#SeriouslySocial The Podcast
with Simone Douglas and special guest Steve Walker
Today’s guest on this week’s episode of Seriously Social is Steve Walker from Kookaburra Homes. He chats with Simone about mentors, relationship building, and his new podcast.
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Hosted by Simone Douglas
Videography by Marie Carbone
Audio by Chris Irving
Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence
This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.
Chris Irving 0:00
Welcome to the seriously social podcast with your host Simone Douglas. Today’s guest is Steve Walker from kookaburra homes. He chats with Simone about mentors relationship building and his new podcast.
Simone Douglas 0:14
All right, well, welcome to this episode. Yeah, I’m sorry. Welcome to this week’s episode of seriously social the podcast today I’m joined by Steve Walker from kookaburra homes. Thanks for coming in today.
Steve Walker 0:27
G’day How are you?
Simone Douglas 0:28
I’m good. Can I just I guess to kick us off, give us the cliff notes version? About how you find yourself here today.
Steve Walker 0:36
Yeah, I guess. Um, so I’m the CO owner of a residential building company, called Kookaburra homes. We first met six years ago, yourself and Tamara. So we’ve known each other for some time, we haven’t really been in regular contact over the last six years, you’ve been busy doing your thing. And I’ve been busy doing my thing. And then we sort of touched base, I guess, on LinkedIn. And there’s an opportunity coming in to have a chat to you, which I really wanted to do, because I publicly want to say big thanks to yourself and to Tamara, because there was a couple little things that you did six years ago, that changed my business entirely. So your business yourself, and in particular, Tamara, what you did for me at the time when I was learning, I’m forever grateful of and I replay that story over and over again, still to this day. So when they come here and say thank you to you a big thank you to Tamara because we needed help. You helped me so thank you. Yeah,
Simone Douglas 1:32
I like to help with everything. Yeah. So yeah, when you say so home builder, Kookaburra is a fairly well known brand in the marketplace these days.
Steve Walker 1:41
Now, yeah, yeah.
Simone Douglas 1:43
Yeah. So um, but you have four businesses. I’m sad to say Steve Beats, me. feel like I need to catch up.
Steve Walker 1:52
Yeah, we were we were talking about though whether they’re profitable or not, you might be begging me there. So yeah, so we do a number of different things we manufacture all around, all around joinery, kitchens, and bathrooms and things like that. I do a lot of work with kids and youth. Just about to launch my own podcast, which is the kidpreneur podcast, which is basically finding amazing teenagers out there. They’re doing incredible things, especially around the area of business. Yeah. And then having conversations with them, shining a light on them that will hopefully then allow other kids to do the same and be influenced by those kids. So that’s a that’s a business I’m really focusing on at the moment. Yeah,
Simone Douglas 2:34
because I have a 13 and a half year old, an 11 year old so they’re right smack in that age, the 13 and a half year old wants to be a famous youtuber and live stream and do all the things which is fine. But the 11 and a half year old goes Mom, I want to start my own dog walking business. Don’t do this, this and this. And I said to him the other day, I was like, okay, so you need to, you know, get some flyers, and we can do one page website, and it’s that the other and he goes, No, no need employees first. Do any other work. Honey? Yeah,
Steve Walker 3:02
yeah, thank you see the end product? Yeah,
Simone Douglas 3:06
you’re gonna have to do all of the work yourself to start off. Yeah, you know, find a profit sharing arrangement.
Steve Walker 3:12
100%. I think so many kids see that final product, and they’re so focused on the monetary component, without understanding that you need to do the work. So I’m really trying to highlight kids and teenagers that doing the work to then influence exactly kids here to get an end on meeting some amazing kids. I interviewed someone the other day, 16 year old girl where she raised $2,000, bought a sewing machine sent it to Kenya, she employs a person who has made over 500 sanitary pads for young girls out there allowing them to go to school so they don’t miss out on education. So as one example, so that inspires me to keep so I’m really enjoying it.
Simone Douglas 3:56
Yeah, cool. Yeah, I think it leads really nicely into a bit of a conversation we’re having in the preamble about, you know, relationships in business being was important and community being what’s important. If you were to talk to someone, you know, that’s probably reached a similar stage to us. So maybe they’ve got a couple of businesses, they’re probably a little bit time poor, maybe balance is tricky. And maybe they’ve been neglecting the relationships that got them where they got to in the first place. What kind of advice would you give to those people?
Steve Walker 4:30
One, Adelaide is a small place. Australia is actually a small place. So you know, I’m trying not to be hypocrite because when I was younger, I didn’t really understand this I didn’t really value relationships that much. I was very quickly, very quickly cut them off, especially if they weren’t adding value to me. But then you grow up and you realize aw Jee you actually bump into these people again, so it pays to be nice. You know that saying of being you know, be nice on the way up because we need those people. And I really think that good things don’t last forever, and it’s some point you’re gonna need him. So I see what you do online. And I’m inspired by it. And I try and do the same where I’m trying to build a community and network of people around me that I can help. And I also believe can also help me as well. It’s interesting at the moment, I think a lot of my competitors, especially in the building industry, be seen the content that I’m putting out in line and think I’m very confused or distracted with what I’m doing. Because they are very much product price, product, price, product price, but they don’t understand that. As nice as all that stuff is not doing. I’m trying to build homes, on trying to sell homes. And I think there’s a shift around, you don’t need to go to a half page ad in the Sunday mail and spend 15 grand, you’re better off going into your network and saying, hey, how can I help you and add value, whether that’s monetary, or whether it’s time, whatever it may be? I think it’s changing and the return on investment is greater than the old days where you just go and Chuck money at, you know, the side of the bus.
Simone Douglas 5:57
Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, absolutely does. Because I think often, you know, people will say to me, and in fact, I had had, you know, the local newspaper ring me wanting to have like, we took out an award they ha Award for Best community support and service. But yeah, yeah, yes.
Steve Walker 6:14
Yeah, I saw that and it’s awesome.
Simone Douglas 6:15
And, but yeah, so they’re trying to sell me advertising. So like, they rang me psycho congratulations on the award, or I’m like, Oh, thanks. And I thought it was I talked to journalists all the time. So I was like, Guys, great journalists. Yeah. And then, you know, he goes, Oh, you know, so we’ve got this special offer. And it’s like, you know, banner advertising? And I said, Did you look like did you Google me before you call? No, I do. Yeah. Like, for I own a digital marketing agency. I’m like, is this free advertising? Because I’m always up for free? Yep, that’s right. So go, No, no, it’s a special, you know, so that you can reach out to them? Yeah, so I’m gonna have to respectfully decline. And not waste any more time. Yeah. No, but I appreciate the fact that you’re working through at least and you’ve got a job to do that. Yeah. It’s not gonna happen. Yeah, I’m a big fan of like you said, Go and make friends. So I have this whole philosophy that is, you know, in business, you start off by making friends. And then they turn into business family. Now business family, might might not be you know, your blood family or your friends outside of work, but they are as important. And if you can just remember that they matter in and of themselves.
Steve Walker 7:26
100%. I love your saying, it all just starts with a coffee, yes, to start a coffee, as simple as that. Just reaching out and saying, hey, let’s have a coffee, can I add value to you, and you may even be competitor. Yeah. And I’m really trying to change the mindset in South Australia, where it’s very old school, it’s very, if you’re my competitor, I can’t talk to you, where there’s a new group of young owners of building companies coming up. Now, when we try to collectively work together and understand that the pie is big enough for everyone. Let’s just help each other. And let’s not be driven by greed, let’s be driven by sustainability and creating a life for us and our family that is sustainable. And one way we can help each other.
Simone Douglas 8:07
I think that’s one way, you know, like said, sustainable, that’s where building companies is successful. Yeah. As opposed to the, you know, margin price. And things falling over which you see a lot in construction I have done, unfortunately. So yeah, I’m a big fan of that. And some of my best referrals have come from my competitors, or people who I should be competing with. And my favorite referrals, so I got given a disaster recovery client, which is there’s not a lot of people out there that do that. So it was a very, like, nightclub was all over the papers and police were involved. Social media was blowing up all over the place. And I got this phone call. And Matt from digital marketing, Adelaide just goes, this isn’t my bag. Will you talk to my clients? I was like, Yeah, okay. Sure. Yeah. And how to talk and you know, we’ve managed to put out the fire in 36 hours. Yeah, but yeah, yeah. 36 hours. I didn’t sleep. Yeah. I was answering all the comments, but it’s it. That’s why it’s a it’s a particular skill set when it gets to that point, because he has to be the right amount of humor. seriousness. heaps fun.
Steve Walker 9:20
Simone Douglas 9:20
So yeah. And there are always times you know, when you can’t do the work. So either you’re too busy, or you’re in the middle of onboarding a bunch of clients or someone’s going on holidays you need rather than saying, no, it’s always better to go, I can’t help you right now. But here’s someone that I trust that can help you.
Steve Walker 9:38
Yeah. 100%. Yeah, it’s interesting talking about networks and community. We’ve tried to do that with our customer base. I think, just in any transactional environment. As soon as transactions done, we just sort of say goodbye to that customer. And then we’ll quickly go spend $1 in marketing to the C&D leads where we tried to switch our marketing spend and just double down on The people that have already purchased from us yeah. And most of them aren’t nearby second or third home, but we want to continue to touch them and show them that we appreciated them. And we get, you know, a majority of our growth is coming from referrals. Yeah, as you know, people buy because of trust, if you can’t add trust, and they want you to discount to add value to people that are getting referred to us already have that trust element.
Simone Douglas 10:21
Yeah. So it’s much easier with transaction
Steve Walker 10:23
one, since you hold your margin. And yeah, we
Simone Douglas 10:27
Yeah, so I think before if we could give new people starting out in business, the best piece of advice is, if you can get into a place where you’re not competing on price, that’s where you want to be
Steve Walker 10:40
100%. Yeah. 100%.
Simone Douglas 10:42
So would you say that? Because I have this philosophy that I don’t actually have any competitive in my own ways, right. You know, in what’s traditionally a very competitive industry, would you say you’ve differentiated yourself in ways that no one else is going to follow you there? Does that make sense?
Steve Walker 11:04
Yeah, I think I’ve a huge advantage as as our business has grown. I’ve employed people to work alongside me and I have a PA now I’ve got a full marketing department compared to when you first go to theaters myself, and there was a young girl called Yana. I’ve been able to bring people into the business not so I can step away from the customer, but allowing me to step closer to the customer, where I know my competitors do the opposite. as they grow, they put people in the business remove themselves from the customer. So I think my biggest point of difference is that I’m a retailer at heart, like you with the pump. I met the bar listening and watching what people were saying. And I think I do that better than most. So when you talk about competitors, I think they’re too worried about what everyone else is doing wrong, just worried where the customers, you know, talk about Gary being earlier, I learned a long time ago from him that just watch where the customers attention is. So I do that very closely. So I think, yeah, I don’t focus on my competitors too much, because they’re too busy focusing on each other. Yeah. And not listening to the consumer. So we’ve been very successful through social media, because we may not have the biggest following. But the content we put out there, our engagement is higher, because I’m talking directly to the customers. Yeah. issues or challenges. I’m addressing them.
Simone Douglas 12:24
Yeah. But I think it’s one of those things that I loved about when I got the pubs three years ago, because I could break all of the rules. So everything that I tried to tell clients to do that they maybe chose not to, you know, because sometimes you offer advice, and fair enough, at the end of the day, the client gets a yes or no, but all the things that they’d be like, Oh, no, I’m not quite comfortable with that. And I need like, professional photos. So I break all the rules with the pilot and our engagement went through the roof. We had viral posts happening in
Steve Walker 12:55
have you owned a pub before?
Simone Douglas 12:56
Yeah, so I in my 20s I used to fix broken pubs for a living because yeah, okay. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. We found this one by accident. And we’re looking for an office. Yeah, that’s cool. So you’ve got a pub instead.
Steve Walker 13:07
Simone Douglas 13:10
means the good days and the bad days at both okay. Yeah.
Steve Walker 13:15
Simone Douglas 13:16
Yeah, sorry. It’s Um, but yeah, it’s, I was really struck the wrong way, like, but it really validated my thinking around marketing because I would put all of this humanist narrative in place and made the people the most important thing in the socials and in the business, you know, and made sure that there was this really clear six word story for the business, which is that the outside world doesn’t matter here. If you walk through that door, you should feel like everything else along the way. So that translates into the marketing but it’s the ethos of who you are. And I think in business you guys are you’re really clear on who you are, who the business is, and what what it is that you bring to the table. And I think when you’ve got that clarity at the top, and you can communicate that with everybody else, that’s when magic happens.
Steve Walker 14:04
100% Yeah, yeah, I think there’s external marketing but first you got to market internally constantly every day to your staff. And be doing what you’re saying which is you know, trading the ethos and explaining to them what you’re about what you want to do not just you know, go out there and tell the market you this, but internally, everyone knows that that’s just rubbish. Yeah. First you have to commit to the people that work for you. And then go till the market so that we’re on the same page.
Simone Douglas 14:32
Yeah, absolutely makes sense. I think it’s challenging sometimes they when we have those resource pressures, so one of the things that I guess we saw three COVID, perhaps not in the construction industry, you guys had a tiny dip, and then boom, yeah.
Steve Walker 14:46
All that Money. too much money
I thought of you when they gave us 25 grand, yeah, customer 25 grand. Then we went boom, then they gave us another 15 grand. Yeah. And I was thinking of you that was at the time that you Really try and put a lot of pressure on the sticking out for pub. And obviously, we don’t need any more money. Yeah, but it give Siomne some money, you’re asking for money. For more. I’m thinking we don’t need more. Yeah, it’s crazy.
Simone Douglas 15:12
It’s flat strap. Yeah, yeah. With those other businesses, I think what it what it highlighted for me and you know, with BNI I’ve got 165 business owners that are members in my region. So I was very close to that across all the sectors. But the people that were successful, were the ones that had been working within their networks, and looking after their networks for a very long time, as opposed to the ones that had a book full of contacts and then started spamming them.
Steve Walker 15:46
Simone Douglas 15:48
yeah. So what would you say? As we wrap up, because I’m conscious that we must be getting close to timer. I like talking to interesting people. But you know, what would you say outside of all of the obvious stuff? Is your secret to success when it comes to having so many different aspects of what you do?
Steve Walker 16:09
Yeah, I think it comes back to the network. I’ve learned from very young age, I’ve relied on mentors my entire life. And there’s been a number of them at different aspects of my life as I’ve grown up. But over the last four or five years, where business has been really scary when we first met, you know, we weren’t in a great way. And I really relied on one network, who then a number of those turned into mentors. Yeah. So my advice to everyone, just life in general is find a mentor, someone that you trust, that you can talk to. Because that’s been our saving grace. So look within your network. And if you don’t have a network, start communicating and creating one and look for those people that you can talk to when things get really really hard. Really hard.
Simone Douglas 16:56
Because it’ll come. It’s coming.
Steve Walker 16:58
Simone Douglas 16:59
every business goes through it multiple times. Yeah,
Steve Walker 17:03
it’s funny. I spoke with my mentor a couple weeks ago, I said, Mate I don’t know what’s wrong. I think I’m finally happy. Ah, so Isn’t that funny? The only thing staying between you and happiness is your own happiness. Is it just enjoy it now? Because life will come smack you real soon? Yeah. And it does and you need those people there next you so my advice is find a mentor, and lean on them.
Simone Douglas 17:24
Steve, thanks very much for joining me.
Chris Irving 17:26
Thank you. Hope you enjoyed this episode of seriously social. Check our website for the latest news show notes and for details about Simone’s latest book, confident networker.