“Some people might think it’s a crazy time to do it [start a business], when you have a toddler at home and you’re going to have another baby,” muses Rachel Pitman.
“Why would you both resign from your jobs and start something where it’s all unknown and time consuming? We figure… life will only get harder and busier, with more kids and more expenses. It was a calculated risk – we thought we could make it work and didn’t want to look back in years to come wishing we’d done it sooner.”
Usually when you hear the origin story of small businesses, it’s fraught with anxiety, delays and that age-old phrase, ‘I’m just waiting for the right time’. But for Rachel and Jake Pitman, the couple behind Geelong building consultancy firm, Manse Group, there is no better time than right now.
The business is not just a marriage between the owners, but a marriage of skills: Jake has an array of commercial and residential construction experience here and in the UK, previously managing construction projects up to $18 million. Rachel was previously a Marketing Manager for an international brand. It’s a successful blend which has seen the pair make their dreams a reality.
“I never put it in the ‘never basket’,” says Rachel about owning a small business.
“But I suppose we’re both pretty driven… Jake always saw himself having a business of some sort- whether that was building homes or something else that was a bit unknown. When we found a niche we knew we could fill, we decided to run with it.”
Their niche rests on two words: Quality Assurance, which ensures the delivery of a successful building project.
“We’re about making sure the build is built in line with the contract and the drawings, and that it also meets the required Building Code and Australian standards,” explains Rachel.
“We provide peace of mind for homeowners in making sure they’re not stressed, they’re not worried and that they feel in control. People are handing over a lot of money to build a home, so much time, effort and energy goes into thinking about it, saving for it, and planning it. There are so many horror stories out there and we’re trying to minimise discrepancies.”
“We both get a real kick out of helping people and knowing how appreciative they are. Jake has an exceptional manner with our clients, as well as their builders too. He’s amazing at what he does. I can say that because I’m his wife,” laughs Rachel.
With both a commercial and residential arm to the business, Manse Group ensure that it’s not just a ‘cut and paste’ solution for their clients, evaluating each project individually.
“Ideally, we want home owners to come to us just before they’ve signed their building contract because this is the time when we can offer them the most value. We can review their contract and documents, highlighting anything they should clarify before they sign, while they can get things changed in their contract easily.”
“Our commercial client base is growing too, we’re very excited to be project managing some exciting new developments around Geelong.”
There is a refreshing confidence and ease to their evolution as a small business, which has grown remarkably since its inception less than a year ago, one that Rachel puts down to good processes and proper investment.
“From the start, we’ve tried to set things up right, the processes we’ve put in place streamline the things we do every day so we don’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel.”
“We haven’t been afraid to invest in things. In the beginning when we didn’t have a lot of income coming in, we had to ask ourselves, ‘do we really need to spend money on that?’ But if you can justify it, and it’s going to really help what you’re trying to do, then you have got to invest.”
The rest of their confidence comes from their shared integrity and daily reminders that they’re in a business for a reason.
“You have to hold your head high and be proud of what you do,” says Rachel.
“Don’t lower your standards. Price is what you pay, value is what you get. If you really have a ‘goer’ of an idea, then people are going to want it. Take the time to work on it, market it and show that they need what you’ve got.”
And as for juggling a young family and a small business?
“I always have sultanas close by!”
Written by Caitlin Haddad
Images: Kris Smythe Photography
Manse Group Title image: Rebecca Hosking Photography