The way Kendal Nash puts it, he walked out of the kitchen and into a plumbing apprenticeship. Kathryn Kernohan looks a little further into the life of this tropical island plumber.
When he was in school Robert Quick harboured, in some capacity, an ambition to work in the legal sector. Kathryn Kernohan finds out what happened next.
“I’ve always been interested in legalities and the law,” Robert Quick says.
These days, Robert brings his expertise from a lengthy and successful plumbing career to QP Consulting, where as Principal Consultant he provides a range of arbitration and dispute resolution services to property owners, managers and owners corporations.
“When I was managing major plumbing projects, I always had to deal with the legal and technical side of things and that’s what initially made me interested in the idea of consulting one day,” he says.
“Later on, when I started to investigate alternatives to running a plumbing business, I realised that there was a gap in the industry for what I do. There were people who focused on expert consulting, mediation and arbitration in the building industry, but not the plumbing industry.” In his own words, Robert was born to be a plumber.
“My father was a plumber; he started his business in the early 1950s. He worked on the first imported housing commission estate in Victoria and then progressed to other parts of Melbourne, and he eventually moved in to residential and commercial work.”
Robert spent school holidays working with his father and went on to complete an apprenticeship. When his father retired, Robert and his brother took over the business and developed a key relationship with the Grollo family, managers of Australia’s largest privately owned development and construction company.
“Through our relationship with the Grollos, we worked on many of the major Grocon projects across Melbourne, like 101 Collins Street, the Park Hyatt, Rialto Towers and Crown Casino.”
The business also managed countless other smaller commercial and residential projects over more than two decades during Robert’s time as Principal. At one stage, he was managing more than 100 plumbers on site on a single project.
“During this time I was spending days arguing with builders and I developed my interest in becoming involved in the mediation and arbitration industry one day.”
So when Robert and his brother later closed the business, he decided it was time for a career change. Robert became an accredited mediator and completed a Professional Certificate in Arbitration - Advanced and General at the University of Adelaide.
QP Consulting provides new building or renovation inspections, and investigates issues, including plumbing problems in water leaks, water ingress, pre-building waterproofing, waterproofing of facades and balcony installations, piping and roofing problems.
“I do residential, commercial and industry jobs - the majority are residential jobs, particularly with new residential towers constantly being constructed, and I also carry out a lot of roof investigations in the commercial sector.”
Robert’s range of services also includes providing expert independent advice and report services, which can include technical reports, cost estimates and support with insurance claims that are court compliant. “There was a definite need for a business like this because not many others do what I do.”
Robert is also highly experienced as an expert witness, including in VCAT hearings for plumbing, roofing and drainage issues - and says it is important plumbers do everything they can to avoid finding themselves in court.
“The number one piece of advice I give to plumbers is that if someone complains, fix the problem! Don’t put things off because they will cost you three times as much in the future if you end up going to VCAT or potentially to the County Court, and paying legal fees.
“So often I speak with people where issues could have been resolved fairly easily but they end up having to pay exorbitant fees. Communication is the most important thing to be conscious of.
“For all plumbers, it’s also very important to fully understand all the requirements of the plumbing code. Don’t do work that doesn’t conform with the code because you’ll be required to rectify it at your expense - and make sure you communicate this to your client.”
Robert, a Master Plumbers’ life member, is an example of how plumbers can adapt their knowledge to a different industry with great success.
“This job is not full-time so I have time to travel and do other things I enjoy - however it remains an interest and keeps my mind and body active.
“The most satisfying thing for me is when I put together a tradesperson and a client to resolve an issue - it’s a win-win for both parties before a problem escalates any further.”