Secret to Success:

Conservatism and Communication


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-By Aleisha Parr

Over the last hundred and sixty five years, the Dura family of Holland has been creating a construction empire based on a conservative philosophy and work ethic. Originally established in 1950, Dura Constructions Australia stays true to its conservative roots. In fact, it was due to these guiding principles that the Australian branch of Dura Constructions was able to rise up in the early 1990s to buy out full ownership of its branch from Dura International.

“It’s a quite simple philosophy, based on my experience, that ultimately all of us – me, you, everyone – we work very hard for one purpose . . . we work for our loved ones, our family,” Richard Khor, Director and Proprietor of Dura Constructions Australia, explains. “What we’re trying to encourage . . . it’s difficult in the construction industry, because you have long hours and time constraints, but our basic philosophy is to give a good, effective day’s work and then be able to spend the evenings and weekends relaxing with our loved ones.”

“As much as possible, our direction is to work five days a week, but on some projects, you have to work six days. We always allocate the staff who wants to work the additional time to do work on an overtime basis.”

With an office staff of approximately ten Contract and Project Managers, Estimators and Accountants and an on-site staff that varies from twenty-five to thirty, Mr Khor’s management approach is one of equality and communication. “Communication is very important in every industry. It is in the way you treat your staff and to be able to have that same level of communication. It’s not, “˜I’m the boss, you’re the worker; I tell you how to do it.’ It’s to have that exchange of ideas, and listen to even the labourer. Listen. Because they are specialised in their area, they can do things much quicker than people like me, sitting in the office. They know how it should be done. So if one is prepared to listen, and have the rapport across the board, whether it’s with your staff member/labourer or your subcontractors, then I think already it’s a right move for any company.”

Mr Khor’s approach was nurtured by his own experience within Dura Constructions. Starting out with the company as a Site Engineer, he worked his way up to become a Construction Director and ultimately the company Proprietor. Mr Khor appreciates the importance of every member of his team and indeed, it shows; many of his employees have been with the company for over twenty years.

This same appreciation carries through in the way Dura Constructions works together with architects, contractors and clients in the field. “We try not to have any conflicts with consultants because that can cause problems for builders as well because they then will have unknowingly overstepped the boundaries and upset the architects or consultants. So we work closely with them and convey our technical experience to them . . . [it requires] a lot of communicating and sensitive PR work not to overstep the boundaries.”

As a full-service construction company, Dura Constructions is often called upon to carry out any manner of responsibilities and roles for a project, from entrepreneurial, research, management, financial, operational, to plant and labour.
“Whilst we have the expertise, not all of it is called up concurrently,” Mr Khor explains. “On the technical side, we will provide clients with some ideas on the cost-effective way of doing the project.” The diverse company may be called upon to undertake feasibility studies for one project or simply to carry out the actual construction of another, but always, Dura Constructions’ approach is of an equal commitment to ensuring the customer is pleased with the results, and that each and every job is completed with careful attention to detail and quality standards. “How you finish the job is quite critical . . . not just that you finish, but also that you have no defects.”

Another aspect of Dura Constructions which is somewhat unique within Australia’s construction industry is its financial stability, which it ensures with strict fiscal conservatism. Operating with a positive cash flow and no debt, Dura Constructions is confident that it may weather any financial storms. Because of its strong finances, Dura has become a builder of choice for many contractors and consultants as it is a reliable and respected company.

“Also, very important, you have to treat your subcontractors as you would yourself . . . So over the years, once you establish that rapport and trust, then it makes it easier to get that additional discount from your suppliers and subcontractors.”

Dura Constructions also has a keen interest in environmental conservancy. Through a systematic approach to recycling and resource reuse, Dura Constructions is consistently working toward a steady decrease in air, land, and waterway pollutants caused by the construction industry. Additionally, Dura Constructions’ staff work with clients on site to suggest ways of maintaining or enhancing the natural environment of each build site. Frequently, trees and topsoil native to the site can be saved and can actually enhance the completed project.

A common problem in the construction process is the contamination of groundwater, especially when digging out basements. Dura Constructions offers a variety of services to meet this need, including water testing and monitoring, as well as enhanced construction designs which it may offer to clients.

Many of the company’s recent projects have been part of the Federal Government’s stimulus plan – in particular, a number of schools which have been repurposed into “super schools”. Dura also undertakes a variety of other projects, often with the Federal Government, such as a high-security munitions factory, a research lab, and recently, nursing homes and council works.

While Dura Constructions traditionally works on institutional projects, it also has completed a number of projects such as housing with no outside financing. A recent project involved building approximately twenty housing units in Mount Waverley.

“We’ve got a good team that’s committed to what they’re doing,” says Mr Khor. “So with that commitment of the staff, I believe that the company will go from strength to strength and not be too ambitious, to do what we are capable of doing and not to over-extend.” In this very competitive market, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of possibility, but Dura Constructions is committed to upholding its original philosophy and work ethic. “We want to grow steadily. We’re not chasing jobs. We want the client to be happy when we finish a job.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 1:00 AM AEST