Quality Since 1964

Stewart Constructions

“I was hired to come into the company by the chairman of the board, to do a strategic review,” Michael explains. “I enjoyed the work so much and I enjoyed the company so much that I stayed on ever since.”

Stewart Constructions was launched on April 1st, 1964, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. The founder of the company was a structural engineer by the name of David Stewart, who initially ran the company out of his house. At the time of its inception, Stewart Constructions was based heavily on engineering works as well abattoirs and cold rooms.

The company began doing a lot of design and construction work around processing and production works, while earning a strong reputation over the years and growing steadily and organically. As the market changed and a lot of the processing tables began to be designed and imported from overseas, the company had to evolve by moving into areas of general construction.

The company took a particular focus on public tender work for the Queensland Government. “The jobs were advertised, and anyone could price them,” explains Michael. “Most of the jobs that were advertised this way had to do with schools. By that stage, the company had grown and moved into proper offices which David owned personally, away from the company.”

David Stewart retired from the company in the mid 1990s due to age and deteriorating health. At that point the company was sold to David’s son and a few executives who had been working for the company. After the company changed hands, David was able to stay on as part of the board until his retirement.

By 1997, when Michael Jackson came on board, the company was still largely focusing on work for schools and other public tenders. Michael explains, “I did quite a review; I looked at market segments, profitability, the rates of return in the various markets, and we decided that we needed to – without walking away from that market – develop other markets, particularly select tenders and negotiated contracts which meant that we would have to start marketing to key client groups. As a result of that change in focus, the company hasn’t grown in size but is more focused on the type of work it is getting involved with these days.”

Today, Stewart Constructions does a lot of work in private schools, health facilities, and universities. The company has gained specialised skills in high end laboratory work, and as a result its biggest client is the University of Queensland and other tertiary institutions. “We have a very good reputation for laboratory work, particularly for the University of Queensland,” says Michael.

“Having said all of that,” he continues, “we haven’t forgotten all of our older clients, because repeat business is very important to us. In just the last six months we have done work for industrial companies like Nuplex and Bandag, which are national companies. Industrial work was the genesis of the company back in the beginning. We try hard to balance our existing customer base while gaining new clients and we are always working to further develop our skills.”

Potential customers and repeat customers alike look for a good price when it comes to tendering a contract. The issue with picking the company that is always offering the lowest price, of course, is the potential for corners to be cut and service to be sacrificed. Stewart Constructions goes an extra step, by offering a competitive price that includes service and style.

“The dollar is what the client always looks at, but our point of differentiation is that we like to value add with exceptional service,” says Michael. “That’s why we like to look for repeat business; we never ever want to walk away from a job without the client being absolutely comfortable and happy enough to have us on the next job.” said Michael, “It doesn’t mean that we will get the next job, but if we are put on the tender list it means that we have a shot. So as a result we do get a lot of repeat business, which has held us in good stead during this recent downturn.”

Stewart Constructions is a medium sized, second or third tier construction company that is privately owned by Michael Jackson and his Co-Director Peter Viggers. The owners have a very clear idea of the company’s expertise and capability. With the recent challenges that have impacted the industry there is no room for mistakes. In most cases, when a construction company folds, it will happen during a job that was just too much to handle financially, due to the lean times brought about by the current economic situation.

As a result, says Michael, “We are very controlled about what we can do. We specialise in projects in value up to 10 to 12 million dollars.”

Even though Stewart Constructions’ project selection process might be a little stricter than at many companies, its annual turnover remains at a healthy 15 to 17 million dollars per year. The company is interested in slow and steady growth rather than taking on unnecessary risk. Having said that, Stewart Constructions is always looking to do something new, using new technology to install new types of lab equipment and expand the team’s own technical knowledge. It is the company’s philosophy that it is very important to broaden horizons and take on new and interesting tasks that involve learning new techniques.

To view examples of work that has been completed by Stewart Constructions, one could simply visit a campus: Recently, the company built a 4.5 million dollar lecture theatre at the University of Queensland on the Ipswich Campus, which has garnered an award from the Institute of Architects as one of Queensland’s best public buildings for 2011.

Another high profile project, completed last year, was the University of Queensland Aquatic Centre. The company was actually asked to fast track the project, and it came out very well. The University had an aquatic centre previously but it had been damaged by flooding, and needed an upgrade.

One of the company’s most interesting projects, Michael shares, actually involved a laboratory clean room that was fully imported from France. The Stewart Constructions team had to deal with a French technician to oversee the installation. Unfortunately his English skills did not match his technical skills. As a result a lot of sign language was used, and yet the clean room was completed in accordance with the strict laboratory guidelines, achieving the highest levels of laboratory cleanliness.

“We love to add value at all stages,” Michael emphasises. “I think that the blend of experience from the construction staff and the non construction side allows us to do that very efficiently. We are a very good team that works well together.”

Ultimately, Stewart Constructions is interested in how the customer operates and what can be done to make things easier for that particular customer. This is done by finding out key information about the client, for example how they operate and how they will be using the new space that is being constructed. “We try and look at the big picture, and it really pays off with repeat business.”

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’?

October 23, 2021, 12:57 PM AEDT