Bill Terjesen from Terjesen Constructions
First Bill, please tell me a bit about your background and what got you interested in carpentry.
Growing up, I was the kid who was always building and making things like cubby houses in the backyard. One day when I was young my parents had an extension done on their house and I was very curious about how it all worked.
I discovered what I wanted to do when I started woodwork in high school as an elective. After that, I would spend my weekends building tables and woodwork items for my friends and family.
I was lucky enough in high school to start work experience in year 10 with Greg Leeder. This led me to start an apprenticeship with him the following year. I ended up finishing my apprenticeship a year and a half early.
After completing this, I started up my own business Bill’s Contracting in 2009. I worked as a general carpenter for a couple of residential and commercial builders for a few years and was responsible for a couple of apprentices and overseeing the work. One of my first projects was a house at Middleton Beach where we tore the roof off two units and added on a second story.
Four years ago, I realised I wanted to move more towards building than just carpentry and I changed my business name from Bill's Contracting to Terjesen Constructions to embody what I wanted to do, which is building quality high-end houses.
Sometimes in the building industry you can be flat out for months and then have nothing. How do you manage this?
You must be prepared to go out and find the work. It’s also not just finding work for me but also my employees. I have completed various jobs from gyprocking and going out to farms and completing renovations.
In reality I could work for someone else and make a lot more money, but I’m not driven by that. I would rather work for clients directly as they appreciate what you do. You get to go through everything with them, from the design stage up to the final handover. I get a lot more out of that personally.
What do you struggle with in the business side of things?
Time management, needing to be both at the building site as well as in the office. The office work is just as important as the work I do on site. They come hand in hand. The site work makes the money, but the office work keeps it all going. It’s often difficult to not work late at night or on the weekends to keep it all going and not fall behind in all the paperwork.
How do you go about marketing your business?
I market myself as a high quality builder. I take more time with what I do and make sure that I have a more direct hands-on experience with my clients. I get them involved in the whole process, show them what we’re doing and discuss how it’s being done.
I go above and beyond on the work I do and spend extra time making sure things are perfect. 98% of my business comes from word of mouth, so I ensure each job I have completed is at a very high standard.
Employing and retaining good staff (and keeping them busy) can be an issue, particularly for a small business. How have you managed to keep your staff on track and produce the work to the quality you require?
I spend a lot of time on the worksite and overseeing what my workers do. I put a lot of time into my workers and apprentices to train them up to be the at the same level as the business which is the high-quality work and the customer service. I also try to keep people around who have that same mentality and mind set.
What are you working on now?
We are building a 320sqm house out at the Kalgan that the owners have set up to be a bed and breakfast. The house has a timber frame, a 40-degree roof pitch and uses some new materials we’ve not worked with before.
We’re also currently completing another renovation in Wylie Crescent, which involves ripping off the asbestos roof on a third story and re-sheeting it.
Ideally, I would love to just build one big house a year rather than move from one to the next. To work on and concentrate on more upmarket million-dollar houses. One where I can be on site and complete something cool and exciting whether it be a new build or renovations. I still quite like doing renovations, they can be challenging and exciting to complete
And what's your vision for the future of Terjesen Constructions?
Each job I aim to do better than the last in terms of our work process and quality. We are always learning better ways of doing things with the materials we use. Also developing better work practices to speed things up, whilst retaining a high level of quality craftmanship.