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It started in the living room of a Pearce home in 1979. ACT Branch Manager of National Firm Mainline, John Hailey was faced with a dilemma. Mainline had gone into receivership and were asking John to relocate to Adelaide. But with a young family to raise, he wanted to stay put in Canberra. This became the catalyst for John to go out on his own and start a small project and construction business with the support of his wife. John, ever the businessman, struck a deal with the new owner that he would receive a percentage of any project he could retain under his new company.

Manteena was born.

Why Manteena? We’re sorry to tell you there was in fact no established meaning behind Manteena at the time it was founded, it was a catchy shelf name. However, the meaning of Manteena as we know it today (quality, family, trustworthy, collaborative) started from the day the Manteena name was purchased and continues to be the legacy of John Hailey upon his retirement in the early 2000s.

Alongside his wife Jill, John Hailey created a business that has remained a small family business at heart, despite its growth. Lou Agnello (Construction Manager) joined Manteena in 1981 as a Site Supervisor and describes John as a “straight down the line, fair leader with an incredible passion for education in the industry.”

Lou maintains the philosophy John taught him and continues to drive mentorship across Manteena as John once did. “John stood by the belief that you had to give people a go and improve the knowledge we had within the company. I still aim to keep the values John taught us about what it means to be at Manteena and family and an open-door policy were the main ones.”

Rod Mitton joined Manteena in 1987, by which time Manteena had 16 staff. He too remembers education being such a big focus for John from the beginning. Rod explains, “John always had a cadet equivalent. Back then it was usually only one but he always put such a focus on developing the next generation of employees from the beginning.”

John was the Project Manager on most jobs in those early days, especially for Minor Works projects.  Rod had the pleasure of working directly with John in this area and recalls being the foreman on a NCDC project in the early 1990s where John gave him his first work ute, and his first mobile phone, fitted on the ute console!

Having come from a background in estimating, John wrote most of the submissions himself on top of acting as a Project Manager. Fortunately, Jill was around to type the submissions for him in the days prior to computers and mobile phones.

“John was a tough task master but generous to a fault. He has always been incredibly generous in his praise of Manteena and incredibly proud of how far it has been taken since his retirement in 2002” says Rod.

Mark Bauer (current CEO) joined Manteena in 1994 as a cadet and worked with John for many years prior to his retirement. He recalls the value John places on his site teams, understanding the importance of having a strong group of qualified professionals to teach the up and comers, while ensuring Manteena’s standards of quality were being met. “John blended strong partnerships with his staff and other subcontractors to ensure the best outcome for everyone involved in a project. The longstanding relationships we have with some of our current subcontractors were created off the back of the philosophy and values of Manteena, which John instilled in all of us from the very beginning.

Similarly, Andrew Kemp (General Manager of Manteena Security) joined the Manteena team in 1999 as a cadet and worked directly for John on his first job. “One of my first tasks was to add up these complex financials for John. I absolutely failed but John stuck with me and moved me to a site in Wollongong as a Project Administrator. By the end of the job, John trusted me enough that I was basically running the project.”

“John was hugely influential in my early career. The way he conducted business, his value as a role model and the level of leadership he demonstrated was incredibly impactful for me. He was a huge champion for my career in the early days and continued to do so after his retirement, giving me a lot of opportunity to establish my career. I was very grateful to have had John as a mentor in my early years.”

While most of us who now work for Manteena have not had the pleasure of being mentored by, or working for, John, his legacy remains. The likes of long-term employees such as Lou Agnello, Rod Mitton, Mark Bauer, Grahame Hollands and Andrew Kemp continue to share the story of Manteena’s origins and reaffirm the values instilled by John from the very beginning.

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