Making It Easy

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-By Aleisha Parr

“These are interesting times, really,” muses Dale Kennedy, Managing Director for Melbourne’s up and coming fitout and construction company, Harris HMC in a recent interview. Interesting indeed, with construction costs continuing to rise, and projects being put on hold with both finance and feasibility issues. With its long and committed history of innovation and evolution, Harris HMC is one company not afraid to push forward through the difficulties.  In fact, in a time when uncertainty has been the only consistent trend, Harris HMC has grown its turnover by 30%, now reporting over $80 million this financial year.  In fact, all signs suggest that the company will continue this trend into the next year as well.

“We recognise it is not always what we do, but how we do it, that separates Harris HMC from the rest,” a statement from Harris HMC’s website proclaims.  Supporting that sentiment are the company’s continued efforts to reduce construction costs through value engineering, building smarter and more efficiently so as to ensure that more projects get off the ground. “When you’re doing a good job for your clients, there are ample opportunities put in front of you” adds Dale. “We made a decision to grow our business by demand – and try to focus on improving what we do, which ultimately leads to turnover growth.  But it’s a tight market, and price competition will increase generally as we go forward with the government tightening the purse strings.”

While these conditions have had some effect on Harris HMC, as much of its work revolves around University and Government funded projects, the company is also involved in the commercial fitout area and private development projects, with a focus on building low to medium-rise apartments through its Construction division.

By operating four separate but associated divisions, covering Construction, Interiors, Maintenance and Electrics, Harris HMC is able to offer clients a complete service from project start through to completion and after-care, which not only sets it apart as a comprehensive and highly qualified service provider, but also as an efficient and reliable solution.  The extensive coverage resulting from this is all part of Harris HMC’s focus on “making it easy” for its clients.  Says Dale Kennedy, “We hold a diverse range of skills in-house, and with numbers, we can really power up on projects to achieve top results.”

Also key to Harris HMC’s great success is its commitment to innovation and initiative.  Dale Kennedy relates that to what he terms, “being on the front foot,” which ties back into the overall theme at Harris HMC of making things easy for its clients.

“Taking initiative, for example,” explains Mr Kennedy, “projects will always have obstacles to overcome in construction, that’s all part of building. What we do is use our initiative, by investigating a number of solutions and communicating those to the client team, [saying]: ‘These are the alternatives.  We believe in this method for these reasons,’ and offer them the opportunity to select which path to go down. So it’s a matter of going the step further, and working to find the best outcome for the client.  Rather than just putting your hand up and saying there’s a problem, put up your hand and say this is the issue, and these are the options.”

This initiative is fostered throughout the company, with a strong emphasis on investing in professional development through training, education and career pathways.  Explains Mr Kennedy, “We have a focus on learning and being the best you can be, so we try and give people as much opportunity as they can handle.  We support and mentor our staff right through their career. We have examples where site staff have taken on an office-based role, so they’ve gone from apprentice, to carpenter, to site manager, and then into a project management role.”

While many staff members have been with the company for quite some time and have amassed extensive industry experience and expertise, Mr Kennedy reports the firm is also quite proud of the energy brought to the table by its younger staff members.  He continues, “We are a young and energetic bunch, so there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm and drive in the business.”

This enthusiasm can be seen not only in the standard work completed by Harris HMC, but also in its take up of new initiatives and opportunities.  Reports Mr Kennedy, “We’re always looking for opportunities and various ways we can improve. From new development projects, to procurement strategies and prefabrication, and looking at modular construction, which is an upcoming area we’re currently researching.”

Another area of great importance to Harris HMC is environmental conservancy.  The company offers a variety of solutions for every project to assist in recycling, reducing waste and utilising renewable resources wherever possible.

The area where this initiative most shines, however, is through Harris HMC Electrics, where the current trend toward complete refits and efficiency upgrades is rapidly growing in popularity.  Common solutions undertaken by Harris HMC Electrics include simple measures such as replacing T8 light fittings to energy efficient T5 alternatives and installing timers and motion sensors to cut back on unnecessary energy usage.  “Simple things like that do make a difference, and aren’t cost prohibitive,” explains Dale Kennedy.  “…more people are realising the cost of energy is increasing, and we’re noticing more interest in refitting entire buildings, whereas previously it might have been only a single tenancy within the building.”

These types of small details exemplify the unique characteristic of Harris HMC, setting it apart as a dedicated and client-focused company.  Remarks Mr Kennedy, “It’s something we’ll never lose sight of.  The way I see it, the two most important parts of our business are our clients and our staff, and those two things come before everything else.”

“I had a client, who not long ago said ‘Don’t ever change your client focus.  You’re big enough to get the job done, but you still look after your clients.  I know if I have an issue, I can pick up the phone and talk to you.’  He said, ‘don’t change that, because the bigger guys don’t get it.'”

With the future continuing to look strong, Harris HMC is planning to meet that opportunity with the same spirit and determination it has since the days when Dale’s own father, Arthur Kennedy, first formed the company, instilling the values of customer satisfaction, dedication, teamwork, learning, safety and ownership.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

August 19, 2018, 7:49 AM AEST