Looking for more stable traffic control work to support the family and seeing opportunities in the market led Des and Tish Ahoy to expanding their small family business to include a labour hire capacity and forming Ahoy Traffic Control and Labour Hire in 2020. It’s a 100 percent Indigenous owned and operated family business that is registered in ICN Gateway and with Supply Nation.
“We started the business originally in 2017 and worked mainly on construction sites and other local projects. Des, my husband, wanted to expand the business to provide employment all year round. We saw the need for labour hire on the sites that we worked on, so we decided to expand the business and bring on more employees. We incorporated as a company in 2020,” said Tish.
“Adding the labour hire component has opened so many doors for us as an indigenous small business. We’ve brought skilled site supervisors, managers and laborers on board with a variety of construction tickets and licences, as well as experience in traffic control.
“Our staff are located across NSW and are available for day and night work and at short notice. About 90 percent of our team are of Aboriginal descent, which helps project owners to achieve Aboriginal Participation in Construction (APIC) targets,” she said.
Networking brings new opportunities
Des and Tish were recommended to get in touch with ICN NSW by a contact at the Department of Regional NSW, who worked on regional development.
“He said to us that ‘There’s someone I want you to meet. I want to introduce you to Dusko.’ So, just from that, a lot of opportunities have just opened up for us,” said Tish.
After meeting with Dusko Bajic, ICN NSW’s Regional Manager for the Hunter & North East NSW, the company created a profile on ICN Gateway and Des began attending ICN NSW events and project information nights. Dusko introduced Des to head contractors, which led to the company winning work packages on major infrastructure projects.
“Dusko and I have spent a lot of time with each other while we’ve been working together and we’ve become really good mates. I’m always happy to see him and I love how passionate he is about helping the local community, especially the indigenous community. He’s always there to help out, believes in us and is always for up a laugh,” said Des.
While COVID-19 has slowed some projects down, give many head contractors are unable to travel to regional NSW, the company has still been able to secure a number of work packages.
“Things have been a bit slow, but Dusko has taken Des to contractor meetings and other events to promote our business. Being able to spend time with Dusko and networking in the industry has created opportunities for us and led to winning new work, especially for labour hire. After starting a new job and showing the contractors the quality work that we do, this has then turned into additional work for traffic control and other activities on that site and then also on other projects,” Tish said.
Helping to support the community
The company is recognised as a social enterprise and has assisted many people to reenter the workforce or to join it for the first time. Tish says she’s seen the positive impact that the business has had and that it’s great to be able to offer mentoring opportunities and to support the community.
“It’s been really fulfilling working with people who are long-term unemployed, have never been employed or have social issues that it prevented them from working. We’ve been able to give them the opportunity to obtain new skills and to provide them with stable employment. This had led to people qualifying for loans and then being able to realise their dream of buying their own home,” said Tish.
Tips for regional businesses
Meeting Dusko, showing up to events, taking the time to meet people in the industry and employing the right workers has been essential to Ahoy Traffic’s success, according to Tish.
“Dusko helped us to understand what our capabilities are and where we want to take the business. He’s helped us to win work packages for projects in a variety of sectors and also gives us a heads up about public project meetings happening that he thinks we could be right for,” said Tish.
“Our relationship with ICN NSW has opened a lot of doors for us, but we’ve also found if you do quality work and deliver on what you promise, then the better your reputation is and the more opportunities that are presented to you,” said Tish.
Tish says that with all the projects on offer on ICN Gateway, it can be difficult to know which opportunities to target. But having built a relationship with Dusko and him understanding both their business and the contractors so well, he can suggest opportunities that are a good fit for them.
“What I like about ICN Gateway is that all the expressions of interest are broken down into the categories. You can really look at it and go, “Actually, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that” or “Yes, we can do that.”,” said Tish.