The Fundamentals of Success

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-By Aleisha Parr

As a civil and structural engineering consultancy, Pritchard Francis works across a broad range of sectors, including health, education, aged care, industrial, mining and resource, retail commercial, multi-storey commercial and residential, site remediation, civil infrastructure, land development, and more.

While this seemingly is exactly what your average, run-of-the-mill engineering consultancy will do, Pritchard Francis sets itself apart in the industry by approaching each project innovatively, working to provide not only excellence in engineering skills, but also an unrivaled focus on what the company calls “the right solution.”

“The fundamentals of engineering are all the same,” explains Arthur Psaltis, Managing Director, “whether it’s for an office building or a high school, and I suppose that’s what we focus on.”

Mr Psaltis says that unlike many other firms, his company does not train its staff prescriptively, but rather holistically. “Sometimes when you get trained prescriptively you tend to limit your range of abilities, whereas we train people so they learn the fundamentals and always rely back on basic engineering principles. That allows you to use those basic engineering principles in a whole variety of different ways, applying them into different situations.”

In this way, the company has developed a stellar reputation for bringing to each project an innovative approach whilst working across such a broad range of sectors.

“I think some lay people would probably see it in a very pigeon-hole way – you design either steel or you design concrete or you design schools or shopping centers, but you don’t cross over, but it’s very different to that. As long as you’ve got the basic engineering principles, right then you can design any of the things and just adapt those principles into what you’re doing. We like to think that people come to us for our technical excellence and our innovation.”

“When we use the word innovation, it’s not necessarily breaking new ground every time,” he explains, “It’s really about taking an approach where we can see the opportunities to be innovative and acting on them. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to come up with a different concept each time, just that you’re aware of the options and choose the right one every time.”

The philosophy behind this approach to innovation, explains Mr Psaltis, is to imbue each member of the Pritchard Francis team with a mindset of providing that “right” approach and the “right” answer. This usually is defined by carefully balancing the customer’s demands and the ultimate requirements of the project itself – innovation within Pritchard Francis is never about the company showing off, but rather, showing up and delivering each and every time.

“We have to maintain excellence in engineering,” says Mr Psaltis, “but also maintain a high level of service because you must do both together. Client satisfaction is a very strong part of our culture, and really that comes down to listening to and understanding your client and appreciating what they want out of the project, what results they’re anticipating or hoping for.” This, obviously, is different on every job, taking into consideration the broad range of areas of specialty undertaken by the fundamentals-focused company. Mr Psaltis credits his team’s ability to be adaptable enough to understand each client’s needs and expectations, individually on a project by project basis. The team members behind this success, says Mr Psaltis, are second to none in terms of their calibre of talent as well as their dedication to the company.

In support of this, Pritchard Francis has developed a strong relationship with the UWA engineering department, including participation in bi-annual graduate student training modules, guest lectures, joint research programs, and perhaps most notably – the Pritchard Francis Scholarship Program. This program, which has been in place now for nearly a decade, assists senior level students through financial sponsorship. While the students in receipt of this award are under no obligation to join the Pritchard Francis team after graduation, Mr Psaltis boasts that all of the last nine scholarship winners are currently employed by the company. “We’ve had almost an un-blotched copy book when it comes to graduate recruitment. They tend to join us and once they start with us, they stay with us.”

Another initiative which Pritchard Francis has adopted for its employees is a partnership with a number of like businesses along the east coast, providing select staff members the opportunity to work together or on skills-exchange with those companies.

“It can help with a few of those financial ebbs and flows,” says Mr Psaltis, “but it also allows us the opportunity to broaden individuals’ experiences internally without necessarily having them leave the company.”

In everything the company does, Mr Psaltis says the focus is always on maintaining excellence in engineering work and providing the highest level of service. In addition, the company places emphasis on three key words which help provide the necessary guidance to achieve those goals – professionalism, integrity and innovation.

“If we believe that we’re being compromised on what we’re ultimately trying to achieve then we’ll question that and try adding value to the process. This means not just looking after your own little domain, but assessing the input of others and making sure that holistically, everyone is providing the right input that produces the right results at the end.”

Although this approach is often touted by similar firms, Mr Psaltis assures us that Pritchard Francis is about more than simply playing lip service – the company is all about taking the “right” actions. “If we feel it’s appropriate and warranted then we’re not afraid to go out and do some research or get an independent review done or even do some specific testing. In cases where we have gone off and done project testing because we weren’t comfortable with answers that we were getting following the more traditional approach, it has led to significant savings on projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

As testament to this, Harry Xydas, Managing Director of Doric Group, had this to say of Pritchard Francis, “I was impressed with their lateral thinking and economic design adopted for the project, but most important, for their genuine commitment to achieve the best result for the client.”

Clients John Edgar of EIW Architects, and Jim Litis of Primewest Management concurred, saying respectively, “[Pritchard Francis’] thinking and design of structural matters is current and innovative, yet sensible and cost effective,” and “Their solution to the potentially costly ground conditions was unique and a major saving.”

“Over many years we’ve built a good reputation, and we’re very focused now on maintaining that and improving on that if we can,” says Mr Psaltis. “Other work is being done to make sure that our firm stays dynamic and is not stagnant.” By this, Mr Psaltis means not necessarily that the company will be seeing more signs of growth, but rather, that it is developing dynamically, carrying out its business in new ways that are more appropriate and successful for each project undertaken.

“Even though we’re a very young firm as far as directorship goes,” he continues, “we’re very focused on succession planning and ensuring that the business has a strong future. It all fundamentally comes down to employing the highest calibre people, which we’ve always done.”

Looking ahead, Mr Psaltis says he would like to continue to grow the company profile. “We’re now working with a lot of national and international clients, and I think that will provide opportunities for us to grow our profile.” As the company has grown it has simultaneously worked to broaden its work profile.

“We’ve seen some real opportunities in the resource industry,” says Mr Psaltis, “in which we’re currently working. I can see some growth opportunities there for us and also within large civil infrastructure work – they’re the two areas we see as real growth potential areas, in being able to broaden our work profile. We’d also like to broaden our expertise, whether it’s through sustainability or otherwise, so we need to continue to develop our skills in those areas to make the most of opportunities when they come past our door.”

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January 25, 2021, 8:31 PM AEDT