A day in the life of Frankie Fainifo

By , 09.11.18

When you think about it, there’s a fair few similarities between a building site and a Rugby changeroom.

There’s plenty of banter and comradery is critical, but more than anything else everybody in the team is a critical cog in the engine which makes the team work as effectively as possible. Plenty possess specialist skills, in the same way a front rower might in a footy team, and there’s an unspoken commitment to all work together towards a common goal, picking up any necessary slack and never letting your teammates down.

So, with all of that in mind, it’s no surprise to see former Brumbies star Francis Fainifo (Frankie) fitting in like a glove when I shadow him on a day’s work in Canberra. Working for RUPA’s official employment partner Michael Page as the head of their construction team in Canberra, Frankie must balance his time between wearing a suit in a white-collar environment and then donning a hard hat and hi-vis to visit clients and contractors out on site.

“My standard day starts at 6:30am, when I head out to site to meet with one of my newly-placed contractors and do their site safety induction with them,” he explains to me over a quick breakfast.

“I’ve currently got 35 contractors working for me on 22 different sites, and as a new business in Canberra the best way to build my business is to develop that rapport with the clients by getting my face out there, and not spending my whole day sitting behind a desk.

 “It’s really important for me to get an understanding of what my contractors are doing and to ensure that the client is looking after their safety, and once I have completed the induction it also means I am able to walk on to the site whilst they’re on that job. After we complete the site safety induction, I usually do an hours’ work with the team to try and really understand what is required of them. If I can’t handle the job, as quite a big guy, then it may prove to be hazardous for them.  

“The feedback that I get from my clients is that nobody else does this. In understanding your candidates and clients I think it is so important to learn what they’re doing day to day, and I think that this is the best way to do that. That’s how I can build these relationships with both the clients and the contractors, by getting my hands dirty.”

From there, Frankie takes me to visit a client for the first time today. Farzad Emami is a foreman for Morris Property Group, and although Frankie doesn’t actually have any contractors placed on site with him at the moment, he’s keen to hear about how their current jobs are tracking, what else they might have coming up and to simply maintain a positive relationship with a previous (and possibly future) client.

“With Frankie, the relationship is genuine and it’s not about getting the ‘sale’, he actually cares about looking after the best interests of my job site, even if he misses out on getting the placement,” Farzad explains to me. “He is always making sure that he looks after individuals; the best interests of both the client, and the contractor, and that’s why we love dealing with Frankie

“If we have an issue with one of his contractors, which is human nature in this industry, he resolves it immediately. He understands our pace, our company structure, our requirements and what kind of people we want on our sites, and he will never send us anybody that he knows won’t fit what we are looking for.”

“I think that sometimes there is a stereotype that with labour hire we are just throwing out people with arms and legs and not really considering the client’s needs and wants,” Frankie adds as we walk to the next site. “Being completely transparent is one of the most important things to me, and I prefer to simply inform our clients if we don’t have anyone suitable for the job.”

Before we stop at the next site, Frankie needs to stop off at a local bakery – and the man behind the counter recognises him quickly and asks how many sausages rolls he’ll be buying today (eight, if you were wondering!). 

It’s a regular move by Frankie, turning up on a job site with morning tea for everybody, and one which is appreciated by the staff as part of a genuine desire to engage with them and not simply a gimmick to curry favour. Gael Akita is a contractor of Frankie’s and appreciates the level of interest he takes in how he’s getting on at work.

“Frankie calls me every week and asks how I am getting on, and then every fortnight he brings me sausage rolls and drinks to site,” says Gael, the only worker on the site who has been engaged through Michael Page. “I have been in this job for about five months, and I know that it’s only because I work hard that they have decided to keep me on. Lots of people have come before or after me and haven’t lasted.”

FDC’s Jim Hudson, the foreman of Gael’s site, appreciates the sausage rolls but appreciates Frankie’s reliability more than anything else.

“He is very conscious of placing quality candidates within our business,” Jim says. “Because he is representing Michael Page, he needs to make sure that the client always wants to call him back if they need more labour. He provides high quality individuals, and you can only judge that by employing them and waiting to see.

“Every person that Frankie has given to me, he has called the very next day to see if I am happy with them. I am honest with him, and he is honest with me, and if there are hard conversations to have and they need to be told where to improve, he doesn’t shy away from that. He’s also very conscious of networking and dropping in on site to ensure he understands what stage we’re at.

“I was aware of his Rugby-playing background, and he is now doing a really good job in the next phase of his career. He was a good player back in the day, and his sense of team shines in this role.”

Developing instant bonds and connections in new environments is critical as a professional Rugby player, and Frankie himself experienced that firsthand when he moved to Stade Francais and then Narbonne after five seasons at the Brumbies.

“The ability to build relationships quickly, and then to be genuine as you strive towards common goals, is so important as a Rugby player,” he explains. “Your teammates work it out pretty quickly if you’re full of shit, and I have tried to adapt that philosophy and transition it into the construction business through being genuine and honest.”

Jim Roy is the Director of the Michael Page office in Canberra, and he is clearly thrilled with Frankie’s unique approach and the success it is having; so much so that he freely admits he’d love to ‘hire another half a dozen Frankies’ when they finish their Rugby career.

“Self-evaluation, celebrating wins, constantly striving to better yourself – they’re all traits Frankie possesses,” Roy explains. “When he first started in recruitment, he took stock and understood where his career was going and what he needed to do to get through the milestones of promotion into leadership, and he set about really aiming for those big goals. 

“Because of his Rugby career, Frank understands he needs to do all of the small tasks well as part of the big picture. Quite often, people can start daydreaming about the end product, but they don’t have the required daily disciplines.

“Frankie is a guy who is from Campbelltown, and he is very proud of his working-class roots and is equally comfortable mixing in with a white collar or a blue-collar group of people.I feel extremely comfortable putting him in front of an MD or CEO and he has a presence, maturity and gravitas about him, but then he is also very comfortable going on to the work site and giving out high fives like its Christmas morning. In my nearly twenty years (working) in recruitment, he has greater dedication to daily disciplines and completing tasks than almost anybody else I have encountered.”

With so many well-publicised challenges to confront in the transition out of a professional Rugby career into the next phase of your working career, there’s clearly a sense that Fainifo has found a fantastic industry to highlight his current skills, and to give him variety in his working day.

“The hi-vis and steel capped boots are one aspect to the job, and there’s also the corporate side, where I am dealing with the Directors and HR people and trying to build those relationships, and it’s just been a blessing being able to see and experience these two different parts of this industry. 

“There’s also so much work going on behind the scenes to better myself, which is similar to playing Rugby as well - the extra hours on the field, the extra sessions to improve your skills. One of the best things about working at Michael Page is the intense ongoing training that you go through and there are so many progressions in this job and career that I’m working in.”

Fainifo will be one of several past players to share their experiences at the Michael Page Transition Dinner at RUPA Induction Camp later this month, and when he thinks back to his own Induction Camp experience it’s one he remembers fondly.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the Rugby community, to thank them for assisting me throughout my years of professional Rugby, and that’s why I have been such a strong advocate of Michael Page and RUPA partnering together - to assist the future, present and past player in their next ventures. 

“I was at the same Camp as David Pocock, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale and it was a real eye opener for me to see the example somebody like Pocock set. He was in the gym every day throughout the Camp, and then you had Digby Ioane doing 50 push-ups every night before bed – it was fascinating. I’m looking forward to being back in that environment, meeting the next batch of players coming through and hopefully being able to share some wisdom and insight into what my life is like after Rugby.”

Any Past Player who would like the opportunity to sit down with a PageGroup specialist for career advice, or who is interested in following Frankie’s path into recruitment, can contact Patrick Phibbs to organise it.

The RUPA-PageGroup partnership provides Australia’s past and present professional players with access to industry-leading expertise and training programs, designed to highlight, strengthen and leverage the transferrable skills players develop whilst playing professional Rugby for their next careers. 

Each of Australia’s professional programs (Super Rugby and Rugby Sevens) can access PageGroup training sessions through the Player Development Program, which include, but are not limited to, personal branding, communication styles, leadership, identifying transferrable skills, CV, writing and interview preparation and identifying career opportunities.

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