Episode 11 | Turning An Idea Into A Business With Vertex Access Solutions

Isabel: Hello and welcome back to ED Going Digital today I am joined with Steve from Vertex Access Solutions. Steve is here to give us some insight into his business, which is great. So firstly, please could you tell us a bit about your business and what you do at Vertex Access Solutions? 

Steve: Well, we started 20 years ago exactly. I’ve been in the industry for about 30. We were travelling around Australia and I got a job, you know just doing casual jobs here and there and I came to work for a company called the Vertigo. It was the first rope access company in Australia and it was basically three partners that had a climbing shop and some bloke came in and he bought 300 meters of rope and they said what are you going to do with all of that? And he said I was going to hang a billboard on the side of a high-rise and they figured out quickly that the guy didn’t have any climbing experience or nothing. So they said well we’ll do it for you because this  looks dodgy. So they then abseiled down the building to put this big billboard up and then from there they were getting more enquiries. 

So three guys with the climbing shop then sold the climbing shop and started rope access with Vertigo. It was already happening in England and Europe and they grew in two years they had 100 staff working for them. There was so much potential for it when you eliminate the need for scaffolding and elevated work platforms. They grew and grew and I called in one day for a job, as I had worked on lots of building sites cleaning windows, washing buildings down and in those days there were no Australian Standards or formal training in it. 

We’ll show you how to do it and off you go and then about a year later they got some guys in from England that were trained in IRATA Industrial Rope Access Trade Association. They said look it’s all nice what you do but you’re going to have an accident so you need to train all these guys up and that started the IRATA system in Australia. I got trained up fairly early on and they needed an office manager for their Perth office so I went over to Perth for a few years and helped to build that up. After a while I thought I could do this for myself. I moved to Queensland and noticed that no one was doing it over here. So we started up. 

Isabel: Were you one of the first or the first rope access solution in Queensland?

Steve: We were definitely the first one. I am a painter by trade. We got approached by a big national paint company called Riley Shelly at the time and they wanted guys to wash the building down before they painted it. I linked up with a bloke here Pete and started Vertex then so it was the two of us. We only sub contracted for this painting company doing wash downs and then they would say would you mind painting this section while you are there. So we started painting and then building owners started asking for us. Then we figured we may as well do it ourselves. Every year the company just grew and grew and grew. 

Isabel: I guess 20 years ago it would have been very different with your marketing.

Steve: Totally and no one knew what we were doing. People would put signs up on their windows saying you guys are crazy! It was weird because they hadn’t seen it. These days nearly every building uses rope access. 

Isabel: Yeah, it’s very common isn’t it?

Steve: That’s how it basically started. Some of our staff have been with us for 15 years. At one stage we had way more than 20 and then we started to lose control. We like to be hands on and keep an eye on everything. We do a lot of work in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast so I was driving up and down. We decided to close down the Brisbane office. It was going quite well so two of the guys who had worked for us down there for a long time bought into it. We set up a partnership there so I am a third owner in it. I don’t have to do anything there anymore, they do it all and we still look after the Sunshine Coast. 

Isabel: Perfect! So what would you say are some of the pain points of running your own business?

Steve: I run it with my wife so I would say that’s a pain point. Being with your wife in a small business is a bad thing. We’ve done it now for 20 years and we’ve been married for 35 so we are doing something right, but I would not recommend it to anybody. You always talk about it at home and it never goes away. That’s a pain point. Well, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve grown every year pretty much so I’m always busy and we always have six months work ahead of us. So we never had to chase work. We don’t have sales people. So just by word of mouth and doing the right thing. But having quite a staff is also quite complex different dynamics, you know, people don’t want to work with him and he’s done this and he’s done that and also the planning is quite difficult with the weather. We have a Whatsapp group and if it’s raining in the morning we’ll postpone the job. So that’s quite challenging. But you know, we feel lucky so I think it’s more good than bad. 

Isabel: I was going to ask you what was some advice that you would give to someone wanting to start their own business, but I think you answered it in that one too. What does your ideal digital marketing look like?

Steve: Well, like we may be touched on before I like the quickness and that everything works and to me for our business I think it needs to be like a more showcase. I like photos and not too much text, simple. You know, I find when you go on the website, you just quickly want to see what they’re doing. No one is going to read all the fine print, I think. I just wanted to see it as a professional-looking company when people look you up and it’s not amateuristic with spelling mistakes. Neat and tidy and simple.

Isabel:  I think building your brand awareness, you know if you want to be seen as an industry leader. Like you said before and really showcasing and getting your website up in the search engine results.

Steve: Yeah, that’s what we want. That’s why we see you guys trying to maximise and do as good as we can. I’ve never really spent much money on marketing. We do a few brochures a year. I’m not that technically minded so I’ve always seen it as a hassle. But you have to go with the times. 

Isabel: Thank you so much for joining us today. That was great insight into your business!


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