High-End Value for the Money

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-By John Boley

There is a considerable variety of projects in the ‘finished’ folder of Monarch Building Solutions Pty Ltd, but as the string of awards won can testify, in its short life so far the company’s projects have a common theme – quality. Prizes have included the MBA’s national award for Display Home – over $500,000 in 2010, when Monarch also had a House of the Year, Display Home of the Year and Custom Built Home $600,000 – $1 million for its 7 Irwin St Yarralumla project and a Commercial – Interior Finish – $1 million – $3 million for the Botswana High Commission, among others.

Monarch was set up in November 2005 by Joe Pratezina and Marco Galeotti, operating on small to medium commercial, industrial, residential and development projects throughout Canberra and its surroundings. After establishing a strong base in this area of operation it allowed for Monarch Building Solutions to expand into larger projects. Marco, who himself won the 2010 Master Builders Association of Australia National Young Builder of the Year award, told us more.

“We started off with the intention of specialising mainly in fitout work – offices, retail, restaurants – and gradually that led on to bigger and better projects. We became involved in major construction and our biggest project to date has been a construction in the region of eight million dollars.” But the company can advise and act in much smaller jobs too.

“Our attention to detail,” says Marco, “and the quality of our construction is probably our strongest point here in Canberra and I think we are probably still best known for our fitout work – that is still the core business.”

From five employees at start-up time, Monarch has progressed to a current complement of 44. “We have a strong book of work and from the building side we have branched out into other areas – we have our own interiors business now as well with our own full-time carpenters, plasterers and painters,” and although hitherto the company has concentrated on luxury housing, it is setting up a division to handle affordable housing too to bring a quality aspect to that market and showcase the company’s ability to be competitive throughout all areas of the construction scene. A strong client in this area is ACT Housing.

Monarch tries to aim at clients who “want a quality finish and a quality job,” says Marco, “and we try to make sure we stick to what the original intention was with our finishings and fittings.” It may not always be possible to provide precisely what the architect or interior designer had in mind, but Marco and his team have an ability to understand and appreciate that initial vision and make sure that is adhered to.

Many clients tend to engage Monarch and pick the collective company brain for design input – and Marco says he is happy to chip in and give clients options. “Having worked with a lot of different materials and products – not just with Monarch but before we started this company too – has given me the ability to offer different avenues, different solutions for people who might otherwise not know about them.” In the high-end residential business, for example, a customer may be able to describe the kind of ‘feel’ that is wanted for a particular finish or surface, and Marco can take the clues and descriptions and come up with something that fits the bill to the client’s satisfaction. “We get a lot of high-end quality products on our commercial work,” he says. A recent example is a boutique-style bar where the finishes included a tile costing around $90 dollars per 150x150mm tile – something in the region of $4,500 per square metre. “Because we get experience of such products in our commercial work, we are able to advise on them in the residential field as well.”

Another recent project was the $7 million King Street stage 2. This site was a former swimming pool, “where we extended the building to make it three levels and fitted a new 25-lane swimming pool in on the ground floor so the commercial office area of some 3,000 square metres is built over it.”

As the string of MBA awards demonstrates, Monarch is at its best in the high-end market. It knows how to specify and use top-quality fittings. But Marco demolishes the concept that high-end must always mean ‘expensive.’ “Once our clients actually see what we are doing for the money, then they realise it’s not expensive. We go far beyond the basic requirements for our clients and a lot of hard work goes into ensuring they get what they want.”

By definition, a high-end project costs a lot of money so in that sense it is automatically ‘expensive’ – “but that does not mean the cost is excessive.” A very high proportion of work is repeat business, Marco points out, and the company understands budgets. “There’s no point trying to do a two-million dollar job if the client’s budget is one million.” In this respect there is no difference between high-end projects and the run-of-the-mill – understanding the client’s requirements is paramount. “We need to work with the client to make sure they get what they want.”

Marketing for Monarch generally means ‘word of mouth.’ “We tender for government work, of course, but apart from that I would say 90 per cent of our work is word of mouth and single select. We tend not to compete very much with other builders in the work we do,” Marco says. “I really don’t want to make this sound in any way pretentious, but I think the majority of our clients have more or less made up their minds before they come to us. They want us to do their fit outs.”

Marco stresses the team effort involved at Monarch. “It’s one big team and we are all hands-on. I get to every site, every day and I see exactly what my guys are doing.” Training is done in-house and there are eight apprentices on the books, “so we do think about bringing new guys into the industry. We have a strong commitment to developing a continuous improvement culture which, in turn, forms the foundation of our business relationships with our customers, suppliers and subcontractors. It’s all about securing the progression of this construction company.”

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’?

January 21, 2021, 9:36 PM AEDT