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IAM2084 – CEO Passionate About Creating Innovative and Sustainable Building Solutions

Podcast Interview with Scott Challen

In this episode, we have Scott Challen, a successful Australian entrepreneur in the construction industry.

Scott shares his journey from starting with humble beginnings to owning the QHI group of companies, which includes Smartkits Australia, Ezy Blox, Living Concepts, Online Steel, Approval Masters, and QHI National Builders.

With over 20 years of experience, Scott discusses the challenges of the industry, the importance of incorporating more brands to fill revenue gaps, and his approach to overcoming the seasonal and economic fluctuations in the construction business.

Highlighting his transition from a tradesman to an entrepreneur, Scott emphasizes the significance of organizational culture, innovation, and the continuous push for growth despite setbacks.

The episode also delves into Scott's personal discipline, his CEO hack of waking up early for maximum productivity, and his definition of what it means to be a CEO—focusing on surrounding oneself with a great team.

Scott's story is an inspiring reminder of the value of perseverance, team building, and strategic expansion in business.


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Scott Challen Teaser 00:00

Incorporating more brands as time has gone on, things that fit with our current business model that help fill those revenue gaps. Because as a builder it's a revenue rollercoaster. It's very, very seasonal. It's very, very dependent on what the economy is doing. So we went what can I do to fill those gaps?

Intro 00:18

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. And I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Scott Challen. Scott, excited to have you on the show.

Scott Challen 00:54

Thank you very much, Gresh. It's a great opportunity to be here. Big fan of the show. Devour your content like crazy. So thank you for the time to talk.

Gresham Harkless 01:02

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you and our content just upgraded because we have Scott on the show. So super excited to talk with Scott. But of course, before we do that, I'm going to read a little bit more about Scott so you can hear about those awesome things.

Scott is a successful Aussie entrepreneur and the owner of the QHI group of companies that comprises Smartkits Australia, Ezy Blox Living Concepts, Online Steel, Approval Masters and QHI National Builders.

With over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, Scott has integrated advanced design software and sales tools into the building industry. A licensed builder, qualified carpenter in tech entrepreneur, the passion for creating innovative and sustainable building solutions that meet the needs of his clients.

He is also an Air Force veteran, a patriot, and loves building new businesses. And absolutely appreciate everything that Scott is doing. Like I mentioned, or actually, as you might actually know, my dad was actually in the Air Force. So I'm always Pro Air Force veteran. So thank you so much for the things that you do.

And he's also the co-host of the podcast and that's the most podcasts that you have to check out super great information. And I think just like two friends, talking at a coffee shop, which I always love.

But one of the things that really stuck with me that Scott said, or I read that he said he said that organizational culture is a values ideas, attitudes and goals that characterize an organization, which in effect affects all aspects of business and a dedicated team with a great work ethic and high professional standards creates a culture where they can see what they do makes an impact.

Scott, excited to have you on the show. You're ready to speak to the I AM CEO community.

Scott Challen 02:36

Thank you very much. Yeah, absolutely. And when you hear your bio like that, it's a little humbling and almost embarrassing because in Australia, we don't want to shout from the rooftops about what we've done. So I guess it really sinks in that, geez, mate, you've done a lot lately. So there you go.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:53

Yeah, absolutely. That's where you come on shows like this. So we get to shout it from the rooftops and you get to take all the glory and the opportunity. So, and do all the hard work as well, too, which I imagine that it is.

Scott Challen 03:02

That is absolutely the truth of it. And none of that has been a successful upwards ride. Let's be honest about that. That has been a roller coaster for 20 years.

Gresham Harkless 03:12

Yeah, absolutely. And it's so funny that you said that because I often say like success ends up being like a plate of spaghetti more than that upward trajectory that sometimes people always think that it is. So I wanted to, hear a little bit more about that.

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Could we rewind the clock here a little bit more about that 20 year journey and what led you to all the awesome things you're doing?

Scott Challen 03:30

Yeah. And it's probably a little longer than 20 years because I got on the tools back in the mid-nineties as a tradesman building. And so when you're on the tools building on job sites, you don't really think about the big picture or what that might look like in 25, 20 years later.

But I had a bit of a midlife crisis in my mid-twenties and joined the Air Force and did my time in the RAF and then had a really significant training injury where I blew my knee out. And it was, bad that it took a couple of years to rehab. Yeah. And in that time, I really didn't know what I was going to be anymore because I couldn't get back physically to building and I had to discharge.

And so what happens next? And it's a very lost void in time. Any veterans listening to this and probably, relate to that. And so I got into sales and that's where I went. Oh, wow. I'm actually really good at talking to people. And so, just went into sales, selling building products and then leveraged that.

And then, I started my own building company ultimately with my building background and my sales background. So, it was really simple, humble beginning and we built 1 carport for a client and it all started from that 1 carport until years later, 15 years being self employed. Previous 5 of that working for another building company, learning that sales skill set and then really launching it out onto my own.

for tuning in. Incorporating more brands as time has gone on, things that fit with our current business model that help fill those revenue gaps. Because as a builder it's a revenue rollercoaster. It's very, very seasonal. It's very, very dependent on what the economy is doing. So we went what can I do to fill those gaps?

And that's where those other brands started to layer into the backbone of the building company. It's a kind of. Create this group of companies now. And so not everything's been successful. Not everything's worked, but I have that opinion that if you just keep going, just keep moving forward, just, it might've been a bad day yesterday, but just get up and have another go.

Gresham Harkless 05:24

Yeah, absolutely. So do you feel like that's been something that you feel like? Supports, what might be the secret sauce of what you all do is to be able to understand all those pieces and see how they fit in together.

Scott Challen 05:35

Yeah, to some degree, I'm not saying that would be the right solution for everyone, but I know internally for me, that's what drives me is, okay, what can I build next or add to this group that complements everything else that doesn't put us at risk or jeopardize what we do, but has the opportunity to enhance and grow us and to give us a stronger foundation.

What else can we build into the foundation? Not top heavy, but bottom strong. And all of those brands that, we've brought in have complimented that really, really well. And like I said, not all of them have been super successful. It's been up and down in a lot of things, especially over the last five years, we all know what the last five years have been like.

So, there's been good times and bad times with that, but I guess I'm lucky that I'm driven enough to go. Eyes open. What's next? What can I add next? What can I find next? That's how I think by nature, whereas that's not everybody. And I've got friends that are really successful business people that are happy with their business where they are.

They know their market, they do their thing and they're strong and they're structured like that. They have great cars. They have great houses. They have great families. They have all the good things. They take great holidays and they're safe and they're in that comfort zone. But me, I like to dangle my legs over the edge and scare everybody in my team, especially my wife and go, Hey, I've got an idea.

And then everyone goes, Oh, here we go. So get on for the ride.

Gresham Harkless 07:03

Yeah, I love that. Could you take a, take us through a little bit about what you're doing with QHI national, how you're making that impact and how you're making that impact to be.

Scott Challen 07:13

Yeah. And so one of the things that we've come across is the labour market is really tough. There's other people around the world that are potentially listening to this going.

Yeah, it's hard to find good people. But what we do know about entrepreneurs and business people is that in Australia, they did a study on this. Franchisees and people who work for themselves work 30 to 40 percent harder than a standard employee, for example. So because it's so hard to recruit, we went why are we trying to recruit salespeople all the time.

Why don't we find people who want to work for themselves? So create a system, a franchise model of our current building company, which had been running for 13 years at that point, very successfully and very profitably. Why not replicate that and then find builders around Australia that want to come on board with that business model and be part of our franchise team, be part of our QHI national family.

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And so that was the evolution of the franchise model that, we've got a number of franchisees around the east coast of Australia now that are operating under this brand. That's a strong brand. It's a national brand. And we've empowered them with systems, software development, mentoring to create their own empires and their own businesses.

And one of the things I don't teach you at trade school, like it took me five years to complete my carpentry apprenticeship. I wasn't the fastest apprentice out there, but one of the things I don't teach you is how to run a business. They don't teach you how to sell what you do and teach you how to To read the balance sheet and to understand your P& Ls and your construction costs and your bottom lines and they don't teach you any of that.

So you've got to get out there and learn it yourself. And that's why a lot of builders and small companies got broke down here. It's it's huge nutrition, right? It's massive. So we went how do we empower them to not not go under, create a network of builders for us, bring them into the fold and help other people be more successful.

And so that was the evolution of the building franchise. And then the other businesses all support that because we sell building products around Australia, where people are looking for someone to do the installation of those building products. And so it was all a natural fit and that's how it evolved.

But that franchising journey has been a really, really interesting one, because the legalities around that type of business model. They're extreme, they're heavy, and there's a lot of stuff that we had to get solicitors and lawyers and contracts and all that type of stuff involved. And down here, they really worry about people creating scam franchise models where you're just taking deposits and not actually providing the proper business training for it.

So I took that really seriously. We spent two years in development for that before we even launched it. So it was a long, long, slow burn to get there. But now that we've got some people on board and it's operating, I get a little heart flutter now when I think about what's happening because I can see what's coming down the pipeline for it. It's going to be really good.

Gresham Harkless 10:00

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So it could be like an apple book or even a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Scott Challen 10:11

I'm ridiculously disciplined to the point where if I'm not up by 4am, I feel guilty. And that is really my superpower is getting up early. And I, sometimes I'll get up and work for an hour first, sometimes I'll get up and go straight to the gym and train, but whatever it is, that's when I have the most inspirational ideas, I feel most connected to my God.

And I feel most connected to what's happening around me, because you shut out all the noise and it's a really powerful time of day that I find and that's a non-negotiable for me. That's seven days a week that and my wife hates it sometimes because I'm never there in the morning when she wakes up.

But I'm, I just can't change that about me and I'm lucky that I have it. But that is my CEO hack is if I don't have that, I know that I will not perform, that my day will not be good.

So it's 7am Australian time talking to you now. I was up at 3. 30 this morning, which is really a ridiculous hour, but I go to bed early. I go to bed, fall asleep on the couch at 8. 30. So I still get my six, seven, sometimes eight hours sleep anyway. And I'm more powerful for it. I'm more energetic for it.

And I'm definitely more connected to, I would call it like, I'm a strong spiritual person. So in my mind, I'm connected to the universe and I'm connected to the planet and I'm connected internally. And when I get all that aligned. Then that superpower kicks in and I feel like I can take on the world today.

Gresham Harkless 11:35

Yeah, I love that. So you might've already touched on this, but what would you consider to be what I call a See your nugget a little bit more word of wisdom or piece of advice. I like to say it might be something you would tell a franchisee or potentially if you were to happen to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Scott Challen 11:49

Yeah look, the nugget is always bought off more than you can chew and then chew like hell. And it's an old saying Winston Churchill as well. When you're going through hell, just keep going. So just don't quit. Just don't give up. And there'll be good days and there'll be bad days.

And so that's that thing for me is I'm not great at what I do, but I'm highly energetic and that battering ram approach to things or just pushing through can often get you there where your skillset might lack or your, your company structure might not be there yet, but aim high, go big.

Bite off more than you can chew. Go for meetings that are outside of your skill set. Have conversations with people that are way smarter than you. Try something completely different and just go. Just push. Just keep pushing. Don't quit.

Gresham Harkless 12:35

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Yeah, I love that. So now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, the definition of what it means to be a CEO.

And you might have already touched on this, but we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on the show. So Scott, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Scott Challen 12:47

Yeah, I guess my definition of being a CEO is to be grounded in everyone else around me. Yes, you are the leader and you are the, the director of where things are heading in the business.

But the real definition of being a CEO for me is the people that I surround myself with, because I'm not the smartest, I'm not the brightest, I'm not the wisest, I don't have the best skills at everything, but by God, I'm going to find those people and I'm going to make sure that they're in the room with me.

And if I can humble myself and not let my ego get in the way, surrounding myself with those people will make you a great CEO. And I don't think anything is off the limits or off the charts when it comes to what it takes to make yourself successful in that regards. And I know that's that to me is the is the real secret sauce of it.

How that operates make is, without a great financial officer, without a great COO. Without a great sales team leader without a great ops manager without I'm a great tech team without all those guys around me. This is just a dream. It's an idea in my head, but bringing the right people in to be able to do that.

That can work with you who understand your crazy dreams that can listen to your pivots and get it. I think that's gold.

Gresham Harkless 13:58

Yeah. And you end up realizing that I think the African proverb is in order to go farther, you go together. And so many times we forget about that one key aspect of that is make sure that you have great people around you.

Great people on your team, great people to execute. And I love that you mentioned that ego part, because I think so many times when you start something or you have a new idea or whatever it is, you have to have that ego to believe that you can make that change. An impact. You can do something that's better.

You can make the world a better place, whatever that is and looks like. But at the same point, we can't let that ego overtake us when we're trying to bring great people around us to help make those things come to fruition. So I love that you mentioned that because I think it's something that we sometimes will overlook and not realize how impactful that is to take to lessen the ego so that you can in the grand scheme of things, hit the mission.

Scott Challen 14:42

You mentioned an African proverb there. I heard a really good one the other day that stuck with me as well. And I just really connected and I've thought a lot about this was it was an old African proverb that said, if you don't give the young men and we'll say young ladies in this instance, a seat at the fire, they'll burn the village down for heat.

And so in my mind, I'm really ruminated on that because we've tried to empower and bring people up into our team. We want to see people be successful. And I find that we've brought on and nurtured and really been an incubator for great people, great human beings by creating those opportunities for them. Sorry, I just had something fall off the wall.

Gresham Harkless 15:17

No worries. No worries. Good catch. So. Truly appreciate that definition. Of course, I appreciate your time even more. So what I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, our best people can get ahold of you, find out the podcast, all the awesome things that you and your team are working on.

Scott Challen 15:36 

Yeah, thank you very much. So, I have my own podcast, the Nuts and Bolts podcast. I'm on TikTok, you'll find me at shellochell. And if you want to get a bit of an insight into Aussie culture and how our land operates in our weird construction industry, I reckon it's good for Google.

We'll get quite a few people interacting on that. The QHI group, you can jump on the website, you search that up and you'll see what we do. And if you're overseas and you're looking for an opportunity to get a toehold with your products here, give us a yell, we'd love to help.

Gresham Harkless 16:03

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And to make that even easier, we're going to have the links and information that show notes so that everybody can get ahold of you, Scott, and all the awesome things that you're doing, but truly appreciate your time and all the awesome things that you're doing and I hope you have a phenomenal incident.

Scott Challen 16:14

Yeah, thanks, Gresham. Really appreciate what you do.

Outro 16:16

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase. It's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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