When your goal is for your business to be self-sufficient and you have moved around a lot in life, you have to work damn hard if it is to become a...
Stolen tools led David to a new life. Almost 40 years ago, David Clark made a decision that would change his professional and personal lives forever.
Having grown up in Melbourne and completing his plumbing apprenticeship just before his 20th birthday, David worked locally for a couple of years before a stroke of misfortunate led to a big life change.
“My plumbing tools were stolen so I ended up having to work in a factory for a while. I felt quite stale and thought I needed a bit of a change work-wise,” he recalls.
“It was 40 years ago next year that I decided to move to Mt Buller as a subcontractor. I started work on the mountain driving buses but slowly and surely my business began to grow.
“I met my wife Helen up there, we were married in 1981 and the rest is history.”
Mt Buller, about 200 kilometres or a three-hour drive away from Melbourne, is best known for its alpine resort which has its highest elevation at 1,780 metres, as well as dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants and 7,000 on-mountain beds.
One of Victoria’s most popular tourist spots, Mt Buller is also home to other outdoor activities including mountain biking, bushwalking and 4WD and motor biking trails.
David’s business Mt Buller Plumbing Heating and Gas has serviced the Mt Buller and nearby Mansfield areas for more than 25 years - and he describes it as almost two businesses in one depending on the season.
“In summer we do a lot of construction work, including plenty of direct work to ski clubs and other local businesses. We also do a lot of bathroom and kitchen work including upgrades,” he says.
The team also specialises in heating, including the design, supply and installation of hydronic floor coil heating as well as the installation, servicing and maintenance of hot water systems and boiler rooms.
“Our main focus in summer is heating. One project we recently worked on the Twin Towers apartment complex of 52 apartments, doing boiler room work and installing 8 Baxi boilers.”
“We also do a lot of work for hotels, hydronic heating is a big one, and general hot water issues and maintenance.”
The business is also a qualified installer of Apricus solar hot water systems to residential and commercial clients.
In winter - when Mt Buller attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year to its snow and ski slopes - the business provides a 24-hour on-mountain service for emergency callouts and general maintenance issues.
“We do everything from sanitary work to specialist roofing work, responding seven days a week to a broad range of client needs ranging from toilet faults, tap faults, blocked drains and leak detections to problems with fryers, ovens, boilers and the occasional burst pipe.”
In winter, David has a team of three plumbers and gasfitters and in summer the number increases to five given the larger-scale project work undertaken.
“Over time I’ve been lucky to have a number of long-term employees including a subcontractor who’s worked for me for 20 years - he comes back every summer and does his own thing for the rest of the year,” says David.
“I’m in my early 60s myself but I’m still on the tools and love the hands-on parts of the job.”
David and his family bought a house in Mansfield, at the foot of the Victorian Alps, in the late 1990s and loves the work-life balance offered by living outside the big smoke.
“Most of our time is spent in Mansfield -it’s a great place to live. There are plenty of places to go mountain biking or hunting or fishing for people interested in those hobbies. You can get out for a ski when you want.
“There are over 40 plumbers in the district but everyone seems to have work. A lot of people live in Mansfield and commute to Buller every day.”
David’s four children - now adults who have moved away from home - also loved their time growing up around the mountain.
“They all grew up with a strong connection to Buller - they are all good skiers and they enjoy coming back to visit.”
“It was a big decision I made when I was 23, to not live in Melbourne, and I do not regret it.”