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Selling to the Big Buyers: House with No Steps

May 11, 2017

Last updated on March 16, 2021

Nathan Kempshall, General Manager of House with No Steps (HWNS) Facility Services shares his insights on winning contracts, working with corporate buyers and the growing demand for social procurement.

  • Who are some of the ST Connect buyers you’re currently working with?

One of the best connections we’ve made so far through Social Traders’ Connect is with Charter Hall. It’s a small opportunity at this stage, to work on a shopping centre site in the Hunter Valley. That’s the work that we’d be wanting to further with Charter Hall. We’ve done one centre now, so we’re looking for the opportunity to put together a group of sites that we’re able to run with a team. We also work with Lendlease, doing the M7 motorway maintenance full time for them.

  • What do these deals mean for HWNS in terms of being able to scale and generate more impact?

With an opportunity like Lendlease, that’s being run by a full time team of five people, one team leader and four roles for people with a disability that’s job shared between six people. Without that contract, those six people don’t have that job opportunity. We’ve had that contract for coming up to seven years now and they’re just a part of the team, it’s not like we’re a subcontractor, it’s like we’re a part of Lendlease – we’re treated the same, we use all the same facilities, the same lunch room, we go to all the meetings, so we’re just an extension of their team. It’s a great relationship. The revenue that contract generates also allows us to purchase the gear that we may need to set up another opportunity and expand the business.

  • What is the impact for the workers you employ?

They love it. Their commitment to the job is phenomenal, really second to none, they come to work and they love it. They’re working for a large corporate organisation, part of a large team which gives them a real sense of value and worth. For them, it’s not just a job that’s for someone with a disability, it’s a commercial contract offering commercial work opportunities – the difference is that they work for an organisation where if they need support, it’s there for them. That’s what we pride ourselves on, the work that we do is held to a professional standard – if the guys don’t come to work or their work isn’t up to standard, they are managed like any other staff member.


Photo: House with No Steps


  • Are there any key factors that you assess when looking at opportunities to work with corporate buyers?   

In my portfolio, it comes down to the work type – it needs to be not too complex landscape or facilities maintenance work. It needs to be work that’s achievable for people with a disability – we couldn’t go in for a large construction contract because the work requires too much specific knowledge or skills that’s not suitable for the range of disability that we employ. So for us it’s about sourcing the right sort of company with the opportunities for that kind of work.

  • Do you find any barriers in accessing new work opportunities?

A tender process is always hard, it’s very competitive and traditionally its cost driven. Although there are criteria in other areas such as community engagement and safety, in most tenders 50% of the value criteria is based on cost. In a cost competitive area like facilities services, that can be hard and there can be a misconception from a buyer that we are going to be a cheaper option, which isn’t always the case. As an organisation, we carry a lot more management structure as we require more support to employ people with disabilities and those management fees can’t go away, they do have to be built into our costing. It’s better if we can get it to more of a personal process, because through a tender it can be hard to get the message across.

  • How do you market the social enterprise aspect to your business?

First of all its services, in order to get the interest of the buyer it’s got to be a service they require. So the first step for us is to research and find organisations that require our services. Then go and sell the fact that we can provide those services based on our current contracts and our experience and then once they’re convinced of that, we show them what we can also add value in that not only are we providing a service that the buyer requires, but that spend is ultimately creating an opportunity for people with disabilities to work, so then it becomes very attractive, because that’s something a lot of other landscape maintenance companies can’t offer. That’s our niche.

  • Have you explored partnership with other social enterprise?

We already partner to deliver a large Telstra contract, we work across all of NSW for Telstra and where we don’t have a logistical presence for some of the more remote areas, we subcontract to other ADEs which is a great outcome. We’re meeting that need for Telstra who don’t want to deal with multiple contractors, they want to engage a not for profit organisation who can be a principle contractor who can say that where we’re not able to do that work, we’re able to engage an ADE who can still deliver those outcomes. They’re incredibly impressed by that and it strengthens our relationship.

  • Are you seeing the social impact aspect becoming more important to buyers?

Definitely, I’ve seen a huge shift in the last two years. I’ve been with HWNS for 14 years and when I first started it was far harder to convince people that we could do the work that they needed. I think the times have definitely changed, particularly within large corporates, there seems to be a much larger focus on wanting to support social enterprise. It’s part of their KPIs, it’s part of the tender process. So it’s definitely a far better environment these days with larger corporates wanting to engage.


HWNS Facility Services is a ST Connect certified social enterprise – find out more about ST Connect certificiation.

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