Building is the Easy Part

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-By John Boley

Rahan Constructions celebrates its 20th Anniversary and a sustainable successful building outlook beyond 2013. It would be a major understatement to suggest that Rahan Constructions values its clients highly. This is, after all, a company that went to the trouble of trademarking the expression “Building Relationships.

Building relationships is essentially what differentiates a good builder from an indifferent one, according to Rahan Constructions’ Director Bill North. For him, the relationship component is the important element. “We often talk about building being the relatively easy part; it is really managing people and delivering a process that makes the difference – managing not only the external clients’ needs and wishes, together with our subcontractors and suppliers and Rahan internal procedures to make sure that we have the best chance of delivering a fantastic project for our clients.” ‘Building relationships™’ sums up Rahan, he says, because it is “something we believe in not only externally but internally with our own staff and subcontractors.”

Bill is in his second tenure period with Rahan, having worked for founder Doug Hargrave, Managing Director, in the late 1990s as a Contract Administrator. Bill returned in 2003 as Manager and took up his current position as Director in 2006. Both Doug and Bill have been in construction for more than 30 years. Bill explains that it is no secret some jobs go more smoothly than others. Often you cannot predict which will be good and which not so good, but the best ones, the more satisfactory ones, are where “people leave their ego outside the site shed.”

He goes along with the frequently expressed view that the relationship between the various people working on a project – for example architect, superintendent, project manager, builder and the client – is too often adversarial, but at Rahan, “we have moved a long way from that.” The best, the most productive projects are those where “we work as a collaborative group and solutions for the building process are a team effort.” Bill cites one particular client for whom Rahan’s first job, won on a hard money tender, turned out to be problematic – issues of town planning, supply and subcontracting – but “we got in and worked collaboratively” and, 25 projects later, the relationship with that client is “beautifully” strong and productive.

This constructive ‘can-do’ approach has its own rewards even in a tough market in Victoria (Rahan Constructions has its main office in Collingwood, in Melbourne’s north-east). Bill says the company has never marketed itself in a big way. “Traditionally the work has been coming in via word of mouth. That is still happening now and the relationships maintained over years of repeat projects with some architectural firms ensure that we are still receiving notification of tenders which aren’t through marketing or having to register. Rahan was contacted by a consultant that we had worked with about four years ago for a recent tender. That has been one of the blessings of Rahan, I suppose, that even in tight times we can still get the projects to come through, to price competitively and hopefully win.”

Rahan’s company size has proven sustainable for 20 years. Both Directors are of the viewpoint that sometimes larger doesn’t mean better. “Of course people tell me that we should be out marketing more and becoming bigger and better.

Rahan has something of a niche in the education and aged care sector, although over the years the company has seen showrooms, fire stations, warehousing and retail/apartment projects diversify its project portfolio. Rahan is always open to projects that are challenging. “That is the beauty of this game.”

The aged care sector is growing fast, Bill confirms. “From a buildability or architectural point of view it does not present as great a statement as doing a state of the art design like a university. But it provides opportunities in the fact that we are an ageing population that we will have to service. So that is an opportunity, certainly – in terms of sheer numbers. I don’t know what that will mean in 50 years’ time – if we are not having enough kids, does that mean we will have an Australia full of aged care facilities with no one to go in them? I don’t know, but it is certainly a booming sector at the moment.”

Rahan Constructions has a valued staffing team. “We have about 35 people, of which there are nine located at Head Office and the balance form our construction team on the sites, from site managers to site labourers. We also have our own carpentry crew, where we are developing apprenticeships.” It is important, Bill says, to provide continuity of staff through training, for those members “to be our next leaders as we evolve. We believe in trying to provide the best facilities that we can at Head Office to encourage people to stay, develop and grow. Similarly, on site we believe in training and bringing people up to new levels all the time because it is our team of people who make Rahan. It is not necessarily Bill North or Doug Hargrave – it’s the guys underneath delivering for our clients, architects and superintendents, so we certainly believe in the value of our people.”

It’s the same story with the subcontractors. Building relationships pays dividends. “We all try to do things on time, on budget. We continually develop great relationships with people to deliver that, which is what we are about.” The client’s needs are really quite simple, says Bill. “They want a quality facility handed over to them, ready to use in the way that was planned, with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of issues. And that’s what we try to achieve.”

It’s no great surprise then that Rahan has collected its own band of loyal subcontractors that are used on a regular basis. “We have quite a few subcontractors who we can turn to for additional support, expertise and manpower as and when required. It’s a very pleasing situation to be in.”

Rahan certainly employs the best of some traditional values but as Bill points out, Rahan is also a progressive firm. When he, himself returned to Rahan he insisted on bringing with him a job costing system that he regards as the best. It is an Australian system with integrated accounting, payroll and job costing. A long association with the software provider has nurtured an Australia wide business forum, networked from the construction industry and a solid users group. “Rahan,” he says, “certainly pushes the boundaries as to the software capabilities and what we expect to get out of it both efficiently and accurately. It is another relationship where we talk about building or growing together, because they understand our needs and we understand what they are trying to do with the Australian market. I think that is a very important component of getting our buildings constructed.” As he said before, Bill reminds us that the actual “building is the easy bit!”

To contact Rahan, please visit the company website at www.rahan.com.au.

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November 29, 2020, 1:24 AM AEDT