Few can say they’re truly in the business of building dreams, but Kookaburra Homes Owner Wayne Goodwin and his team are firmly within that camp. After 40 years in the industry, Goodwin says the highs are still as potent as ever.
"The smile at the handover of a quality home is my passion," he says.
The creation of new homes has become a hot topic in post-COVID Australia. Soaring rental prices and housing shortages have created incredible demand. Meanwhile, builders such as Kookaburra Homes have quietly grown from startups to the architects of tomorrow.
"We’ve been on a huge growth journey since I took full ownership of the business in 2016," Goodwin says. "I spent a lot of time rounding up the best people I could find and then building amazing homes. That’s the success story."
The smile at the handover of a quality home is my passion.
That journey – from building small, transportable homes in 2016 to the large, country homes of today – has seen the South Australian builder expand beyond even Goodwin’s dreams. "I was working for myself as a builder, and probably doing half a dozen homes a year," he recalls.
"After doing some work in Port Lincoln, I met Keith Daniels and together we founded Kookaburra Homes."
Together, Goodwin and Daniels spent a decade building the brand, including the launch of a transportable homes division. In 2011, Goodwin made the decision to move his family closer to his parents’ home in Murray Bridge to allow his children the opportunity to spend more time with their grandparents.
"I had the idea that I could start up a second branch of Kookaburra Homes there, and Keith agreed," he says. "I was the only one sitting in that office for the first six months. It was a bit lonely, but we grew it into quite a success."
In 2016, Daniels offered Goodwin an opportunity to purchase the business. From then on, the company’s capabilities grew with its fortunes.
"Transportables stopped making sense because we could just as easily build large homes onsite," he says. "People were happy to spend more money on their homes, and it was hard to do that with the constraints of a transportable."
That eventually took Kookaburra Homes in a new direction, one Goodwin says he’s embraced wholeheartedly.
"I enjoy building high-quality homes," he says. "And today we sit in a niche where we don’t mix it up against large volume builders, and there aren’t too many players on our level."
While the market may look radically different to the way it did during the early years, Goodwin says Kookaburra Homes has worked hard to remain sustainable. "It blows my mind that people are still as motivated as ever to build, even with the longer lead times and price rises of today," he says. "We’re still hitting our budgets because these conditions haven’t stopped people from living their lives and doing what they want to do."
Style and substance
What’s helped that is Kookaburra Homes’ commitment to developing its style.
"We build numerous Hamptons-style homes based on our current display home, and that’s still going strong, but we’re planning something a little more contemporary for our next display home," Goodwin says.
"New housing subdivisions have really embraced big, Hamptons-style lightweight homes, especially over brick veneer. I’d seen how quickly they’d been taken up in Queensland and wondered if it could happen here in SA, and it looks like it has."
While the turbulence of the industry continues to work itself out, Goodwin says he’s focused on stabilizing Kookaburra Homes.
"It’s not about growing in numbers, it’s about delivering high-quality homes and keeping the brand strong," he says. "I know that if I stress this machine out, it’ll affect the brand. My job is to make sure Kookaburra Homes lasts the distance. We don’t have to be the biggest in South Australia, just a solid, quality builder people can rely on."
My job is to make sure Kookaburra Homes lasts the distance.
Those people include the partners and suppliers who make Kookaburra Homes’ work possible. Whether it’s roofing by Fielders, bricks by Austral or cladding from James Hardie, Goodwin says his network of suppliers is as solid as a Kookaburra Homes foundation.
"We form relationships based on price, service and how we work together," he says. "For instance, we have a fantastic working relationship with our engineer, Andrew Lee, and his firm Herriot Consulting, as its values and ethos align perfectly with ours."
Once these bonds are forged, Goodwin says they’re firm. "Our relationship with K&B Mitre 10 Timber has lasted 30 years. We’ve weathered the ups and downs of the industry over the years thanks to mutual trust and commitment, and we wouldn’t have gotten through COVID-19’s challenges without them."
Sign of appreciation
This kind of close relationship is echoed in the way Kookaburra Homes’ clients feel about their builder. Referrals are particularly strong, Goodwin notes, and wouldn’t be possible without passionate customers, some of whom have taken unusual steps to show their appreciation.
"We’ve got quite a nice builder sign we put up while a job’s underway," he says. "Every builder identifies their site with a sign, and usually they’re in the bin once the job is done, but you can drive around South Australia and see Kookaburra Homes signs still up long after we’re done."
In some cases, long means years. "Some signs are three logos old. We went back once to take a sign that was out of date, and not long after we had a call saying someone had stolen their sign and could they have another. Sure, no problem," he laughs.
It’s a striking testament to the power of the brand.
"I know it sounds arrogant, but I’d never seen that," he says. "And I think it’s because we won’t stop until we get customer satisfaction, the smile at the handover. It may cost us profit, but I know it’ll pay dividends in the future by referral."
For Goodwin, the ultimate dividend Kookaburra Homes can pay would be to exist as a gift to his children and grandchildren years from now.
"Kookaburra Homes is full of family and friends, so my focus from here is to strengthen the business to prepare to pass it on to my kids. That’s the sort of business this is," he says.
And how is that done?
"Be entirely customer focused," he claims. "We’re not a volume builder; everything’s custom-made to suit the customer. Quality and customer focus are our strengths, and they’re what we deliver."