Daniel Watts is director and co-founder of Rapid Building Inspections – a fast growing national building and pest inspection company that helps thousands of Australians each year. Under Daniel’s leadership the team have worked to deliver a suite of services with their clients’ safety and assurance at front of mind. But the road that led Daniel to this position is both unique and surprising. We sat down with Daniel to hear his story.
Beginning back in high-school days, Daniel’s first fork in the road began with his experience of school. In year 11 as a 17 year old, Daniel found frustrations with the way education was delivered, he remembers being asked by one teacher to write an essay response to a picture of the Australian landscape. For Daniel, this task seemed to reinforce his idea of how detached and irrelevant secondary school could be. It was a realisation that helped crystalise a plan Daniel had been considering for a while – and, although he didn’t realise it at the time, it was the first step towards his role as director of Rapid Building Inspections. That same day, Daniel went home and announced to his parents that he was going to leave school and join the Australian Army as an apprentice carpenter and joiner. Having watched his dad enjoy steady work as a builder, becoming a tradie made sense – doing it as a member of the Australian Army had the added bonus of seeing the world and getting paid to gain his trade qualification at the same time.
Over the next six years, Daniel gained a host of practical skills. He served in the military as a carpenter and combat engineer, with a six-month stint in East Timor that brought home the sober realities of what was happening across the world. “When I arrived there, the country was burning – literally. I stepped off a plane and the whole city we flew into was in flames,” says Daniel. “Our job there was to help restore stability – to the country and the local people who lived there. So, once I left the Army, I packed up my tools and went back to East Timor in 2002, to spend a year with an organisation called Opportunity International. I was training locals in trade skills so they could help rebuild their own country.”
The first-hand experience of international need and the structures of non-government organisations (NGOs) drove Daniel towards his next life move with fresh motivation. His next step was to return to education as a mature-age university student, eager to explore better, more effective ways to deliver aid development support to people in need with a degree in International Studies.
To finance his way through university, Daniel balanced the required his contact hours with time spent running a small building business of constructing carports, decks and pergolas and employing some of his younger course colleagues to do the grunt work for him.
Once he achieved his degree, he took up work with a business that specialised in training leaders in business development and sent him across Asia and Africa from 2005 to 2017, including a period of time living and working in Cambodia. From Daniel’s perspective, the best international aid was providing locals with the knowledge, training and tools they needed to create change – and inspire other potential leaders – in their own communities. During this period, Daniel also signed up to complete a Masters’ degree in anthropology and development in 2009.
Even as a qualified tertiary lecturer, Daniel continued to take on bespoke building projects as a side hustle to his university work. Although the aid development sector had been a passion for a long time, it had never been conducive to paying the bills. For Daniel, funding his growing family and professional goals had often meant working three or four jobs at once.
In 2016, Daniel faced some serious challenges. Numerous illnesses connected to his travel history, including malaria, salmonella and typhoid, finally took their toll on Daniel’s health. He ended up in hospital feeling exhausted, burnt out, broken – and broke. He knew that something needed to change.
In this time, Daniel began a conversation with Deep Blue Company (DBC) founder, Christopher Lane, about a new opportunity to deploy his practical skills in a meaningful way. By this point, Daniel was familiar with the DBC’s game-changing, digitally-led conveyancing brand, Conveyancing.com.au, and industry figures revealed that approximately 70 per cent of all prospective buyers seek a building and pest inspection report before committing to their property purchase. Christopher’s proposal was to create an adjacent brand that could deliver that essential service to conveyancing clients.
It was not a role that Daniel had imagined for himself, but Christopher understood the diversity and value that Daniel’s professional history offered. While offering support and coaching as the business began, he agreed to let Daniel run the brand and its team his way. Rapid Building Inspections launched in May 2017.
In the beginning, the business started small, with the practical work, sales and admin handled by a small team of just three people. Daniel worked alongside just one other building inspector to service the Sunshine Coast region, with a dedicated salesperson based in the Philippines to handle leads and enquiries. Daniel recalls, “I still remember standing on a roof, labouring on a building project, answering my mobile to take those early calls. Then I’d grab my laptop and race off to the a bathroom cubicle to process the payment and get the completed report reviewed and sent off to the client.”
Building a presence in Brisbane came next, with one new inspector hired – and then another. The growth of their client base was rapid, delivering more than 1,500 inspections across the combined Brisbane and Sunshine Coast region in that first year. In the second year of operations, the Rapid Building Inspections’ team grew to employ inspectors in metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney and the number of inspections delivered across the country totalled close to 5,500.
Year three of the brand’s growth included servicing Western Australia’s metropolitan areas, with 10,500 inspections completed across four Australian states. Tasmanian and South Australian metropolitan regions were added next, with 14,000 inspections completed in the July 2022-June 2021 financial year, despite the impact of COVID.
Today, as the 2021-2022 financial year draws to a close, Daniel says that, with around 40 inspectors – including contractors – now working across all Australian states, Rapid Building Inspections is on track to deliver around 15,000 inspections. Plans to service the territories as well as focus on significant regional centres are also in the pipeline.
In his role overseeing the qualified inspectors within the business, Daniel’s impressive trade experience has given him the skills and insights to conduct all the necessary research that led to development of the original manuals and reports that guide every member of the inspection team. Along the journey, many team members and leaders in the business have further contributed to the development of Rapid’s manuals, reports, training processes and systems.
“I’ve landed in the corporate role I never imagined having,” says Daniel. “My original dream was to do 1,000 inspections in a month, and we achieved that towards the end of our second year of operations. Now, we have done as many as 1,600 a month – and it’s still growing.”
Success, he says, has come from creating a positive, sustainable culture, combined with a commitment to address common complaints about the building industry. “Three things kept coming up,” says Daniel. “Lack of care – including care about clients and quality of workmanship – was one. Lack of communication was another, and lack of professionalism was also critical. Those three things became the three core drivers of the Rapid Building Inspections’ culture and today,” Daniel says, “they continue to guide every decision made within the business.
With property purchases being one of the most significant financial decisions most people will ever make, Daniel knows that the reports his inspection team provide help people make informed choices. His lifelong commitment to helping people through practical means has been the driving force in the Rapid ethos, as Daniel and his team mitigate the risk in purchasing and maintaining property for everyday Australians. “What you don’t know, is what you’re risking,” he says. “We want to help minimise that risk for people, which is why we’re in this business and why we encourage everyone to get a building and pest inspection.”
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