Building a top-notch business in Australia
Wild Geese: Eoin Daniels, Top Knot Carpentry and Joinery in Sydney
Eoin Daniels: “My end goal is to get the whole family over to Australia. My mother loves visiting but she also loves her life at home, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Ambition and passion are the two characteristics that drove Daniels’s career, from when he was growing up in Lismore Park to his role as the managing director of Top Knot Carpentry and Joinery.
He never loved his time at school and, after working in his father’s business, he was eager to get out and make his own money. Leaving school before his Leaving Cert in 1997 was the perfect time, he said.
“Things were really busy when I left school and there were lots of options out there. I enjoyed woodwork and I had spent a couple of summers working for a carpenter so that’s ultimately what I wanted to do,” he said.
Daniels was soon moving on to bigger projects, such as the Grand Canal Hotel in Dublin. He also worked for DFL in Waterford as he finished his training with Fás. That’s when he started to set his sights on distant shores.
“I had a lot of friends in New York, which was my first preference. I had been entering the green card lottery for a few years but never got anything so I chose Australia. I’m glad I did because, if I’d gone to New York, things would have fallen apart after a couple of years.”
Straight to work
Daniels arrived in Australia in 2004 with a plan to go backpacking but he settled down and started working so quickly that those plans were put on hold.
“I arrived here and got work within four or five days, so I instantly started living a normal life. I’m working, I’m earning money, I got a car, started buying tools. We were obviously having fun as well but work was always serious for me.”
He was in Australia for just a year and a half when he decided to set out on his own with his business.
“I use the term business very loosely because it was just me in an apartment with a laptop I couldn’t use very well,” he recalls. “I’d seen the guys I was working for and I’d seen the kind of people they were and I just thought I could make a go of it.”
With few connections in Australia, Daniels was soon calling around business sites and handing out cards to drum up work. He started securing residential jobs and then eventually a pub and hotel fitout: it was the start of bigger and better things.
Daniels has come a long way from those early days working with two employees. His company Top Knot Carpentry and Joinery now employs 320 people in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and was recently named best established business at the Irish Australian Business Awards.
What sets Top Knot apart, according to Daniels, is the strong work ethic instilled in the company that serves as its calling card. “It’s that attitude of you get in, you’re in there to work, there’s a bit of passion and drive.”
What Daniels looks for in his employees is the need to succeed that he had himself, particularly as a young apprentice. “When I was an apprentice, I wanted to impress, I wanted to be the fastest, the best.”
Many of the immigrants from countries such as Ireland, England, France and Poland are ambitious and want to make their way in Australia, making them popular with employers, said Daniels.
“A lot of the successful people over here, a lot of the developers and builders would be Lebanese, Greek and Irish. There’s a broad mix of immigrants who’ve made a big success of themselves,” he said.
Top Knot, based in Banksmeadow, is now focusing on estimating systems, project management systems, cost planning and how they approach, manage and report jobs. Daniels said competition within the industry, along with new products, means prices are constantly being driven down.
“All my project managers give me a cost analysis presentation every Saturday on each one of their jobs so we know where each of them stands at a profit percentage margin. This is something we wouldn’t have done two years ago,” he said.
There is nowhere else booming like Australia when it comes to work opportunities but the downside is that you don’t get to see your family, said Daniels. However, his brother is now working as a manager for Top Knot in Brisbane and his hope is that his parents might make the move out to Sydney.
“My end goal is to get the whole family over here. My mother loves visiting but she also loves her life at home, so we’ll see how that goes,” he said.
Along with bringing his family to Australia, Daniels is keen to pick up new employees at Jobs expos in Dublin, Cork and Belfast.
“We would be a good contact for anyone who’s looking for opportunities out here, everything from carpenters, joiners, cabinet makers, estimators, quantity surveyors, project managers, site managers and everything in between,” he said.