Remember when Brad Hamilton got fired from All American Burger for refusing to refund a mostly-eaten breakfast? There’s a lesson to be learned from Brad’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High: The customer is always right. At least, that was one of my key takeaways from the classic 1982 film.
Brad’s mistake was not tapping into his empathy to understand the customer’s perspective. However, Dean Willemsen, Managing Director at Prime Build, one of Australia’s premier national retail refurbishment and construction companies, did not suffer the same mistake as young Brad.
Dean’s first foray into what would become a lifetime of entrepreneurship was at the tender age of 10. He had his eye on a motorbike, which his parents had patently refused to subsidize. Never one to back down from a challenge, he decided to earn the money for the bike himself and so he got a job. After a year of odd jobs, including hauling bricks around construction sites—yes, he was a brick hauler at just 10 years old—Dean finally saved up enough cash to purchase his first set of wheels.
Nothing is a Hassle
Fast-forward to today, and Dean finds himself at the helm of four businesses—DNW Group, Para Mobility, Clearstate Property Group, and Prime Build. He attributes his success to his personal mantra, “nothing is a hassle.” Those four simple words embody Dean’s perspective on the world, a philosophy that refuses to admit defeat and posits anything is possible. And he does his best to instill those principles in his employees.
Dean firmly believes a company’s most important asset is its people. He asserts great leadership requires taking actions that positively affect those people. While learning and development should be fundamental in every industry, they’re simply not enough for Dean. He has a deep conviction that employers must provide for mental health and well-being as well.
Have a cup of concrete and harden up.
Dean cited an old Australian adage commonly used in stressful situations, “have a cup of concrete and harden up.” He challenges that status quo and advocates for digging beneath the surface, learning what makes people tick, and accepting each other for who we are.
Delight Your Customers
Dean outlined several innate problems in Australia’s construction industry: low profitability; tentative investment in R&D; lack of training; and a “lowest price wins” mentality resulting in inconsistency in the finished product. All of these things, he asserts, make for an unhappy customer.
What’s even more concerning is that these same issues, identified nearly three decades ago, still remain relevant today. So, what can we do differently to overcome these challenges?
DNW Group has over 120 employees working in the construction, property management, and care industries, and in each organization, the customer is always at the center of everything. In Dean’s opinion, to delight a customer, you have to understand how they see the world. It’s all about empathy, taking the time to build a relationship, and learning what truly matters to them.
“Sometimes, builders lose sight of the emotional attachment to the final product,” he noted. That’s what sets Dean—and his family of companies—apart from others.
It’s all the little things that add up to the big things.
Working in partnership with his customers allows Dean to address their pain points and fully grasp their vision for the project. And only through talented, dedicated and passionate employees can one truly delight the customers.
“We absolutely have to figure out how to put the customer at the center of our business,” said Dean, “because it’s all the little things that add up to the big things.”