What has grown to become Australia’s largest plumbing industry association – and a trusted source of information, advice and expertise – started from humble beginnings. Kathryn Kernohan reports.
Innovation is not always visible, it’s about evolving yourself and your business to stay ahead of the pack, according to Shaun and Cheryl Foster.
Small business success is difficult. It takes dedication, determination and a point of difference. These three essentials and the desire to continually learn are what Shaun and Cheryl say have driven their business for 29 years.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from our business and from the plumbing work,” Shaun says, “but the most satisfaction comes when we are able to resolve a problem where other people can’t.”
Shaun started his plumbing apprenticeship in 1983, straight out of technical school and has worked with many, highly technical bosses, which has evolved his skills through his career.
“I still use all my training from all the bosses I have had, picking up all the details I can,” he says. “It’s about never being too full of yourself and listening to the other trades, they have also some great ideas.”
The end result: “We are able to resolve the problem where other people can’t,” he says. “I can normally always get to the bottom of the problem and fix it.”
It hasn’t always been an easy journey for Cheryl and Shaun. The couple had moved from the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to Bendigo. The dream was to reduce the amount of travel and gruelling traffic gridlock.
Shaun worked for a few companies in Bendigo before going out on his own. It was a tough time. The recession had hit Australia.
“My employer had to put me off and I fully understood that,” Shaun explains. “We saw no other option than to make a go of it on our own. It was very tough at first.”
Luckily, at that time, Cheryl was working within a very large building company in Bendigo and they engaged Shaun.
After the first five jobs they recognised Shaun’s systematic, solution-first style and his dream of going solo was realised; Shaun Foster Plumbing was launched. Eight years later, Cheryl left her job to come into the business full time.
In almost 30 years, the couple have seen a lot of changes. They have had to keep up with technology in accounting, in online communication and in the products coming through.
Two years ago they rebranded their business and launched a new, more modern website for customers and ongoing clients.
“We needed to freshen up, we shortened the name to Foster Plumbing, as it is just two of us, and to lessen the complexity of the new logo,” Cheryl says. “The original logo was from the 80s.”
Shaun adds: “We wanted to bring the business to the current state of the society we work in.”
Foster Plumbing’s jobs are almost 95% domestic; and their slogan is ‘no job too small’.
“A lot of people won’t ring thinking it’s only a tap or it’s only a leaking toilet, so that’s what we aim to do, we aim to fix a clients’ problem no matter what the size,” Cheryl explains.
“The longer you do something, the better you are at it. You try to help the client; answer the phone immediately and really attend to their needs. For maintenance you have got to be there for the client, even if you can’t get there straight away, you should be able to talk to them and be able to answer the phone.”
Part of Foster Plumbing’s continual evolution drew them to become members of Master Plumbers.
“It was part of the restructuring of our business to get a new image but it was also part of continuing my training,” Shaun explains.
“Whenever Master Plumbers run an event in our area I am always ready to attend, like the Carbon Monoxide sessions and the forums; all of it.”
Cheryl adds: “It’s also the extra information you can access. You know you can ring up Master Plumbers and ask for assistance when you are stuck and they give you the confidence to move forward. It is sometimes really hard to retrieve quality information in this day and age but Master Plumbers has the answers. It is like a support network.”
Foster Plumbing Bendigo
M 0411 361 870 | T 5443 8072