On Friday 8th March, International Women’s Day will be celebrating the theme of
Count her in: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.

This article was written by FTMA’s Kat Welsh

We’re seizing this opportunity to hail some of the incredible women working in our industry. Over the next month, we’ll be releasing articles, and podcasts, with four women who we feel are particularly inspiring within the FTMA family. This was a hard list to make, because there are inspirational women in the frame and truss network. Hard working. Ingenuitive. Talented. Each with a different story of what it has been like finding themselves in the sector.

Everyone knows that timber, and the frame and truss sector is a particularly male dominated area. Many male dominated environments can be challenging to crack into, and the journey for women to feel equal, capable, and confident, globally is an on-going process. We won’t spend too much time looking back at the history – the focus here is about celebrating – but it’s relevant to acknowledge how hard it can be as a woman to stand tall and stay strong against sexism, discrimination, and old-fashioned mind-sets.

International Women’s Day was born from a time when women weren’t equal, they didn’t have rights, and weren’t allowed to have opinions. Australia is progressing more towards a society of equity – there are still challenges – but there are many places in the world where these issues haven’t changed. International Women’s Day stems back from part of the suffragette movement, and officially became an organised day, around World War 1. Women replaced men en masse in factories, mechanics, science, agriculture, everything that previously they had not been allowed to consider.

The journey of women inside this sector, has been very varied. While we’re trying to support an international culture where women are given more equal opportunities and investments in supporting them to achieve, there are plenty of women that have had to invest in themselves and rely on their own grit to get where they are.

Carly Timperley, owner of East Coast Frames and Trusses, Warana QLD, is an incredible woman, who has built up her business very successfully. She is a strong determined example of how if we invest and believe in ourselves, we can succeed.

Carly was 19 when she started working at East Coast in 2002, in admin and estimating. Prior to that, Carly had no exposure to the timber industry. She’d grown up with a dad who was a fitter and turner, and she loved helping him out, but had never heard of frame and truss. “We weren’t from a building family… I didn’t even know what it was. I was working for a home loan place before East Coast and it closed. I applied for a job, just reception here, and that’s how it started.” Carly got to know the business, roles, the industry, and built positive relationships with staff, and clients.

After several years, the business was due to be shut down. Carly knew she had to get in there to continue the work she loved. She took over as Owner / Director in 2011.

When Carly re-opened East Coast, it was a smooth process for her to take over the ownership. “I was already dealing with all our builders and had been for many years. When they heard I had purchased it they were quite happy to come straight back.” And since then, the business has become bigger and bigger under Carly’s leadership. In 2015, they moved to their current site as everything expanded. She put herself and her soul into building everything up. “I had business partners at the start, which was another truss company… there were three other shareholders. They didn’t have any input into the business, I was left to my own devise, which was fine. I liked it like that way.”

The start with, the financial shareholder relationship wasn’t so bad. “I didn’t know them from a bar of soap,” Carly said. She was left alone to direct the business how she best decided.  But, when the other shareholders’ business started running into troubles, Carly faced difficulties with them – sadly they did not use their leverage to support her. There were issues with finances, power struggles and underhandedness – all of which Carly had to deal with on top of keeping the business thriving. The share-holders dwindled over time, eventually leaving Carly financially 50/50 with the last remaining one. He passed away in 2017, resulting in Carly taking over full ownership.  It’s been solely Carly at the helm for 6 years now – the process to achieve that side of things, was, putting it mildly, an expedition.

A stigma that Carly has regularly confronted, in her journey, is that her success must’ve only happened because she had shareholders – that made it easy for her, or she was just lucky. It takes away from everything that she has worked for, the skills that she has, and the passion that drives her for her business, and the industry. Carly talked about how she feels she has been viewed at times working in the industry. “It doesn’t matter what you do or how hard you do it, you’re still just a stupid girl… I never worked hard for it, I just got lucky,” Carly said about how some regarded her.

There’s been adversity, challenges, but Carly doesn’t want that to be her story. “It’s not a reflection on what I’ve done… I still managed to grow my business, and my client base, and keep it running well, to get where I’ve got.”

It’s a barrier that women often have to face – that their success must be something other than their ability. It cuts away from how hard they have to work. Often, women have to juggle more than full time work and business ownership. For that 19-year-old that got catcalled walking into her reception interview, and was once referred to as ‘tits and tatts,’ Carly took the bull by the horns, and has carved out her business, her investment in herself. And she’s done it well, because, that’s who she is. She’s made it happen.  

For Carly, during the last several years, “I had a baby, she came to work with me every day from 3 weeks old.” Carly described how her daughter arrived on the last working day before the Christmas shut down. “That timing was perfect,” Carly said. “She would come in with me every day for nearly 3 years until she went into Kindy.” The business is not just a workplace for Carly, it’s part of who she is, what she loves, part of her home. Having her daughter around in those years at the factory, would’ve been hard work, but also part of the evolution.

Carly has also had to do things like, get her daughter into bed at night, sleep until midnight, then get up to catch up on her workload, then try and catch a couple more hours sleep before being back at the plant for 6am.

Eventually Carly realised she needed some help to get it all done. Her business manager came on board 2 years ago. “It took me a while to let go,” Carly laughed, but having the extra support allowed her to look after herself a bit better, and have more focused family time. Outside of work, there’s also a farm, 468 acres. And, as much as possible Carly loves being outdoors in nature.  For the first time in 11 years, Carly and her family had a holiday last year, spending time at Cape York.

Carly’s dedicated staff mean everything to her. “The guys that I employ, they’ve been with me since the start, and I worked with them previously. We don’t have a staff turnover here. I’m a bit of a believer in that you look after your staff, and they look after you.” Carly’s staff are more than employees. “We go camping together… I’ve got a really good crew.”

Carly’s business focus has always been and will continue to be, the product. “My main priority is a quality product that leaves this door. It’s not a number. Hey! We need to get 10 done today, I’d rather get 8 done and they’re perfect… no mistakes… I don’t have a fix it crew, never have.” Carly’s mission is not to get big to the point where the work, staff, or getting the job done, out ways the standard of what they’re supplying. The method works, as she has builders and carpenters that will only buy from her, and refer other builders to her.

The icing on the cake, for us at FTMA, is that Carly has recently come on as a board member, which we are extremely grateful and excited about. Her humble, wise, and down to earth persona will be fantastic for the association, let alone the knowledge and initiative that she has.

Not only has Carly invested in herself over the years, but she has invested in making a difference to the lives of those around her, her daughter, her family, the community, the industry – a role model for other women. “I certainly didn’t take a reception job thinking twenty years later this would be where I was, that’s for sure… and I love it. For me, work’s not work… I’ve got good people surrounding me.”

Carly, massive thanks for agreeing to do the interview, you’re a bloody legend.

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