Building Happy Customers

Full Tilt Constructions

Brad explains that he started up the company 10 years ago and after the first year found himself with many projects, prompting a number of staff he had previously worked with to come and join Full Tilt. It “just grew from there.”

Currently a workforce of almost 20 is typically occupied with 5 to 10 projects at any one time. “We have managed to keep busy,” says Brad, through the relatively rough economic times of 2009 to 2012 and, he says, “we look like hiring more people in 2013.”

Many of the company’s projects are based on tilt-panel construction techniques but the team also excels in constructing large-scale projects without concrete panels. “It doesn’t worry us whether it’s tilt-panel or not,” explains Brad. Concrete work generally is something of a speciality because of the large amount that goes into most buildings, but despite the company’s name, it does not concentrated solely on the tilt-panel option. In fact, Brad and his team are happy to work with a variety of methods. “We recently completed a large renovation and built a carbon fibre manufacturing facility inside an existing hangar at Bankstown airport,” he shares. “There are pharmaceutical-grade clean rooms with epoxy floors and special ventilation systems and lighting.”

The company also completed an aquatic centre recently, and other projects include transport terminals, cafés, child care centres, showrooms and warehouses. Another interesting current project is a purpose built oil blending facility for Australia’s largest privately owned oil company. “Not so many factories these days because there is less manufacturing in Australia,” says Brad. “Ten years ago we were building half factories, half warehouses, but now it’s 95 per cent warehouses [in the industrial sector].”

Brad says that a large part of the company’s business comes from referrals. “We have a company motto of ‘Happy Customers’ and we do whatever we can to make our customers happy. If we do that and they are excited by the design and construction process, they tell lots of other businesses and developers.” But surely everyone says the same – they look after their customers? “In this case, this is my personal core value,” emphasises Brad. “I have been in stressful environments in my previous employment that kind of turned me off at a young age. We pay all our bills promptly, our contractors are enthusiastic about working for us, we expect our customers to pay us promptly and they do, and we have never had a dispute or legal issue with either customer or subcontractor.” It is vital to stay friends with the customer, he says, because otherwise no one derives any career satisfaction. “So you try to do what they ask for… That’s our motto, it’s printed everywhere, all our staff know about it, and we don’t fight or bicker with our customers. Don’t be bitter, be better.”

Brad says the result, which is a seemingly endless stream of satisfied clients who obligingly pay their bills on time, has involved a little bit of luck but also depends on taking a careful look at potential projects and clients before signing contracts. “I have a number of processes in place to ensure that we don’t end up with bad debts,” he explains. On the other side of the equation, it is important not to mess the subbies around either. Brad is pragmatic: “We want to be efficient in price, and contractors don’t give efficient prices to people who mess them around.” Full Tilt Constructions will try to give a contractor an accurate description up front of what they are expected to do, together with assurance that they will be paid, and in return the contractor will complete their work to a high standard for the right price. “Many of our contractors do perhaps 80 per cent of their work for us. We have had trades tell us we are the best builder to work for – bar none – in term of consistency and prompt payments.”

Not incidental to all this is that Full Tilt Constructions has support from the very best trades who enjoy working with the company. Producing high quality work leads to many referrals. Indeed, Brad cites one recent example of a substantial company that, before hiring Full Tilt, talked to pretty much a cross section of the entire industry including contractors, architects, engineers, certifiers, trades, suppliers, customers and banks, “and told us he had thought there was something wrong because he couldn’t find anyone to say a single bad word about us at all. These are all advantages that far outweigh the renowned builder / sub-contractor relationship of pressuring subcontractors for a few dollars on every project. That’s a short-sighted approach.”

Brad has a goal of growing the size of the company’s largest project each year and has been largely successful. As you might expect by now, his philosophy is simple: when you manage to win larger projects and do them well, “months later, because of that project, you might pick up another and the average project size just keeps on increasing. The goal is controlled growth without errors.” Another eminently sensible observation: Brad says he can make more money over twelve months by doing one extra project than by spending that time fighting the contractors over a few dollars.

Brad also likes to keep it local. Full Tilt will generally work within a two-hour radius of Sydney. “That takes us as far as Bathurst, north to Newcastle or south to Wollongong or beyond, so that’s quite a big area,” he says. “But most of our projects are in the Sydney basin and there is plenty of work here.”

The Bankstown airport project, in particular, involved setting up a manufacturing facility to make carbon fibre panels for the aviation industry. Full Tilt Constructions set up very specialised foundations for machinery; the Italian machine supplier said in writing they were the best footings they had ever seen worldwide and installed the equipment in a third of the time they normally allocate because of the accuracy of the concrete construction. A lot of fit-out work was involved rather than just concrete works, and all was completed on time. The development works involved the refurbishment of an existing aircraft hangar for the manufacture of components to be used in the new joint strike jet fighter being commissioned by the US and Australian governments. The scope of works involved the upgrade and extension of the existing hangar to relevant Australian Standards and included the retro-fitting and installation of new plant, upgrading of fire services and high voltage power supply to the site. The development’s key features are the autoclave installation with associated equipment and the positive-pressure clean-room with climate control.

In a different vein, Brad says he spent close to nine months learning about “the intricacies of the aquatic environment and design principles” before Full Tilt Constructions took on the design and construct Nepean Aquatic Centre and Café in Penrith, an indoor complex which incorporates a Learn to Swim Pool measuring 12.5m x 13.2m and a separate lap pool which has 4 x 25m lanes and 2 x 50m lanes. Here, the company worked with a Sydney consultant considered the best in the industry, who helped educate the Full Tilt team on the aquatic best practice design principles; the result is considered perhaps the best of its kind in western Sydney (the facility is operating at capacity less than two years after opening, well in advance of the forecast). The development also includes a large reception area, swim shop, men’s and women’s amenities and change rooms with a separate parents / disabled change room, 220 square metre multi-purpose room overlooking the main pool, an external independent modern café facility with outdoor seating and off street parking, and driveway areas for 68 cars covering a total area of 4,664 square metres. This project is one of many mixed commercial uses on the 16,500 square metre site.

Learning on the job? What would the client think? There’s a first time for everything, Brad says, and by working with consultants in preparing a design he can control the cost elements because he knows the construction methods and associated costs from reviewing designs. “I think the customer is happier that, although I might be learning about a specific environment, they are keeping better control and they feel more comfortable.” All part of the full-on thinking of Full Tilt Constructions.

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’?

March 29, 2020, 9:56 PM AEDT