The kegerator was out, the beer was flowing, and the usual cheeky jokes and laughter resonated throughout the car park. Yet, there was something different this time. A certain melancholy hung around the atmosphere, behind smiles and sips of beer. After today, Janet Scurfield was retiring.
For many companies, this event wouldn’t warrant much more than an oversized card and balloons in the breakroom. But not here, and not for ‘Mama Jan’. Janet’s retirement was an all-day event consisting of a painting workshop, gifts, speeches, a barbecue, and an abundance of her favourite pink gin.
After almost 17 years of dedicated service, Janet had become one of the pillars of Coolphase. She had seen the company move through some of its most significant growth periods, and watched keenly as projects, products, and personnel came and went, steadily transforming Coolphase into what it is today. That’s something worth celebrating.
From the Start…
‘There’s no story; I just came to work every day.’
At 46, Janet worked as a customer service supervisor at a large-scale delivery and logistics company. Drained by the feeling of anonymity she experienced under the dispassionate eyes of such a large-scale organisation, she wanted out.
“In big companies like that, you’re a number; you’re just doing your job. I worked from eight in the morning until six at night, and I was just a number. No personal touch, no, nothing. They didn’t care how hard you worked or if you got sick or were struggling.”
In 2005, Coolphase was still Aust-Coast Refrigeration, a small but fast-growing commercial air-conditioning servicing company in Slacks Creek. There were only about 30 employees, and we needed to facilitate a vast growth opportunity in working with regional areas of Queensland. Janet’s experience had given her a solid understanding of these locations, securing her as an indispensable asset to the team. When joining us that year, she looked after over 1,000 ABC Learning Centres throughout Australia.
‘I had contractors all over Australia that I would call to get the jobs done. We had that for the first five years of my work.’
…Through it All…
Soon enough, Coolphase had been established in its commercial refrigeration branch, servicing and installing cases for supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. With the company, Janet’s role grew and grew. But, whilst many would shy away from such a busy schedule, our Jan relished every minute.
‘I looked after all the guys. I was the go-to person for all the installation people and the bosses; I did the lot. Calling clients, organising payroll, answering customer calls, delegating complaints, everything. [The hustle] never worried me. I used to love doing it all and wore all the hats those days.’
Upon relocation to our current base in Stapylton, Janet’s role became more central. But everyone knew she would always be the go-to all-rounder to help in a stitch.
‘I was down in the reception area for fourteen years, which made a big difference. I would see everybody all day, every day.’
Through all of this, until a few years ago, she was one of only two women employed in the company. But this daunting aspect of working in the construction industry never seemed to worry her.
‘I grew up with brothers as an only girl, so I never had any problems working with guys. I’ve been a tomboy all my life. They’ve all been very good, though, respectful, and if they weren’t, I told them.’
And so she did. ‘Mama Jan’ was the glue in our company culture, ready to provide support in the tough times and kick up the bum if needed.
‘I have watched many of our tradesmen come in as young boys, and they’ve all grown to young men, married, had families; I’ve watched them all grow up and become big boys. Watching them grow and the family grow up are my fondest memories. I’ve always been like a mother figure to most of them.’
Of course, it hadn’t always been easy. There have been countless transitional periods Janet has seen over almost two decades, not just within the company but in her own life. Yet, she marks the culture of Coolphase as the main reason for her staying.
‘It’s a family business, which makes it more of a personal thing to you. You get lost in big companies, so you’re just a number. But not here; I’m Jan here. Since I’ve come on, I’ve lost family, my parents, and my in-laws. You’re just wrapped in cotton wool and looked after. I’ve always loved that. It’s family. Everybody looks after everybody.’
…Till The End.
And yet, nothing lasts forever. As we rolled into 2022, Janet soon felt that her time with us was drawing to a close.
‘I was more or less the face of Coolphase for all those years, but the face got old.’
Her retirement announcement shocked Coolphase, despite us being happy for her to take this exciting next step. We were scratching our heads for a while: How could we find someone else to fill the role Janet had fulfilled so efficiently for so many years?
Even she was nervous about leaving.
‘I was a bit, yeah, trying to figure out how I could explain what I do when I do so many bits and pieces.’
Luckily, we found Hannah, a Gold Coast local with everything we were looking for in a new team member.
‘She’s a very switched-on lady, headstrong; she’ll be fine, she’ll be able to tackle anything. I feel comfortable walking away now. Once we found her, it was a release.’
And now, the banner passes on, and Janet doesn’t do so without a few words of well-earned wisdom:
‘Hannah should stick to her guns and stay strong. You’ve got to be thick-skinned, and you’ve got to be able to take a lot of flack, so believe what you’re doing and do it. The boys don’t know what hit them. If they thought they could get rid of me, they’re getting another.’
Today, as we all rose from our beds in the early morning hours to brave the M1 traffic and begin the week, we thought about where we might find Janet. After all, she’d had her first day off planned for a long time.
‘Not come to work Monday morning; that’s what I’ll do. The alarm won’t go off at 5 o’clock, that’s for sure. I’ll go on a road trip with my husband for a few days down the coast to get away from everything and see where we end up. There are no plans after that.’
No plans – just sun, sleep, and family. And she’s earned it.
‘I don’t have big plans; I’m just ready. I’m prepared to give up work. My husband’s been home for nearly two years now, so he’s had enough time on his own. It’s my turn now.
‘It has been an absolute pleasure to work under Ricky and the team. They’ve all been amazing, and I’ll miss them, but I hope we’ll all still keep in touch. It’s been an absolute honour to work for Coolphase.’