How can we help?

Another tumultuous year pretty well over again, dominated by Covid-19 related issues that in a sense have divided the nation, put many people out of work and saw a number of businesses broken.

The building industry has not only been lucky to keep going (as an essential industry), but in many aspects most parts of it have prospered. ‘Prospered’ may be the wrong word because while there continues to be plenty of building activity, we all know it hasn’t been easy. In some cases, rising costs have tempered the profit levels and the mental and physical strain on all participants is very evident. ‘R U OK’ continues to be an important question to ask those around us – workmates, family and friends.

It’s a question I know John Bowen, our MD, throws out there quite often. The performance within our Timber & Hardware and Prefab businesses has been outstanding but also wearing on all concerned. Yes, we are all different, with the majority coping OK but others struggling.

Covid has disrupted the entire Australian workforce. The ‘work from home’ element is no longer a temporary answer to the pandemic but a permanent condition of employment for many as we prepare for ‘post Covid’. Mandatory vaccinating has cut a small percentage of people out of the job market and together with a drop in immigration, employers are scrambling to get staff. 

Predictions are that the home building and home renovation markets will continue to ‘boom’ for some time yet. At the time of writing this piece, Bowens Timber & Hardware have staff vacancies at each of our sixteen branches. In 2022 we will have a new branch at Cheltenham and other opportunities to grow our business are being investigated.

In other words, Bowens is continuing to grow and will need to both retain good staff and recruit new.

“So, my question as to ‘How can we help’ is really about how we can help each other?”

Our current workforce, our current management is rated highly in the industry. There is plenty of pride in working at or for Bowens… and plenty of respect from management, from me, John Bowen and our Board for all those who perform ‘whatever’ duty within the company.

The question around ‘helping each other’ involves owners, management and staff working together to achieve both the company’s goals and the personal expectations of the individual. If somebody wants to be the best forklift driver in the industry, how can we help that person achieve that goal? If that same forklift driver or someone from any job within the company wants to progress to sales or management … what can we do to help them achieve this?

“Part of Bowens’ continuing success includes the opportunity to instill pride. We all know how good it feels when we do a good job, do a good deed … but also be recognised for doing so. Recognition isn’t always sort (nor is it always given) but a little sense of achievement goes a long way to making our lives better.”

Bowens, as an employer, can help each member of our staff progress or be the best at what they do. I get just as excited about the person who says they just love the job they are doing, as I do about a staff member who wants to run the company! HELP is the big word because I do include the R U OK element. Particularly during this pandemic period, we have examples of our children (grandchildren) struggling, partners struggling … families being challenged in all sorts of ways. Our company needs to be cognisant of the overall pressures on our people at any time, let alone Covid times.

Christmas will be over shortly (can’t believe that!) and we will be well into 2022, before we know it. I’m hoping we can help each other enough to achieve all the demands of another year … workplace, personal, family. I know Bowens will lose people because one or another of ‘hopes and dreams’ might not be met. I also believe that those who continue on will be excited by what Bowens has, and will have, to offer.

Our younger members of staff in particular will be provided with plenty of opportunities. The example of our current list of branch managers is enough to inspire the next generation of Bowens people. I’m repeating myself I know but each of these managers started their careers on the shop floor or in the timber yard. I admire each and all for taking up opportunities along the way, for listening and learning, and for maximising their potential … a potential they probably didn’t know they had!

Throughout next year and beyond, people will come and go … some (not Jeff Harvey I hope!) will retire. But those who stay on will be part of a 128 year business that will never be old. Youth, experience, and personal ‘reinventing’ will keep us young and able to adapt to whatever the Built market has to offer.

Finally, I do want to wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas/New Year. My brother David, John and Andy Bowen and our Board join me in thanking all our magnificent staff for looking after our builder clients and doing the best job for them as they could – albeit with constraints on supply and the pressure of an abundance of work.

To our builders – thank you all for your support of Bowens through 2021. If we haven’t met all your expectations, I can assure you we have tried hard – your interests are paramount and every branch, every staff member does start each day with every intention of performing their duties well and keeping you happy!

John Bowen and I look forward to continuing our Builders Bulletin articles for as long as we are allowed.

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