Brand Identity

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-By John Boley

Probuild Civil (QLD) Pty Ltd, founded in 1984 as Chevron Construction, operates as a civil engineering contractor from a base in the suburbs of Brisbane. It’s owned by Melbourne-based Probuild Construction Australia, commercial builders with a strong presence in Victoria but active in WA as well as Sydney. In Brisbane, general manager Mark Angove told us the group had a turnover of around $800 million this year.

He explained the strategic alliance formed last year, Synergy JV. “This was an exciting development, which took us to the next level in terms of size of contract. We competed directly with the major contractors on a head to head basis and we actually managed to beat them, which was very exciting for us. We are a third shareholder in Synergy JV with two other companies, Downer Australia and Civil Mining and Construction Pty Ltd.” The alliance was formed with a view to providing greater opportunities in areas where the individual companies were either too small or lacked sufficient expertise and experience to be able to undertake construction of some of the larger infrastructure projects on offer in Queensland.

Synergy JV’s first success came with the award by the Department of Transport and Main Roads in February of a $64 million project for the construction of 8.7 km of new road alignment and three bridges on the 65 km long route between Cooroy and Curra in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions of southeast Queensland. “That project is really hitting the straps now and the signs are that it will probably finish early and deliver substantial value for Main Roads,” said Mark.

“Since then Probuild Civil has managed to win its biggest project ever, a $75 million project for Main Roads in the Roma region as part of the flood relief work.

“In 2009 we did work in Mackay on the Hospital Bridge, which was a bridge over the Pioneer River, involving extensive road work, a single span concrete bridge and a twenty two span concrete bridge. We faced some challenging piling conditions in the river on this project valued at $26.7 million. At the same time we were busy with our first major job for Main Roads which was on the Sunshine Motorway.

“On the back of that, with the good work we did in terms of building up our reputation and capacity, we won a job on the Pacific Motorway at Varsity Lakes. [Here we provided] realignment of on and off ramps to the Pacific Motorway, widening of the Pacific Motorway, widening of a bridge crossing the motorway, and removal of a roundabout and installation of traffic signalling to intersections. The project included major culvert works and extensive traffic management, and was valued at $22.3 million. This was a very competitive job for us and very tightly priced and we managed to bring that home on time and under budget. That further enhanced our reputation with Main Roads. We then went on and won the Robina Interchange, an upgrade of on and off ramps, modification of road intersections, rehabilitation and upgrade of Pacific Motorway including lighting and traffic signals and stormwater reticulation, which we have just started.” This project is valued at $13.6 million, with a completion date in 2012.

Mark says the growth of Probuild Civil has surpassed all expectations. “It’s just been phenomenal. In the last three months we have achieved what we set out to do in the next five years, so we’ve effectively brought our business plan forward five years and I’m now sitting looking at a blank sheet of paper thinking ‘where do we go now’! It’s very exciting times for us.

“It’s also quite exciting that we have managed to get one of the first projects in Queensland as part of the flood relief rebuilding. It’s vindication in terms of the hard work we have done building our reputation in the industry.”

In 2009 “we changed our branding from what we were then, a small construction company called Basic Construction, and we made the decision to take on the branding and identity of our owners [majority shareholder] down in Melbourne. So we changed our name to Probuild Civil and I think it’s been quite successful in the way we are perceived in the market from a branding point of view.”

Not many companies pay sufficient attention to branding and design in this industry, Mark agrees. “No, but we are quite precious about it because you are selling a product at the end of the day and our product is identified by our brand – we are quite jealous of our reputation for fairness and relationship contracting we have built up.

“Our major client really is Main Roads; we used to do a lot of work for the Port of Brisbane, but with the privatisation of the Port they are probably not going to be spending the sort of money that they have been spending in the past.

“I guess our challenge is how we manage our growth – one of the things we struggle with is that I don’t want uncontrolled growth – we all want to grow but in a controlled and sustainable way. For the next three years at least I think the Queensland market is going to be very exciting – lots of opportunities.”

Probuild Civil’s main investment is in its people; Mark told us that “our business model is unique in some ways, less so in others. We don’t own any major plant; with that comes a lot of advantages in terms of keeping our cost base quite low – there’s no plant to look after when it rains, no maintenance, no downtime. We have built up good strategic relationships with a lot of suppliers over the years in terms of plant supply. So we basically rent all the plant we need. We have a strong project management and engineering team and that’s where we add value to the project.

“It’s a mature and sophisticated rental market in QLD and we have always managed to secure equipment at very good rates whenever we needed it. Having said that, we have a strong balance sheet and have always said if it gets to a point where not owning any plant becomes an impediment to trading we would consider buying that equipment. And I guess having the support in the form of our majority shareholder makes it a little bit easier, gives us the luxury to make that decision if we need to.”

One thing Probuild Civil worried about as it started bidding for QLD flood relief work was that “we might get caught short of what we needed [in terms of plant and equipment] but we have managed to secure all we need for our projects through our alliances with suppliers – at the moment it’s not a big issue in our lives.”

More of a worry is the much-vaunted ‘skills shortage’. “It’s a major concern for me – not only recruitment but also retention. The money going around in WA, and what’s being thrown at getting people on things like LNG, does worry smaller players like ourselves because we don’t always have the capacity to match what they are paying. So yes, it’s a concern.

“I guess you make your own luck, but we have been lucky so far in that we have staffed up all our projects; we recognised early this year that it was going to be an issue and we just about doubled the size of our staff since January and we have been fortunate to secure some really good people. That’s the exciting part about our growth – attracting new blood into the company and finding real quality people. We hear it sometimes from agents – they have someone who is really only interested in coming to us, we are getting known out there as an employer people want to work for. I think it’s part of the branding and projecting this more professional image compared to where we were years ago.”

One of Probuild Civil’s core values, Mark stresses, “is that we deliver what we promise to our clients. We are always wary of taking on work we can’t complete or service to the high standard the clients have come to expect from us, so it’s part of the whole growth equation – how quickly and how far do we want to grow in relation to what’s available to us.

“The other side of being successful and suddenly competing with the bigger contractors is that we are now a threat to them and they take notice of us, start taking us seriously – we somehow stayed under the radar but we are now being looked at more closely.

Mark is not complacent, however. “This QLD boom will not last forever so we need to look at what we get involved in next. We are always working on the ‘next thing’ – without giving away too much.

Home Automation

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May 29, 2020, 6:04 PM AEST