An extract from the “Portside Messenger” 13th July 2011| by Tim Williams
SIMON Kennedy reckons he could “motivate a dead person”.
A humble boilermaker who has built a multi-million-dollar business not to mention a high school dropout headed for Harvard University it’s hard not to believe him.
The owner of Port’s Smart Fabrication metal business says he’s proof getting a trade qualification opens up a world of opportunity.
Mr. Kennedy was born and bred in Semaphore and took on a boilermaking apprenticeship after leaving school in Year 11, starting his first subcontracting business and buying his first house when he was aged 20 through sheer hard work.
He worked at ASC for seven years before launching Smart Fabrication, which has turned over $25 million and grown at an average of more than 100 per cent a year since 1999
Staff numbers doubled to about 50 in the past two months, after the Moorhouse Rd. firm won a contract to build 12km of the pipeline that would deliver water from the new desalination plant to the northern suburbs. Mr. Kennedy says working harder and smarter than competitors and treating staff “like family” is the key to his success.
He has up to four apprentices at a time and urges other businesses to give young people a chance.
“Anything that’s going to help the younger generation, I’m in 100 per cent for,” he says. “My joy is in giving people career paths.” Though he says students should ideally finish Year 12, his message to young people is to “get a trade behind you because that can get you into 101 different jobs”. “Don’t worry about where you begin, it’s where you aim,” he says.
The 44-year-old intends to hand over Smart Fabrication to his children in a few years time to become a motivational speaker and mentor. “I always say yes to work experience and career days. I show them pictures of my Harley and my boats and say ‘guys, I’m a boilermaker’. I could motivate a dead person.”
Mr. Kennedy says ongoing staff training is vital, with a quarter of his workforce on various courses. He will attend Harvard University next year for a six-week leadership course. In the meantime, he’s busy with Moorhouse Rd. business Adelaide Ship Construction International, in which he has bought a half share.