On A Quest

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| By Royceton Hardey

I’ve jumped on some random bus that’s heading along the Terrace towards East Perth.

My destination is the Quest Apartment Hotel located on Adelaide Terrace.

I keep my finger close to the bell button as I try to predict the closest stop. As we pass Hill Street I whack the button and hope for the best. I could not have arrived any closer and I can see a concierge type person helping somebody with their bags.

Doing the assisting is Byron McDonald, my interview subject and franchisee of both Quest East Perth and Quest Fremantle.

Byron, a former Infantry Officer, spent ten years in the Australian Army. After studying politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy and then spending a year at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Byron was posted to 6RAR as a Lieutenant. He was deployed to Iraq for eight months. Later, after being promoted as Captain, he went to Afghanistan with 5RAR for ten months.

As a fairly new entrant into the thriving Perth accommodation scene Quest East Perth was opened on 31 October 2016.

The front of the place is intriguing, it looks like a church has the features of a church and it was a church.

Turning the church into a reception was an adaptive re-use master stroke. The Heritage Listed building named, "The New Church" was built in 1940 and provides a unique lobby and reception.

Happy that the assisted man is confined to the perils of a taxi ride to the airport Byron turns and takes me through the archway doors.

“The Army actually sets you up to be a good franchisee,” says Byron as we walk through reception.

“People say the best thing the Army gives you is discipline. That’s a cop out. There are people who haven’t been in the Army that are very disciplined by nature and there are people who have been in the Army that aren’t disciplined by nature.

“What the Army gives you is the ability to network and build relationships. As an Army Officer I built relationships, and I followed systems, and those roles are similar to what I do now in this Quest brand franchise model. Byron’s entry into the Army was even a surprise for him.

“I had no family in the Army or Defence Forces, but I played representative Rugby and Rugby League and getting out and about really appealed to me so I applied to join.

“I didn’t take the screening process seriously. But I kept getting through the various stages.

“When they invited me to Sydney from my home in Nowra, NSW I decided I needed to take things seriously. In the end, as I did well in my Higher School Certificate, it was either study Mathematics and Finance at Wollongong University or join the Army and go to the Australian Defence Force Academy and study Politics.

“The best decision was to join the Army and I ended up studying politics with Andrew Hastie MP, the Federal Member for Canning.

“The career highlight for me as a Captain was in Afghanistan. I had this team of Australian soldiers who were so motivated, we did patrols every day and there were a number of contacts and improvised explosive device incidents. You are being shot at and having to make decisions and there were deaths.

“It was a time when I really learnt about the world. You go to Afghanistan and Iraq and you see how their minds work in such a sparse existence and we are just so lucky in Australia. I had such a great team and my superiors carried me through the trip.”

In the lift Byron takes me to the top floor and turns left towards the Hotel’s Rooftop Terrace. Having worked in East Perth previously for 12 years I can confidently say I know East Perth, but never have I seen it like this. Being the tallest building in that area the view at the top of those 18 floors was uninhibited.

If Byron wore a crown on his head it would be modelled to look exactly like Perth Stadium. Able to literally hold the multipurpose facility visually in his hands from our location he admires the third-largest stadium in Australia. With a 60,000 person capacity it’s safe to say that some of the patrons will be needing a bed for a night or two. He points at it as the light shimmers off the bronze-façade. With its location just a 15 minute walk away via the footbridge when completed you can understand why Byron would want to be the first to cut the ribbon at the opening.

“We are going to be smack bang in the middle of town in seven-years,” Byron says as he points in different directions.

“The City is migrating east. You have the new stadium with footbridge, a revamped Casino, Ku De Ta restaurant has just opened, the WACA and over there will be the Waterbank residential complex near Trinity College.”

As I take in the view I find it hard to believe Byron was in the Army just four and a half years ago.

“I transitioned from the Army into petrol and convenience,” he said.

“A close family friend, Dickie David set me up at some service stations in Western Australia. Everything I’ve achieved since leaving the Army is thanks to him. My Mum and Dad still oversee my fuel operations and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them.

“I grew a petrol station franchise from two sites to seven sites in two years and then I purchased a car wash. I just couldn’t keep up with the growth in petrol. There has been so much pressure along the way and sadly I was engaged, but the relationship broke down.

“To get a business up and running was rough. Going from the Army and being on a good salary as a Commanding Officer of the Motorised Combat Wing in Puckapunyal to facing crazy overheads in the petrol industry. It was scary.”

When Byron started to become interested in a hotel franchisee his Army credentials helped again.

“They see Captain on your résumé and this gets your foot in the door and with my background in fuel stations I was pleased to get the nod from the people at Quest,” Byron said. While the mining industry has slowed Byron still believes Perth’s economy is improving.

“Perth is proving to be an extremely diverse economy, with other industries evolving and performing with strength. Perth is one of the most liveable cities in the world and current developments will see the place evolve and become an even more popular tourist destination in the future.”

As I take my leave Byron delivers the same friendly send-off that I had witnessed earlier. With no bags and no need for a taxi I walk to my bus stop across the road.

As I look back I can see someone else has just arrived and Byron is helping them inside.

The quest continues.