Engineering a successful business
Bachelor of Engineering,
Graduate Diploma in Business Administration
Owner and Engineer at Dr Tim’s Auto Engineering
Engineer turned business owner Tim Bartrop has had a steady career climbing through the ranks over the course of his working life. From initially studying a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of South Australia, to owning an $18 million business, to returning a failing business to profit, and now running Dr Tim’s Auto Engineering as a retirement hobby, Tim is the exemplifier of hard work and dedication.
For the majority of his career Tim was Managing Director of metal fabricators Barfab Pty Ltd, though he admits he was initially sceptical about taking on the role when it was offered to him by ABB Australia. Even with a pre-existing customer base and an established shop, Tim had trouble breaking out of the employee mould, so he and his wife decided to journey down to Adelaide during the Christmas break and consider their options.
“Halfway through the holiday my wife and I agreed we should take the leap into business so we packed up and left early to go back and tell ABB that we would accept the offer to sell us their fabrication shop,” says Tim.
From there Tim applied his tenacious attitude to the business, changing it from a small store into a business with an $18 million turnover and 100 employees working under him.
“Nothing in general employment prepares you for your own business where you are responsible for the final result and the money involved.
“So the learning involves building confidence in yourself, developing character, having people skills, and being customer focused.”
One of the keys to Barfab’s – and by extension Tim’s – success has been the training and up-skilling program that was put in place for its employees. Tim says valuing employees is critical in running an effective operation, with the program and extra training not only creating better employees, but an overall better working environment.
“Employees are more productive and loyal when they are achieving job satisfaction and personal development through training and challenging work.
“Our apprentices rose through our training system and became valuable employees, holding positions of leading hands, supervisors, and site managers – so our training paid off many times over.”
After over 15 years running Barfab, Tim decided it was time to retire. However, before he was able to do so, he was approached by Stoddart Steel House Frames. The business had suffered substantial loses for the past two years and asked Tim to come on board and help out. From 2013 to 2015, Tim took his strong work ethic and applied it to Stoddart. Within the two years he was able to bring them back to profitability.
Before taking on the reins at Barfab, Tim had a very stable career, always seeking out the next step to further himself. After finishing his Bachelor of Engineering at UniSA, Tim became an Engineering Manager at Pirelli Ericsson Cables at 27, followed by becoming Divisional Manager for Tyree Westinghouse Transformers at 30.
“I thought then that it was a good time to get some management theory at that stage, and did a Graduate Diploma in Business.
“At the age of 34 I was able to rise to the role of General Manager for Stratco, thanks to the mix of practical and theoretical background that I had by then.”
Tim says that when he started out as an engineer, he could see each individual step that was in front of him, but was not aware of the overall staircase he was walking up.
Tim’s time at Barfab allowed him to travel all around the globe for both work and leisure, particularly in places where he did extensive business such as China. This has continued in retirement, with Tim and his wife learning more not just about the world around them, but about themselves too.
“Since Barfab we have continued to see more of the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, UAE, Spain, and Portugal.
“We have found that travel is very relaxing and brings us closer together but also puts the world, life, and humanity in context through history.
“Travel has made my wife and I much more tolerant, giving us fantastic emotional intelligence.”
Even when Tim is not off traveling the world, he still keeps busy. After hanging up the uniform, Tim knew he could not let his hands be idle. He was quick to open up Dr Tim’s Auto Engineering, a retirement hobby he runs from home.
“My hobby business keeps me active, meeting people, solving problems, and earning money.
“It’s very important to be active and have goals to remain young in your mind and to be fit and mentally challenged.”