Out of 10,000 registered builders in Australia, Astrid Vasile is the 12th female. Here, we chat with Astrid from GV Constructions (WA) about making it in the very male-dominated building and construction industry…
So, Astrid, tell us about your business…
GV Constructions (WA) is a registered building company (reg. 11727) with its own registered builders, which has gained a well-earned reputation for building quality projects for our clients’ requirements. We started in 2001, building one then two houses and making a profit. As our business grew, we began to undertake speculative home building as well as contractual work. Since then, we have built more than one hundred homes.
I began to work full time for the business after I completed my academic and Building and Construction Diploma over a four-year period. I then applied and obtained my own building license while remaining to do the accounts, office management, marketing, contract administrations, interior design, selecting building materials, supervising on site… Sometimes my husband calls me ‘Superwoman’ and sometimes I fall asleep at the end of the day from it all!
Life changed for me and my husband as our business started to expand rapidly. Our team has produced a diverse range of projects from modern contemporary style homes, to customised and multi-dwelling premises, single and multi-storey residential, and commercial construction in Western Australia.
Our clients are first home buyers, families seeking residences, right through to investors from Australia, Asia and overseas . It’s a tough economy right now. We take on whatever work we can deal with and cannot be choosy. Success does not have to be fast — what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent.
What prompted you to start your business? Did you identify a gap in the market?
My expertise was mainly in the IT and aviation industries. I worked through the lower ranks from sales to project leader in those fields.
My introduction to the building industry in Australia started through my husband, Gino Vasile. He has been working in the construction industry for many years having started his business working for others or partnerships with his colleagues. Back in 1998, I was looking for something a little more family friendly because I was weary of the travel involved within the aviation industry. I wanted to spend more time with my children, so I set up a small office space at home, just me and my husband.
We made a good living and, in between working, I picked up my children from school every day and worked reduced hours when they were on school holiday, so joining the family business was an ideal opportunity. Previously working in admin and management roles in a vast range of industries, I began to see that I could offer something to our own business from my knowledge and experience. The business had grown to a stage where my husband Gino needed support, and we wanted to take the business to a more professional level. My involvement and my role has increased since our children have grown, and left home to do their own thing.
I’m a member of the HIA Business Partner network, and an active committee member for Women in Building and Constructions (Master Builders Association). Joining many courses and getting involved in our industry association has reinforced that my future is to stay in the building industry. Having recently completed the adjudicator course with The Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia (IAMA), has equipped me with the confidence to handle client and builder disputes.
What’s special about your business? What’s your ‘Point of Difference’?
I don’t do anything that I am not comfortable with. It’s not about me, it’s about us and the team. My husband and I have drive and the motivation to succeed — we make new plans every day. I married a builder who gives 110% all the time, and our aim is to give clients 120% customer satisfaction.
We are very careful and selective in our process. We see our sub-contractors team as an extension of our family – our ‘office family’. Knowing you have the right person, with the right morals, within the team makes working for any client priceless.
We only engage with reputable sub-contractors that will construct a project to comply with Australian Standards and the Building Codes of Australia, making sure it is one of the best-of-its-kind-developments in Perth. We monitor the project onsite daily. We believe this is an essential part of identifying any faults and correcting them before they become a problem.
GV Constructions (WA) is not just another boutique builder that can tailor-make to a client’s needs. We give clients a higher standard of service and guidance that sets us apart from our competitors.
“I don’t do anything that I am not comfortable with”
So, who are your competitors?
Every building and construction company in Perth is our competitor. After 21 years, we have a solid business that has been through the ups and downs of the business cycle. We actually don’t know who our competitors are that would offer the kind of service we do — from concept to moving in.
What was your first major achievement in the business?
Our first major achievement was in 2009 when it was announced that I was awarded the Business Partner of the Year Western Australia winner by the Housing Industry Association and National Australia Bank. Also, in 2010, I was finalist for National Business Partner of the Year Australia-wide by CSR Building Products and the Housing Industry Association.
I am extremely proud of my reputation as a quality builder, the 12th female Registered Builder out of 10,000 in Australia, in the very male-dominated industry. To me, financial freedom is financial independence, which means being able to live a comfortable life — I live comfortably.
What has been your biggest challenge?
When I started, I knew nothing except billing, books and admin. So, from that point on, besides running the billing, job estimating, purchasing, selecting materials and onsite jobs, I’ve learnt to become a builder. I am getting to know what is involved in running a building company — safety, skills and knowledge, and everything involved and how it runs. I felt that I couldn’t supervise it if I had no knowledge about it. I think that learning curve was the toughest thing.
It’s not easy being Asian with dark hair, black eyes, brown skin, short (165cm), and a female working on a building site. The ‘tradies’, as they are commonly called, are not used to seeing women builders, especially Asians. They look and stare at me and I can see the questions in their eyes, “What is she doing here?” But little do they know, I can talk and think like them, and have building knowledge. Slowly, they are accepting that women are just the same as men with their knowledge.
What obstacles have you overcome?
Getting your business on track is one thing, keeping it there is another. There were days that we were frustrated to gain access to finance, because we can’t stop building. Fortunately our National Bank Manager, Tina Burningham, has been helpful in assisting us at various times. Our financials and projects are now on track.
Difficult clients exist in every business for every company — we all have them, regardless of what industry we’re in. There are times when difficult clients mostly just want to unload on you. Some clients don’t understand the complexity of the work that a good client does. To overcome these, I have to know their nature and I need to choose my words carefully. I don’t have the patience but, as I get older and wiser, I become more calm and mellow, and can conquer my anger, using tactics to calm them and use win-win solutions. Even though you may want to kick them to the kerb some days, you know that it’s better to keep them if you can. When all our efforts to calm them down has failed, and when the emotional drain is no longer worth the revenue, it’s best to cut our losses and move on.
What is your marketing strategy?
My focus is on making sure that our products and services meet customer needs, and developing long-term and profitable relationships with the customers buying our property. Through customer recommendations by word of mouth, we get more clients than ever before.
Understanding the internal strengths and weaknesses of my business, and the external opportunities and threats, I identify our weaknesses and try to minimise them. From that I develop a strategy that plays to our own strengths, and matches them to the emerging opportunities.
I also attend many networking events to learn new things and market our product; maintain our online presence and social media; fix our content marketing through our web pages; update the status on our Facebook page, while other advertising in conjunction with our real estate agents is always in our marketing plan.
Who is/was your business inspiration?
It was my late mother. She was a hard working, devoted person who tried her best to make sure her children made the decisions to better our future. She was the strongest woman I know. Now, I believe in myself and not in any other person’s ideas.
The things around us also that make up this world are truly amazing, and inspiration is to be found absolutely everywhere.
What is one thing you could be doing better in your business? What’s your opportunity?
To have the funds to market and expand our ability. There are many opportunities overseas, but financial restraints become a problem — but there may be a joint venture opportunity.
Do you have a mentor? (Or did you have a mentor during your business-building phase?)
My husband is my building mentor. I would never have the confidence without him pushing me to the limit. He mentors me in many troubleshooting/solution finding roles due to my ability to take ownership of the challenges and find effective solutions. I’m constantly learning new things, whether it’s online or attending various workshops, building my confidence.
I’ve attended many networking events to learn new things – I don’t have a specific business mentor but there are many role models out there that inspire me, make me learn and motivate me to do better every day.
How important has this been to your success?
I would never have been in the building industry and put up with all the difficulties without it and learning every day from other successful global entrepreneurs.
Are you a mentor? If so, who do you mentor? Why do you mentor?
Yes, I am a mentor. I have a burning desire inside of me to empower women. I mentor to build capacity and confidence for those who want to be mentored by me, and how we can share the journey together. Women are good, they just need to have a go. I want to create a positive space, empower them to dream big, run and fulfill their dreams. I’d like to think that I am known for my strategic skills, but it’s more likely that it is my enthusiasm and energy that motivates those who work with me.
I mentor women who want to work in the construction industry, equip them in many ways on how to approach and address the steps/stages, and the challenges associated with business start up and management.
I mentor Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s Network members, encourage them to expand their dreams and goals, to be leaders in the economy, to create a vision of entrepreneurship, help them raise their profile, and open doors to resources and programs that build confidence in women operators.
I mentor others who have interests in doing business in Indonesia (cross cultural differences exists) offering a reliable mentoring service for prominent corporations and businesses to ensure they are getting expert advice in Indonesia and Australia.
“Getting your business on track is one thing, keeping it there is another”
What does the future hold for your business? Where to from here?
I have many other ideas for growth and diversifying our service and product. I do hope that the business will continue to thrive, but we don’t want it to grow any larger, as then we may lose control and lose the very edge that makes us successful. At an operational level, we aim to keep procedures in step with controlled growth.
Now that we have a recognisable brand name, we want to be around for as long as possible. Hopefully, a member of our family will continue the tradition.
For now, we will continue to build new homes, and deliver exceptional workmanship and customer service to our clients. We will still venture into projects, such as townhouses and villas, commercials and residential in Australia or in Indonesia, as I am Indonesian born.
Are there any particular business women you would like to connect with to support your business?
I would like to connect with and meet Janine Allis and Naomi Simson, two of the ‘Sharks’ on Channel Ten’s Shark Tank, and engage with Telstra Business Award winners and learn from them. I would also like to connect with all leaders — I am inspired by great leaders who follow their dreams in any fields.
What’s the best business advice you can share with our readers?
Anything of real worth will take much struggle and perseverance. “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It means never give up, no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you just keep getting up and trying again. Success does not have to be fast — what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent.
‘I love my business…’ for many reasons. It allows me to set my own schedule. It allows me to work in my own time, because I am my own boss, and it inspires me daily. I’ve met incredible people and have people in my life that constantly support and believe in me. It allows me to express myself, it allows me to work with clients I adore (from different cultures and backgrounds), and make really, really good money, doing the exact work I love. All of those things are wonderful. But the biggest reason why I love my business? Because I love my daughter and my husband, both of them are the number one reason I love owning my own business. Hands down.
I couldn’t leave my daughter when she was small to go to a job that I didn’t absolutely love. I am actively living my life on purpose — I am being the strong and purpose-filled role model she needs so that she can grow up to be her strong, purpose-filled self.
And now that my daughter has grown up, the focus is on my husband. I couldn’t leave him to a job out there to work for someone else, life is comfortable enough for me. My husband still works as well so I never have to work in the future and can still have a comfortable life. Now I am 53, I have learnt a lot of things that have made me more comfortable living my life, and I’ve never once regretted it.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Besides building and construction, my aim is to generate and find opportunities. I have a hands-on approach and enjoy building relationships, and developing strategic alliances. My professional industry and board experience has been a mix of business-to-business and people-to-people relationships. My focus is on facilitating people to work together — sharing ideas, thoughts and challenges, while taking ownership of what they are responsible for.
As an Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s and Professionals Network, I like to inspire, support, enhance, promote and reward women with an entrepreneurial spirit. As the founder, spokesperson and brand ambassador, I also travel to Australian capital cities and Jakarta, Indonesia holding workshops. I’m also a regular speaker at conferences and seminars to build confidence in women who share a passion and interest in their future success, to strengthen and embolden women to become key players and contributors in community development, in the workforce and in the economy. I like to bring together Australian-Indonesian corporations, businesses and organisations headed by women who seek to expand their companies, their businesses, their enterprises and their networks.
At a Glance
Full name: Astrid Vasile
Location: Perth, WA
- Housing Industry Associations (HIA)
- Master Builder Association (MBA)
- Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia (IAMA)
- Australia-Indonesia Businesswomen’s Network
- Woman in Global Business (WIGB)
- Indonesian Diaspora Business Council
- GV Constructions (WA), a trading for Vazari Pty Ltd
- GV Homes (WA) a trading for Vazari Pty Ltd
- Vasile-Build, The Vazari Trust
- Ashridge Holdings
Business Structure: Pty Ltd and Trust
Location: Wilson, Perth, WA
- Director and Shareholder of Ashridge Holding Pty Ltd
- Director and Shareholder with Vazari Property Trust
- Registered Builder Western Australia for GV Constructions (WA) and Vasile-Build
Year Business Established: 1998
Annual Turnover: $5 million – $10 million
Industry: Construction, property, real estate
Number of Employees: With only 20 projects per year, we run the company with just the six of us. We engage professionals and many subbies for each project. Most of the sub-contractors have worked for GV Constructions (WA) for more than 20 years from drafting & design, engineering, geo technical, earthworks, clearing, demolition, retaining walls, fencing, brickwork, brick paving, termite protection, frame carpentry, structural steel, roof plumbing, roof cover, electrical, plumbing and drainage, metal work, carpentry, fixing carpentry, ceilings and insulation, plastering, flooring, cabinetry, painting, carpet laying, cleaning, reticulation, landscaping etc.