Wayne Hepburn has seen the rise and fall of small business.
Having been in the residential construction industry for three decades, he spent much of the first two at the top, being the ‘go-to’ guy in Melbourne for house concrete slabs. But when the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-2008 hit Australia, his network of high performing businesses begun to fold around him.
“I’ve been in the residential concreting industry for almost 30 years,” says Wayne.
“I had what was probably the largest concrete slab builders in Melbourne going back ten years, but I had a few issues internally and had to close the business about six years ago.”
It took several years to calibrate and plan his next move. In 2015, Wayne was ready to relaunch, and headed to market with the newly formed Hepburn Concreting. It was a family business, with his two daughters helping in the office.
“I started back on my own, with no equipment, and I approached the builders we had done work with in the past. They were happy that I was getting back in the driving seat.”
However, despite having enthusiasm and opportunity in droves, Wayne was struggling to get the support from financial lenders to get the equipment he needed.
Starting out with little capital, Wayne wasn’t in a position to purchase trucks and equipment, so was forced to either sub-contract out the jobs, or hire trucks and equipment from expensive rentals such as Budget or Avis.
“When I wanted to get back on my feet and start again, I found it hard. When things are going great, everyone wants to talk to you, when things are going broke, no one does,” says Wayne.
“We still had great relationships with the major volume builders in Melbourne, so getting work was never an issue. Trying to rebuild the business – getting equipment, resources, capital – that was the difficult part.”
Sick and tired of pouring his money into rentals and watching his subbies make the margin on his contracts, Wayne begun to search for another option. And that’s how he found GoGetta.
“A friend of mine said ‘speak to GoGetta’. So, I got in touch via a finance broker, and they were so great from the get go. The guys were easy to talk to, I was honest and gave them my background, and they said great, let’s get started. They were so receptive to working with me.”
Prior to finding GoGetta, Wayne had tried to obtain funding via traditional lenders, but was laughed out of the bank. It didn’t matter than he could show two decades of successful business – one failure was all it took to shatter his reputation.
“I did approach one bank, but they took one look at my credit report and said, ‘No thanks’. I was very cautious about approaching too many because it would just make my credit rating look even worse,” remembers Wayne.
“I used to have an A1 credit rating for 20 years without a single issue. If ever I wanted anything, I would ring the bank and I would get it. I had the perfect relationship with these people, but that was quickly lost.”
From the start, GoGetta treated Wayne differently. The closing of his former business was disappointing, yes, but in no way a prediction that he won’t succeed again. After an initial meeting, Wayne was approved for an excavator, two tray trucks, a tipper, and an Isuzu tray truck. Everything he needed to get back in the game.
It also gave Wayne the opportunity to diversify his offering and take on jobs that he previously would have had to subcontract out.
“If you’re subbing or leasing contractors to do your work, they’re making the margin. If you can have your own equipment, then you can get that margin, and it becomes another stream of revenue,” he says.
For Wayne, this flexibility with his equipment offering was one of GoGetta’s biggest strengths. He knows better than anyone that being able to take on new equipment with the opportunity to return it if needed, can often spell the difference between surviving in the construction industry, and going under.
Being offered a second chance by GoGetta was the greatest gift to Wayne. After so many years at the top of his industry, all he wanted was some respect when it came to starting over.
“That was one of the hardest things to deal with – to have a conversation with the people at the banks who treated me like a criminal,” says Wayne.
“I used to feel like a criminal, trying to talk to the bank. But at GoGetta, I was honest, and they were prepared to take me on and help.”
Looking ahead, Wayne is excited to continue growing and diversifying his business. With almost 50 staff under his wing, he’s happy to keep his business at this size, but with the support of GoGetta, still is ready and able to try new things.
Wayne Hepburn is living proof that nothing can or should stand in the way of hard work and passion – not even when it feels like your business has collapsed beneath you. Given the right support structure, everyone deserves a second chance.