. But it taught me that you just didn't have to work huge hours to do the same amount of work. We became a lot more flexible with our hours, and learnt that you can get the same amount of work done in four days as five, if you get in and get it done. And yeah, Shaun taught himself how to CAD... I don't even know how he does it now but through a pretty hard year or two for him, he learnt that and it's probably been the backbone of us now with our joinery side. It's helped us grow massively with the CNC. Like anything that's a robot, the world's going to go that way one day and it's so powerful.
Aaron Kyle: Isn't that a positive, nice story about you were able to adapt and I guess spend that time during such a tough experience personally and in business and just role with the punches and try and come out the other side in a different way.
Dale Cheesman: Well that's what I was saying. Like how do you write a business plan on that? It's probably not the right... People listening are probably thinking, "You got to have a plan." But I suppose we just made sure that we were doing the right things and-
Aaron Kyle: It's back to basics.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, back to basics. And the biggest one for me is Shaun and I, for probably seven or eight years, the one thing Jeff taught me is don't pay yourself too much. And Rich Dad Poor Dad. The more money you get, the more money you spend. So were only paying ourselves, I think, 800 bucks a week, every week for seven years and two people's salary sacrificing meant that we could grow a lot faster. And that's the good foundation for us is we've got capital in terms of we can pay people on time, we can take on bigger projects knowing that we've got the cashflow. But that was all built back when we were two chippys putting a few dollars away.
Aaron Kyle: I love that because it's always been a pet hate of mine and I've mentioned this on several episodes, when you see builders who are starting out and they have the best tools and the best yutes and the best trucks and tippers, even excavators, you see some of them floating around with those and you think, "Where's all this money come from?" And you really do need to put that money away for a rainy day, as they say, to be able to expand and grow your business and put that money into investing on whether it's a new machine or people or systems.
Dale Cheesman: It's living between your means. If I knew I only had 800 bucks while I was drinking pots of beer rather than spirits. I never got ahead of ourselves and that's my biggest one, never get ahead of yourself because as soon as you do, that's when it all comes crashing down. So yeah, like we're not ahead of ourselves now. Like we're very grateful and humble.
Aaron Kyle: Just being down to earth and having gratitude.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah.
Aaron Kyle: You mentioned earlier about you invested some money into proper branding and proper marketing, and not getting too far ahead of yourself, so putting some money away, what did you do then? Once you had your brand, did you go looking for sort of architectural work and were you tendering? How did you take that step to go, I guess, from carpentry joinery to a building business?
Dale Cheesman: I suppose that is one time I got ahead of myself because I reckon I though that we don't tender. That was my thing.
Aaron Kyle: We're too good for tendering.
Dale Cheesman: We're too good for tendering. I look back now and I think, "You idiot."
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, everyone goes through that.
Dale Cheesman: But then I realized that tendering's actually the best thing because it makes you realize where you're at with price, if you get feedback from the architect. It's legitimate clients, because there was that many times where, "Yeah, we're not tendering. You're the only builders." But it never goes ahead.
Aaron Kyle: So what did you do? Did you go door knock on architects offices or reach out to them? How did you do that?
Dale Cheesman: I didn't really need to go door knocking. I had a pretty good network through just everything, life. It was in my sporting clubs, it was my friendship groups, it was my wife Gemma. She works in PR, so she was working on a few... We would be going to events and launches and things like that. And it wasn't about me being a sales person. It was just me being me.
Aaron Kyle: It was just you being genuine. And a lot of people think like networking events. Well networking can just be representing yourself and if you're having a day at the races, or you're at a wedding, or any other function, even a parent-teacher interview or something, it's, "Oh, I know Dale, he's a builder. My sister's looking for a good builder," or just something as little as that.
Dale Cheesman: Like I never see it as networking. It's just me. I just love to have a chat and learn about people's story. Like not as in a deep story but just, "What do you do? What do you know?" I just love that kind of... That was just me being with dad growing up that I was always in his mates garage while they had a beer. Or I was going to work with him, or something like that. It was just always, you just talk to people, and socialize. And I think that's having kids now is that's for me a bit of the key is just watching older people socialize, and being able to socialize.
Aaron Kyle: And in the right way, just good old-fashioned relationships.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. So I'd get a phone call from a mate saying, "My sister-in-law, they're looking at renovating and they're way over budget. Can you help them out?" So there was times where it was just being transparent and working out what's your budget? Because there's no point trying to build something that they can't afford. And the biggest thing too I realized is they're investing so much money. Like it's not going to the shop and buying a can a coke. Like it is taking-
Aaron Kyle: It could be the greatest investment and emotional investment of their whole lives.
Dale Cheesman: And some people are taking mortgages. Some people are loaning money or it's their hard-earned cash. It's none of my business, but it was more these people are putting a lot of money into something and you want to know, "Well how much do you want to spend because I don't want to spend any more. I don't want you have to go back to the bank to ask for more money."
Dale Cheesman: So I just made sure I really understood. I think that was best question for me. It's the hardest question to ask, "How much do you want to spend?" And some people run because they're like, "Oh, he just wants to know how much money he can rip us off by." But it's not that. It's about straight from the start getting on the same page is the best thing to do. So I suppose that's the start at it off and then when you start working on projects and meeting architects, we've never really had a bad cross to our name, so we've been pretty lucky that they always give us a call and say, "Hey, Dale, do you want to tender on this job?" Or something like that.
Aaron Kyle: And it's nice to know that you are still true to your word in that, we joked around earlier about not tendering, but even being as prominent and well known as what you are in Melbourne, you still stay true to those humble beginnings.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. And I want the client to tender to because there's no point... They'll always be thinking, if I'm the only person that quotes or prices it, they will always be thinking, "Was there a cheaper person? Was there a [inaudible 00:26:13]..." Like they're better off tendering. The only thing that I make sure is the clients aren't coming to attend with his best mate that's a builder. He's tendering on it and they're getting another two tenders. That probably rules me out because there's a lot of favoritism. But if it's a-
Aaron Kyle: Or if they're just price-checking.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah.
Aaron Kyle: Wasting everyone's time.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. So we charge for our tender... to tender now, anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. And I get like it's a mixed. It's very hard to put a price on quoting.
Aaron Kyle: It's a hard slog to sell, as they say. And a lot of the builders that I'm working with as well, when you're working in that space that you're in. So it's very easy for people to say, "Well, how can I charge for that?" The problem is when you're tendering, it's horses for courses, right? And it depends on what market you're working in. So if you're a chippy on the tools and someone's saying, "Look, can you come over and quote my bathroom or deck?" Maybe commanding a fee for that might not be really [crosstalk 00:27:23].
Dale Cheesman: But that's an hour or two, do you know what I mean? This is a week or two.
Aaron Kyle: And that's what I was saying. Whereas you, you're spending upwards of one to two weeks of multiple parties involved, sitting in the office, quoting that up. So that's time that comes straight out of your bank account.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. And I think-
Aaron Kyle: It shows you're serious too.
Dale Cheesman: And I think when you lose a couple, it really hurts and you think, "I just wasted all that time." But I find that the throwing the fee out, like even if it was $2, it just gets a little bit of a commitment from the clients that they're actually going into this tender for real. Like it's-
Aaron Kyle: It's a small transaction to show both parties are serious about this.
Dale Cheesman: And half the time I forget to invoice them. It's just literally a test.
Aaron Kyle: Or some guys I work with, you take that off the completed tender.
Dale Cheesman: Oh yeah.
Aaron Kyle: The tender price.
Dale Cheesman: We definitely do that. Yeah, yeah. You get the money back but also how I sell it is we wear an open book quote. They see everything. The clients see what we see, so it's transparent straight up. So I always say to them, "Even if you choose someone else, you're going to save more than the money you're paying me because you're going to have so much information in front of you that you will be able to cost cut." So it's kind of an investment for them to pay that money with us the way we quote. But yeah, it's definitely helped us with our strike rate because you're not getting the ones that are just price-checking. So our strike rate's gone up with tendering and we're probably tendering less, so I don't know if that's a good or bad thing but we're not out there to do 20 renos a year. We're only trying to three, four. We're not trying to grow too big.
Aaron Kyle: Now you're well known around Melbourne for having completed the house of Chris and Rebecca Judd. Now for those that are listening and wondering who they are, they're kind of Australia's David and Victoria Beckham really, would you say that?
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, I don't see... Like I mean I worked with them for a year so I've just seen them as normal people-
Aaron Kyle: Yeah of course but-
Dale Cheesman: But I understand what you're saying, yeah.
Aaron Kyle: -but the people outside looking in, these guys ar like Australia's equivalent of David and Victoria Beckham.
Dale Cheesman: Juddy could kick a footy pretty well.
Aaron Kyle: Juddy's he's a great footballer. So, Brownlow Medalist, one of the best. So how did that job come about?
Dale Cheesman: I think on the grapevine I heard that they were... Or they'd bought a house in Brighton and they were looking to renovate. And someone said to me, "Do you want me to give [Beck 00:30:15] your number?" And I said, "No. If they want us they can come to us," otherwise it's just again price checking. But I think we completed the Lexus Marquee, I think it was 2018 and then Beck hit me up with an email saying, "Hey, would love you to tender." So yeah, we tendered.
Aaron Kyle: Now, it's an incredible project. So were you involved in the beginning with the architect?
Dale Cheesman: No.
Aaron Kyle: No.
Dale Cheesman: No. So yeah, we just got given the plans and said, "This is... Price it." Yeah, I remember Beck giving me a call and we had a chat through things and I remember thinking, "Oh, I've got the job." But then I actually hadn't [inaudible 00:31:06]. I don't know what happened there. And then Beck rang me and said, "I would love to work with you but however, as always, we need to shave some money somewhere so let's sit down and look at cost cutting," and we did that. And yeah, off we went.
Aaron Kyle: So what was that process like with building the house? I mean you're a very grounded person, so I'd imagine people were like, "Dale, I can't believe you're building the Judd's house." But I bet behind the scenes you were like, "It's like a normal project for us."
Dale Cheesman: I think I was lucky enough, like I said before, is going to all these events with Gemma and in all the marquees and things like that, that yeah, the first time you walk into a room with someone that's famous, you get a bit of a... you're like, "Oh look who's over there." But by the third or fourth time they're just another person. So I think I was lucky enough to experience that stuff whilst I was dating Gem. Like the first time I met Beck was at her house. It was on day one of handing over the keys and things like that. So yeah, I was pretty grounded, I suppose.
Aaron Kyle: What was, I guess, the biggest kick out of carrying out that job for such a high profile client and in such a great suburb and location and finishing it? I mean it was all over Australia, so clearly finished to an incredible standard of finish.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah it was good, I think to get a good finish you've got to have a good client and we were lucky enough that Beck was so accommodating with any challenge there was or problem solving. She was always willing to hear our advice and go with it. And that's huge when you... you'd know yourself. So yeah, every room was different. Like every room had a different piece of marble. And I suppose that's probably where our events background came into play a little bit because the events was always... It's always pushing the boundaries with design and how can you curve that any more? So it like every room was a different marquee in Becks house and Chris's. At the start I knew that they were probably going to be time poor, so I just tried to have my ducks in a row with any meetings and things like that. But yeah, it went really well and hopefully we'll work with them again.
Aaron Kyle: What was your favorite aspect of their home?
Dale Cheesman: I love the pool area.
Aaron Kyle: It's pretty cool, isn't it?
Dale Cheesman: It's pretty cool. I want a pool.
Aaron Kyle: I think everyone wants a pool like that. As I said, it was all over the news and... Yeah, it's an incredible building.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, we're very lucky and now look back thinking, "I'm glad that we tendered and I'm glad that they chose us." So it was all really good.
Aaron Kyle: Now you mentioned the events space. So you have a very unique business in construction land where you're actually building in the events space. So we mentioned earlier about the Arbory, It's one of Melbourne's best bars and it's on The Yarra River there and there's pontoons and it's a cool space. So how did you get involved in events?
Dale Cheesman: My least year of my apprenticeship I was pretty much... Jeff had a panel saw, so we were building kitchens and things, so I have a little bit of a joinery background. So the first Arbory came around, we built it and then they said to us, "Hey, can you store it?" And we said, "Well we don't have a factory." So they said, "Look, we're happy to pay." I think it was a quarter of the rental or a third. So we actually went and got a headquarters in Oakleigh and we bought a panel saw and off we started with an edgebander that we bought off Gumtree. And that kind of helped us be able to do events because you needed the panel saw, you needed the edgebander and things like that.
Dale Cheesman: So yeah, the first Arbory we got a phone call saying, "We need your help. We're trying to build on The Yarra," and I'm thinking, "What's going on here?" "We need a bar and we only have one day to bump it in because we only got two weeks on the water." Like, "How quick can you do it?" So bit of problem solving. We came up with these aluminum bars that were light to carry and they could pop out like an upside down table and we'd screw the front on. But we had to build it first. We had no factory. So we were renovating a house in Melbourne, and I rang the client. I said, "It's a bit of an odd one but can we use your new extension?" We were at lock up stage, I think it was. I said, "I'll pay you to hire the extension we're building so we can build this bar in your living room." And they were like, "No problems, that's fine."
Dale Cheesman: So we built the first Arbory and then the Marquee, got wind of... Amanda from Gloss, Amanda Henderson, she put up a post saying, "We're looking for a builder to tender for the 2016 Marquee, and Gemma said, "You should call her." So I sent her, Amanda, a text and she said, "Yeah, we'd like love you to tender." So I remember getting this set of plans and thinking, "What? How do I quote this?" Because it's not bricks and mortar, it's not-
Aaron Kyle: No, it's completely different.
Dale Cheesman: -concrete. It's not even a fit out. Like how do you quote this? So there was a guy sitting on the panel of choosing the builder and I gave him a call and I said... His name was Neil, and I said, "Neil, like can you help us out here. Where do I ring here? Who do I call there? How do I get a price for this?" Because he had built the [crosstalk 00:37:10] Marquee for the previous seven years I think it was and his company just couldn't take on the work. And so yeah, we won the job. He was my mentor. He only turned up to site like five times because he said, "You're fine. You're going well. Here's a few tips on the front louvers," and things like that.
Dale Cheesman: But long story short, he's actually my operations manager now. It's a come a full 360 and he's been with us now for three years and I think it's three years. And he's just massive for Shaun and I and he's really taken our business to another level. He's so organized. We bounce off each other. He teaches me some things. I teach him how to use Microsoft Excel. Like I think we really bond well with each other and-
Aaron Kyle: Just a good mix.
Dale Cheesman: It's a great mix and it took a lot of heat off me because it was like my phone was going, my emails are going. I never got time to steer the car, and I knew where that car had to go but it's trying to jump in the drivers seat [inaudible 00:38:18] so many distractions. So he's taken the organization, the boys, the phone calls. And he comes from a joinery kind of custom fit-out background but he's picked up the construction industry pretty quick.
Aaron Kyle: And that comes back to what we were talking about with the theme of these podcasts and our chat today is those early relationships. You never know when-
Dale Cheesman: Yeah.
Aaron Kyle: -just reaching out to him saying, "Hey, can you help me with this? I need your advice." And then fast forward several years later, now he's working for you in-house and he's making such a huge contribution to your culture and your-
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, definitely.
Aaron Kyle: -company's team.
Dale Cheesman: I remember the first time I met him I thought, "He'd be great to have a beer with." And he slotted in perfectly. And that's the great thing about The Melbourne Builder. There isn't one person. And it isn't just me.
Aaron Kyle: It's a family.
Dale Cheesman: It's a family, and we work. The business is always bigger than the individual and it's probably my sporting background playing footy for the last 20 years, that it's a team environment and one mistake, it's everyone's mistake. And yeah, we all kind of push forward.
Aaron Kyle: And I can tell from us getting to know each other that from humble beginnings. You mentioned going to Bonnie Doon as a family and doing the simple things.
Dale Cheesman: Simple things, yeah.
Aaron Kyle: You've worked your way through, you've had family, personal challenges within the company and that's just created a stronger DNA moving forward. Now you're building in the events space in Melbourne and all sorts of architectural projects and other projects. So it's nice to be able to see the story.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. I think everything that goes on in your life always matters and for me that's what's happened. It's just every little thing kind of comes to being... It's our DNA, I suppose, and it helps run a business from kicking a footy to... My dad was a panel beater so watching... he could pick a dent from a mile a way and I suppose I walk on site and kind of look at that wall and go, "Hey, there's a little bump in that wall," or mum was just great at problem solving. That was me. So I think just real little things from my story is it's just... they've all added up.
Aaron Kyle: So with that great influence of Neil coming in and influencing your business, what's the environment like with your company?
Dale Cheesman: We're quite lucky because it's not just renovations. And renovations can drag on for a year, year and a half, two years and you don't get to... Sometimes you're doing a slab for weeks but with events it's helped our environment because you finish the Arbory in three, four weeks and we're having a beer on it. So we're lucky enough the boys all really get along with each other and you're having a go at each other through the day but it's all settled over a pot, at the end of it.
Dale Cheesman: And COVID's been hard for us because we used to catch up for breakfast probably every... definitely every month we'd go down to a café and sit there for an hour or two on a Friday and no one would get up until like 8:30. But I don't look at hours like I was saying before. That hour spent just having a good chinwag, helps the environment, heaps... a coffee. And I think I realized that I didn't want the 4:00 p.m. beers on a Friday because that either A, gets out of hand or you can't drive home or the apprentice has to have a can of coke. So it was the coffee in the morning.
Aaron Kyle: The genuine time.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. So I think our environment's great. We try to be really flexible. The boys, we constantly say they always turn up late but they're the last to leave. So it is the principles, but yeah... And we're trying to build a little gym in our warehouse at the moment just to try and, once we're all out of this have a hub that the boys can kind of go and throw some weights around or feel good about themselves.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, I like how you mentioned family, viewing The Melbourne Builder as a family of people and having that environment where people can go to and like you said, feel like they can belong.
Dale Cheesman: Well like I said, in 2017 I had my first kid and so did Shaun, and now I've got two. Time is just... It's not a standard wake up, drag your day, logon to the computer at 6:30 while you're watching the news. Like it's none of that. I think family, like we had to be flexible. So if Neil's still at home at eight o'clock, well then he must be struggling at home with the kids. I like to think that we're very flexible. And we've just had a new guy come onto our company as of two weeks ago who called us and wanted to work three days a week. And yeah-
Aaron Kyle: And you're open to that.
Dale Cheesman: We love it.
Aaron Kyle: That's nice.
Dale Cheesman: I think that it's so powerful to have... He's quite switched on so I think having him for three days is better than not having him. And at the same time, for the other two days, you don't work flat out every day of the week. You got to work smarter and not harder.
Aaron Kyle: So true. So how do you see the future for Melbourne Builder family?
Dale Cheesman: I would love to be able to buy our own house and renovate it, and film it. Not a block style but just the real world, film a few bits and pieces and buy and sell, pretty much. Buy, renovate, sell. Like I would love to do one a year. Still do our renovations because I just love meeting new people. I love clients. I love meeting new families. So I'd keep that side of it going. The joinery, we're just slowly trying to ramp that up at the moment but it's very hard to not go too quickly. And I think that's the biggest thing that we've learned in 10 years that, grow organically. Don't try to push-
Aaron Kyle: It's not a rush.
Dale Cheesman: It's not a rush. Set yourselves up in your '20s and make your money in your '30s. That's what I was told. And I think too many kids are trying to earn the 55 bucks an hour when they qualify. It's not about that. Like 35 bucks now, we were working for and we knew that it was just the experience we could get in our '20s. And now looking back thinking, "Now that I'm thir... Like I've got two kids. I'm 34 and I've got a bit more freedom because I've got the right people in place now." And I'm so glad I did that in my '20s. If I spent all the money and tried to earn big dollars and I'd just be still throwing a hammer around and not having time with my kids.
Dale Cheesman: But what's next for The Melbourne Builder? We want to renovate. We want to buy our own stuff and do that. And just build what people want. They just want a nice family home.
Aaron Kyle: And you know what? You probably on par with the way the world's adapted and the way we've had to adjust with our living and working. I think that would be the view of a lot of people moving forward.
Dale Cheesman: Flexibility.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, and just adapting and getting back to basics, the simple things.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah. I think so too. Like Jeff, my old boss, his alarm goes off at 9:15 still and he's brilliant. But just having flexibility just makes people smile a bit more and they've got to come to work to enjoy it because if you come into work just being a robot, then it's not going to be good for the company.
Aaron Kyle: The buck stops with you too and I like how it's easy for people to say these things, work, life, balance and enjoy coming to work. But if people actually, genuinely putting in those systems, like you are, and The Melbourne Builder are doing, well it's lip service really. So you need to do what you're doing where you're actually building the physical environment.
Dale Cheesman: But I think we're just modernizing it a little bit, being a little bit more flexible. "What time is lunch?" "Well when you want to have it." "Can I go down and get a coffee?" "Yeah, but make sure you're not leaving at 03:29." It is that flexibility and trying to modernize building that I think that's probably a little bit of our success, I suppose. Just being a little bit different.
Aaron Kyle: No, I think it's great. And it's a credit to you, Shaun, and the team really, for being able to do that and lead from the top.
Dale Cheesman: Just being honest. That's my thing. Dad always, if I didn't tell the truth I would get in so much trouble. So I always learnt when I was young is just always tell the truth and that's better than lying. So if there's ever a stuff up, always tell the clients the truth because you can't come unstuck. And I think people, everyone would rather hear the truth and admitting our mistakes. Yeah, we're not perfect.
Aaron Kyle: I always tell my kids, "Never lie, always tell the truth and you'll never get into trouble, if you just tell me the truth." I can sort anything out but you just tell me the truth.
Dale Cheesman: I'm like that movie, is it Liar Liar? Like I can't lie. I think that's the best thing about running any business is transparency, is what makes the word of mouth, getting more jobs. Like it's just being up front, honest. Yeah, we're going to make money because we're a business. We've got make a profit margin and I'll show you that. There's nothing that's hidden.
Aaron Kyle : It's been really nice to hear your true story and it's one filled with a lot of genuine values and it's a real credit to you and Shaun. Thank you for coming onto Build Hatch. I've really enjoyed it.
Dale Cheesman: Thanks for actually hitting me up and making me think. And when you did email me, it actually made me start thinking about the past and I never had thought about it and even looking back into childhood and realizing what were the key things. And yeah, it's been good.
Aaron Kyle: Yeah, well that's great because everyone who comes onto Build Hatch says it's like therapy. But that's what we're about, we're about telling the real stories. And The Melbourne Builder people, unless they know who you are. I mean a follower could have a perception of you or a builder saying, "That's great. He must have really good connections or went to a prominent school," or something like that. But you strip it back, the real people, the people like yourself, the people like Shaun who've been through real, genuine life experiences who-
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, two blokes from Rowesville Secondary College.
Aaron Kyle:** That's right.
Dale Cheesman: And it's just the connections that you... sport.
Aaron Kyle: And just doing the right thing by people along the way. And like you said, it's a journey from having that arse-kicking as a 19 year old. Fast forward today, there's a lot of ups and downs and hard work and that's the real story.
Dale Cheesman: Yeah, definitely.
Aaron Kyle: All right, Dale. Well thanks again for coming onto Build Hatch and look forward to seeing The Melbourne Builder work in future and particularly these events around the Spring Carnival and the Arbory and all these other exciting projects that you've got coming up.
Dale Cheesman: Arbory five. Hopefully COVID opens up and they can get back to their full capacity.
Aaron Kyle: All right, well shout out to those guys at Arbory and yeah, thanks again for coming onto Build Hatch.
Dale Cheesman: Thanks Aaron.
Aaron Kyle: Well, that was another Build Hatch episode with Dale Cheesman from The Melbourne Builder. As you can tell from listening to that episode, Dale and Shaun have a great building business. And these guys love carrying out all sorts of construction projects. So I encourage you to check out their work and reach out to them if you have an upcoming project. As usual, please check out Instagram where you'll be able to learn more about our guest and some of the projects that we talk about. Have a great week and you'll hear me again on the airwaves next week. Thanks for listening to another episode of Build Hatch.