Hall of Fame Alumni
The Finishing Touch
It was in 1994 whilst working for one of Australia’s leading removalist companies that Susan Williams experienced first hand the stresses and demands placed on people whilst moving. Every year, several million Australians face the daunting task of moving house and dealing with the disruption and challenges associated with this task.
In January 1995, Susan took her idea for a ‘home unpacking service’ and started a part-time, home-based business ‘The Finishing Touch’. She hired her sisters and her mother as her first employees, and set about providing home unpacking and set-up for busy corporate executives. From its modest beginnings in Melbourne, The Finishing Touch now employs more than two hundred casual staff nationally in all capital cities and major regional centres and has a franchise in New Zealand with more than fifty staff. The company is widely acknowledged as one of the largest and most successful mature age employers nationally with dedicated staff who are known for their exceptional client service and continual innovation. More than 50,000 assignments have been performed in Australia since inception and The Finishing Touch has been independently recognised with more than 20 major industry and government awards.
The range of services provided to The Finishing Touch clients has expanded to now include packing, unpacking, home organising and relocation advice.
Susan Williams did not have an ideal or classical educational background – leaving her local high school in 1976 after Year 10, with no tertiary education. Her parents also separated when she was young. Consequently, Susan’s education from an early age came from ‘real world’ experiences, working a variety of jobs, starting as a sales clerk in the wine industry.
Susan’s big break came however, when she joined Bob Ansett’s Budget Rent-A-Car in 1986. That was a time when the car rental company was expanding rapidly, offering plenty of opportunities and bringing a revolutionary focus to customer service. Susan’s career with Budget led her to a promotion and transfer to Japan for several years.
Her roles diversified to working with a broad range of Japanese corporate clients, implementing local marketing campaigns with travel agencies, industry conferences and tradeshows. Susan also conducted organised tours of Japanese islands for groups of up to 150 people. After leaving Japan, Susan travelled extensively in the USA, Hong Kong and Tahiti before returning to Australia in the early 1990s when she started work in the removals industry.
The Finishing Touch story has been widely featured in magazines, newspapers, TV lifestyle programs and management books. Business partners who promote and sell its services come from the removals, relocation, self storage, real estate, insurance and professional organiser industries.
Susan and her husband Steve have one daughter and live in Bayside, Melbourne.
Strategies for Success
- Perseverance – in the early days of The Finishing Touch it was difficult – the Australian moving industry is a very male-oriented and ‘traditionally-run’ environment, which has not changed much over many years. Being a newcomer with a ‘lateral’ idea was certainly not an open invitation to do business….
- Become and Stay the Market Leader – The Finishing Touch ‘invented’ the business of home unpacking. However, competitors have started up since the barriers to entry in a services business are low, and The Finishing Touch does not manufacture a unique product or stock. A key to The Finishing Touch’s success and ongoing growth is the fact it has become the market benchmark, and the ‘superior choice’.
- Attention to Detail – consistent, high quality delivery of product is key.
- Develop a ‘Can Do’ Culture – The Finishing Touch service was unique in Australia when it started, and personal research showed this style of service was not even available in major cities worldwide such as Los Angeles, New York and London. There was no unpacking business cookbook available, or ‘how to do it’ advice from a seasoned practitioner.
- Your people are your greatest asset – employees must have a real passion for what they do. This passion is then very evident when they deal with fellow employees, suppliers, moving companies, and our clients.