ss shown here la G e n a sb ri B f o ry to is h The m this ro f ry to s d n a n io ct e s e is only on n total contains i k o o b e h T k. o o b s u lo fabu ssful family the history of 79 succethe last 100 plus years. business’s from over These include that of e:st Mathers, , se u o h u G s y’ ill e ’R Brett’s, O ire, Motorama, H n to re o M s, y’ rt e ff a McC s Motors, Pro-Ma Systems, Zuppand Byrne Ford. Theiss Constructions
“ Make Every Day a Productive One ”
Mike and Karen Sweep If there was one piece of advice given to me that I think was the main influence and guide to our business and success, then this was it. Make every day a productive one, my Dad would say to me back in the first few years of business. It was toward the end of 1984 and I had left my employment as a glazier at a moderately sized firm and was filling time working as a landscaper with two friends of mine. I had resigned from the job as a means to escape recurring concerns with the owner’s son and was soon to develop a desire to become self-employed. I was newly married and so discussed this with Karen and began to slowly put together the basic tools required: * A ute (already had one) * A glass ‘A’ frame for the back of the ute * Ladders and hand tools
A few easy going months passed, landscaping and doing the odd glass replacement job that came my way, about one a month if I was lucky, when, without realising, opportunity come knocking. It was January 1985 and one of the largest hailstorms on record for Brisbane had just hit. I was over at Mum and Dad’s house at Chapel Hill inspecting the minor glass damage to their place and their neighbours’ places. Maybe a bit of work here I thought and so I rang my landscaping mates to tell them I would not be in for a week. “A week?”, Karen said, “that’s a bit long,” but I never did go back and so spent the next four months glazing twelve hours a day, seven days a week as ‘Mike Sweep: Glass and Leadlight Service.’ The storm was so large and so many people were in desperate situations that many would stop you in the street to get their window glass fixed. Karen was employed with an insurance company and was supplying me with work orders as well. The one and a half car garage of our unit became a total workshop/depot. After dinner at night,Karen and I would go down to where we had the floor covered with carpet, glass sheets stacked against walls and a leadlight repair table and tools against the back wall. Out would come the glass type and size requirements for the next day and we’d spend the night cutting glass on the carpet floor then we’d load up the ute, back it into the garage and go to bed.
Sunrise I would be up and the next day would begin. With Karen helping me onsite on Saturdays and Sundays we worked every day for four months and then for five days a week for another three months after that. I had picked up some great clients during the storm, one small insurance company and a few real estates, and I’m proud to say that we still service their glass needs today. After seven months came a slump in the orders and we had a problem arising. Karen was still at the insurance company and so starvation was not a factor but, fortunately, we had saved enough money to place a large advertisement in the next yellow pages (a few months away). We were also getting very sick of cutting glass on our garage floor so a month prior I had asked my Dad, who was now in real estate, to look around for a shop we could purchase and work from.
It was not long before he had found a cheap one with a small house attached right beside the railway station at Graceville. We went to have a look. From the outside, it was fantastic but why so cheap, I thought. Karen screamed to me, “Have a look through here.” The house must have had a fire inside leaving major damage including a hole in the floor, all window glass cracked and two collapsed ceilings. Karen and Dad thought, huhh great, and I thought GREAT! Work was slowing, we needed this place and I knew I could make something of it, and so after a bit of time convincing them, we purchased it and I began the restoration work. With Karen helping me on the weekends, we repaired and renovated the house from what it was, the standard worker’s two-bedroom cottage, to a colonial style and feel. We replaced the patterned ceilings, widened the two bedroom doorways to have multi-lited French doors with fretwork above. VJ built in wardrobes were added in both bedrooms, with Floreal (a flower patterned glass) to all the mult-lited windows of the house. The whole of the floor was patched, two of the walls were knocked out, opening up the kitchen to the lounge and dining. The bathroom was retiled, a new sliding door, shower screen and fittings added. The kitchen was gutted to fit a new demo model from Mad Barry’s and a front door with sidelights was created. This took up Karen and my weekends at first, and then full time for me.
After five and a half months, the inside, painting and all, was complete. We called an electrician in to rewire the house, and moved into our first house, twelve squares including the attached shop on 19 October 1985. Eventually, in our spare time, we built a carport and repainted the outside, but as the house had a two car garage, we thought it more practical to work from there and rent the shop and this we died for a further two and a half years. In addition, with the need to look as professional as possible, we soon spent all the money we had on a near new truck and had an O’Brien’s type glass body made for it. Boy, did I feel proud or what! Down the track, over the next year, the glasswork had picked up from the Yellow Pages advertisement and was moving well. We were struggling to handle everything at this stage, with me working 6 days a week, being on call the seventh and coming home to do quotes and make calls at night. Prior to this, Karen also had finished her work with the insurance company and was at home with our first child Tom, and pregnant with Samantha, our second. She was also looking after the business phone and two-way communication for me, and later the shop at Graceville which we took over as well. I had to find a retail place to allow me to build the business, put some staff on and reduce some of the stress. We purchased a second house, an attached shop at Annerley, in May 1989, and then registered a new trading name of Allglass and Leadlight. The property was in a good position but was a dump! The house was in poor condition and the shop leaned six inches from bottom to top in two directions. BUT again, we needed it so starting with the shop and later the house, we spent a lot of time and money having counters built, fake walls installed and raised and restumped the house. We added a new bathroom underneath, repainted outside and .......... and ......... and ......... well you know how it goes, but fortunately this time Karen and I got a lot of help from a builder etc. The business continued to be stable but did not grow at a speed I was happy with (funny, I don’t think it ever has?). I had by now, a real desire to establish a more secure financial base for my family by building the business.
With myself looking after the phone at Annerley and doing leadlight work, one employee doing outside glass replacement and Karen back at Graceville looking after the shop and business phone there, two kids and pregnant with the third, left us again strained at times. This really come to a head occasionally when we would have a two-man job to do in a hurry and so I would ring Karen who would ring my Mum who would race over to look after the kids so Karen could look after the Annerley shop so I could help do the two man job. Probably one of the biggest obstacles we had over the time, apart from finding the work had been to find good staff. I was frustrated at times, but let me say persistence has paid off as today I have a great team. Anyway, where was I, ahh yeah, another major upward boost to our goals was in 1990 when an ex-employee of mine advised me of a glass business that was in trouble and wanting to sell out. I jumped at the chance. It was Brisbane Glass and Processing at Toowong, and if I was lucky, this would be perfect as it was in the Western suburbs and established now for three years. With this we could close the shop at Graceville and free Karen’s time up more for motherly duties and accounting concerns from home. It took a lot of talk with the business owner, I could free him from all his business headaches and this all fell into place in September 1990. We now had two trading names and three employees and after twelve months of this we decided, to allow for the growth, we needed to close one trading name to work under a more prominent, professional banner and logo with serious corporate colours. I chose one sunny Sunday and off I went to northern New South Wales to a quiet beach where I spent all day producing the logo and corporate colours that we still work under today.
Brisbane Glass without the “processing” was the best name but it needed a slogan or two. Your Local Glassman – YEAH – that is what the general public prefer – put that in a small font under Brisbane Glass, give it a large tick as a sign of customer acceptance and another slogan “that’s the one” at the bottom to express those thoughts of the customer and all that was left was the colours. We had to stand out and been seen to be different with strong colours as the main ones had been taken – red and Channel 7, blue and True Blue Exhaust, yellow and Midas, etc., it pretty much left black, as our background colour. This was to be for all, our shops, vehicles and uniforms. The lettering in the logo was red and white. We received many positive comments in the beginning and still today our vehicles are widely known.
Over the next four years, we continued with our business plan with growth through service and this enabled us to establish a third retail and depot in Geebung. Today, Brisbane Glass employs thirteen people including Karen and I, and has six Ford Transit vans, one A-frame truck and utility. We cover the entire Brisbane and metropolitan and surrounding areas from Bribie Island to Ormeau. We now service the glass requirements for over one hundred and thirty real estate property managements, four insurance companies, approximately six body corporate management companies as well as the general public. If I could just go back to 1997, because it was here that we were successful with a tender for glass replacement work in Brisbane for a national insurance company. After advising me of their decision, they also asked us to service their needs state-wide and within three months we had this structured and working. We had developed a network of contracted glass companies across Queensland and northern New South Wales working as one under the management of Brisbane Glass. This arrangement supported small building glass business within a market unapproachable individually. In early 1999, we realised that now we had a service system with a proven record of accomplishment that was strong, solid and capable of being presented to a national market in need of choice. This network of contracted companies in 1999 separated from Brisbane Glass Pty. Ltd. to allow the formation of a new company structure to take on the national insurance company market. This was to be Your Local Glassman Pty. Ltd. After forming a joint venture with Australia’s second largest automotive glass company, Protector Glass Industries, we present a unique and strong glass body. Today with over sixty-five contractor company network members from Cairns to Hobart, including Brisbane Glass, partnership relations are established between insurance company clients and Your Local Glassman ® and glass replacement work orders from successful tenders are passed to our managed network members. The combined networks of the joint venture companies are made up of individual and privately owned locally based glass companies in both auto and building glass. Together, under joint venture management, they number 170 making up the largest glass group in Australia. Today, in 2000, this is still all new on Your Local Glassman ® side of things but we are being well accepted and the future holds great possibilities.
As presented and published in the book " Stars Under the Southern Cross " Bond University 2000.