Getting Personal

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-By George Khera

Dating back to 1995, James Trowse Constructions Pty Ltd, a predominantly building and construction entity, has served South East Queensland with pride. The operation has found growth and success in the highly competitive construction market, and now, with over 45 years of combined experience between its two owner-directors, is poised to tackle projects ranging in value from ten thousand to thirty-five million dollars. As a smaller and younger company, James Trowse Constructions has made its personalised touch its stock in trade, and with a hands-on approach, the company is able to meet and exceed client needs whilst adhering to strict budgets and timelines.

The period between the early 2000’s and 2007, in particular, stood out as strong growth years for James Trowse Constructions. The company – and the industry as a whole – boomed during this period, says Simon Mountford, one of the company’s two directors, but the market of course changed with the onset of the GFC. Government stimulus spending served to cushion the impact on the construction industry, but coming out of it now, Mr Mountford says that “the industry is going through a very tough period at the moment… it’s a very tight and tough market, being fiercely tendered by the players in the game.” Private sector work has certainly not been robust enough to make up for the end of the stimulus spending, he says, and it has proven to be very competitive in the marketplace.

In spite of the challenging state of the industry, James Trowse continues to carve out a niche for itself. Specialising in small and medium sized projects, the firm’s turnover has consistently grown over the years, and its roster of valued repeat clients has grown as well. One of James Trowse Constructions’ competitive advantages is that it is what Mr Mountford calls a “small, lean organisation.” Its two directors, he says, “are very much working directors… heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the business,” a model which clients appreciate as it assures them of personalised and professional attention at every step. The company also keeps much of its expertise in-house. “We employ a lot of trades directly. We have a large labour force compared to our competitors,” says Mr Mountford, along with a large fleet of plant equipment, enabling the company to keep quality top of mind “without relying on subcontractors.”

“We undertake excavation, earthworks, concrete works, carpentry works, ceiling and partition works, and roofing works, with our own labour and plant equipment. We have the ability to control those aspects of the project more closely.”

The company is also able to develop its own projects from start to finish; in fact, this has proven to be a good strategy for firm as it tries to power through the lean times of the post-GFC marketplace. To date, James Trowse has completed a small commercial structure, a large industrial building, and a residential complex, all developed and constructed in-house. Going forward, the company is also looking at tackling more remote work, taking advantage of Queensland’s mining and coal seam gas boom.

Of course, the company would surely prefer to have steady private sector work in the pipeline; but in the lean times in the industry the firm is well suited to steering its own course, with its broad in-house skills base and dedicated staff. James Trowse employs a number of building cadets, giving them “practical on-the-job training whilst they’re undertaking their studies,” says Mr Mountford. “Over the past ten years we’ve had a significant number of young fellows that have spent time here in our office learning the ropes.” Apprentices, too, comprise about 10 per cent of the company’s onsite work force. And of course, the organisation boasts a solid core group of foremen and site managers who’ve been with the company since the beginning, when it was a subcontracting firm – a group Mr Mountford describes as “very loyal and hardworking.”

The company’s drive and its workhorse sensibility – coupled with the Building the Education Revolution stimulus – has enabled it to build up a strong portfolio of school constructions. Mr Mountford says, “We’ve built up a bit of a speciality in the education sector in the last four or five years,” and proudly describes St Columba’s School, situated in Wilston in southern Brisbane. This challenging and “intricate” project involved the extensive renovation and expansion of an existing heritage-listed timber school hall, and proved to be “a bit of a landmark for us – a very rewarding project.” The company has also lent its considerable experience to a number of other school constructions and refurbishments in recent years.

Other unique projects the company has tackled include the Southernex Imaging Centre at Clayfield; and the GPO Hotel in Fortitude Valley. The former saw the complete refurbishment and conversion of a two storey brick building into a Southernex Imaging Centre and Medical Centre. The work included the lifting and conversion of two separate timber dwellings into a single building for medical offices with carparking under. The GPO Hotel project involved the conversion and extension of the historic Fortitude Valley post office into a multi-faceted hotel comprising bars, restaurant, function room, bottle shop and gaming room, and went on to win a Queensland Master Builders Award.

While James Trowse Constructions’ ability to tackle just about any task inevitably means that many of the company’s projects are one-offs, the firm also enjoys repeat business, owing strongly to its reputation in the field. As Mr Mountford says, the company “always delivers,” and the Directors are known in the industry as men of their word. The Directors – Simon Mountford and partner Andrew Trowse – take the approach of partnering with clients, ensuring transparency, trust, and an accurate interpretation of the client’s vision at every turn. As Mr Mountford says, “Handing your project over to James Trowse Constructions means giving the job to the very directors of the company… every one of our client is a big client.”

The team also enjoys strong working relationships with its suppliers, several of whom have worked with the company for upwards of 15 to 20 years.

Going forward, the company plans to modernise its marketing approach. While its solid reputation has meant that a lot of business comes to the firm through word-of-mouth, Mr Mountford says that the company is looking at re-launching its website and making a concerted effort to garner new business and raise its profile in the broader community. He and partner Andrew Trowse are aiming at “gradual growth” for the company in the coming years – continuing to expand its reach whilst maintaining the dedicated staff and personalised touch that has gotten the company to where it is today. While Simon Mountford is modest about his “small company”, it’s clear that James Trowse Constructions possesses a winning formula: a hands-on approach, dedicated and personalised service, and a commitment to deliver.

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’?

May 26, 2020, 6:33 AM AEST