Having worked several years as a carpenter in Germany, Nico was inspired to come to Australia after talking to a friend. It’s now been a number of years since he arrived here and he now has his own roofing and carpentry business, SRC Professionals. On top of that, he also met his Brazilian wife here and has two kids, aged three and one. We spoke with Nico to find out how he successfully set up his business, his tips on overcoming the challenges and what it’s like living and working in Australia.
Whereabouts in Germany are you from? The state of Saxony, close to the Czech Republic, close to Dresden – it’s a little town called Glauchau.
How did you end up in Australia? A friend of mine was coming here and I wanted to see something new. I also heard it was good to make money there and I also found out that it was a good lifestyle here. My friend was working on a farm here and I heard it was good money working on farms but I ended up finding jobs in Sydney and I fell in love with Sydney. I didn’t plan to stay but then I met my wife here. It’s a great city. It was quite a spontaneous decision to come here.
Tell us about your business… By trade I’m a qualified carpenter, I did a 3 year apprenticeship in Germany. I worked in different companies then I got into roofing one year before I came here. I didn’t think about it straight away, maybe after about a year and a half, I started a roofing business in Sydney. I knew I wanted to have a business one day regardless of where. And there’s so much work in Sydney in this field, its busier than ever.
What was your first job here? I worked in a hardware store Monday to Saturday. Then I was a contractor in construction. I saw an ad on Gumtree and started working for these roofing guys. They must’ve seen something good in me – they nearly kicked me out because of my English – they told me that later – just because of my English, because communication was sometimes really hard – they said something one time and I didn’t get it right. English is important here because people get annoyed if it’s not working. Johnny (Nico’s former employer) was patient though. You just have to speak it – just stay away from people from your own country. I lived with lots of Irish people in a big house so I had to learn English!
Tips on networking and persistence
How did you start your business here? Starting a business is not that hard if you speak English. I offered to do work that my boss didn’t want to do, some Saturdays. Then someone gave me contacts to other people, I got lots of contacts through him. I started Instagram too. If you look organised and professional…that’s how you get better jobs if it looks better: how you look is 80% but of course you need to know what you’re doing. Johnny taught me all the basics and helped me get there faster. You need to get the right people, you need a bit of luck to get that.
What do you like about having your own business? You work hard for it but you take holidays whenever you like and no one tells you what to do.
Nico’s business advice and how to overcome challenges
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get good opportunities in Australia? Look for jobs in your field; try to find related work. If you’ve got an idea to make it happen, there’s no reason to fail if you do it properly, put in the effort it. Go with the flow. So, luck and also effort. By doing a good job, people will want to teach you. Maybe luck is to do with wanting to know more and to keep going.
What were the challenges? It was hard in the beginning with communication, with English but after that it took about three, four, five months for the basics then at least a year or maybe one and a half to get to a good level to be able to work for myself. The only English I had before that was in school. But if you speak it here all the time you pick it up quickly. I didn’t want to meet any German people in Australia or I’d never learn it. When I first arrived I struggled with English but I didn’t care if people laughed. Working in a hardware store helped, I learned the vocabulary.
How does doing business differ to Germany? It’s so much more involved in Germany, paperwork, restrictions, especially in trades and qualifications. Here, you don’t need qualifications as much – if you’re good at what you do you can get a job in trade, construction – if you’re not lazy, and you’re interested. You just need a white card, you can do it online.
His thoughts on living and working in Australia
What were your first impressions of Australia? Different, nice, big city. I didn’t travel for the first 2 years. But at first I thought wow amazing, unreal, everything, you get paid well for work, especially in trade. It’s like Germany used to be in the 1990s: for hard work you get good money. I’m a bit old school, my way of thinking. I hadn’t heard much about Australia before. I also like the pub life.
What did you find strange or confusing? There were no bad things, really. I was impressed with the lifestyle, the pubs and stuff. Pies! We don’t have pies in Germany. The bad thing I think is that some Aussies leave their rubbish everywhere – it’s such a nice country with national parks – how can people in such a nice country dump their rubbish? The good thing is, everyone’s so friendly. In Queensland, people are even friendlier.
You’ve been pretty busy, have you had time to travel? Any recommendations? I barely travelled at the beginning, I saw Darlinghurst, the bus stop and home! I’ve driven to the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, road trips to Melbourne, Jervis Bay, I like Jervis Bay. Everything is nice.
Apart from family and friends, what do you miss from home? The food probably, but there’s a German butcher in North Sydney and a German bakery. And I miss the autobahn, driving quick on the motorways. In Australia, they don’t know how to drive fast like the Germans!