A Focused Approach

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-By Aleisha Parr

With over one hundred years of combined experience working within the industry, CDK Commercial Construction founders Gerry Cudmore, Peter Day and Julian de Kretser know what it takes – and what it doesn’t – to make a business successful. The trio, who have been working together since the early 1970s, have navigated many challenges together as the industry – and their response to it – has evolved with client demand. Now, with the economy still precarious and the construction industry falling flat, the three were wise enough to make the difficult decision to stay small.

The company got its start back in 1991, as a new building company by the name of CDK Tectonics, and was later listed on the ASX in 1997. After acquiring a scaffolding company in 2003, the company shifted its focus into specialty work and services in just the scaffolding arena. Cudmore, Day and de Kretser, however, were more interested in the building arm of the business and so separated from the original company to form CDK Commercial Construction in June 2003. Taking on the existing staff from CDK Tectonics, the company continued to build on its strengths from within, choosing quality over quantity and relationships over revenue.

Says Peter Day, in a recent interview: “We are deliberately not a large company. We have been a much larger company in the past, and fell into the trap of being forced to hire people to undertake that workload, but it’s just not worth it. We do only five or six projects at any one time now, and that’s a priority for the company. We have three Executive Directors that take personal control of each of those projects… and that is with the focus of ensuring that each project has the time and attention to have a successful completion.”

This choice is especially wise for CDK, which specialises in highly complex projects primarily in the healthcare and medical sectors, where Mr Day says the client’s needs are paramount. “The health and well-being and the duty of care to patients is the most important part of a building project within those confines. I think the careful management of services is our primary focus – and greatest skill. In a hospital environment there are a larger percentage of very specialised services particularly working within theatres and acute recovery areas. The management, coordination and the carrying out of the upgrades of services is critical.”

With a more focused and hands-on approach, Mr Day says that the company is able to see to the clients’ needs as well as the needs of the end-users, and therefore is more frequently engaged for repeat business by proprietors in this sector.

CDK has also recently been involved in numerous education sector projects as a result of the massive investment into the sector through the Government’s “˜Building the Education Revolution’ (BER) scheme. Prior to this, CDK had some experience in the sector, though typically within the tertiary sector, whereas the BER introduced numerous projects in the primary and secondary areas.

A large part of CDK’s success, says Mr Day, is due to the diligence and skill of its Site Managers and site staff, who work alongside the three Directors. Many of CDK’s employees and sub-contractors have been with the company for a long time now, and have developed an appreciation for CDK’s personal approach and emphasis on education and training. The company works hard to ensure that all of its staff are up to date on training in both OH&S and skills training in the latest techniques.

“We take on occupational health and safety as our prime issue,” emphasises Mr Day. “Every single person in the company is trained to Level Three in Occupational Health and Safety. We see that as our most important objective, making sure the works are carried out in a safe and proper manner.”

Mr Day also says that CDK is unique in its ability to look beyond the project requirements and to focus on the needs of its clients. “We don’t possess, I have to say, unique building knowledge – no one does, really – but we certainly go out of our way to have a happy client at the end of the day. We are known among our clients as a non-adversarial builder who doesn’t just pursue every penny that’s available.”

Despite its focused approach, CDK is clearly a force within the industry, and was recognised in 2009 for its financial strength by the Victorian Business Awards for Building and Allied Services. The award, which is by invitation only, recognises businesses which have exceptional financial strength and stability. Peter Day was modest in his comments regarding the award, saying, “Other than doing the right thing as far as our financial records and our fairly conservative approach to business… we don’t consider ourselves extraordinary; we maintain a strong balance sheet, we undertake work that we can handle, thoroughly and carefully, and we stay within our skill set.”

At the moment, CDK is focusing on a variety of new Construction Management projects, which see its staff working together with the clients’ teams rather than as two separate units. While Mr Day says that on all projects, the company endeavours to work closely with the client, he particularly enjoys these types of construction management projects as they allow the company’s strengths to shine through. “We see ourselves always as a team member on the delivery of a project, rather than on opposing sides to the client,” he explains.

As the industry continues to find its way through difficult economic and environmental turns, it will be these strengths which enable CDK Commercial Construction to rise in success and strength. Without looking to costly overheads or complicated diversions, CDK needs only rely on its specialised skills and friendly approach.

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May 26, 2020, 5:47 AM AEST