Graphite Projects, established in 2012 by Managing Director Joe Fusca and Directors Michael Cerci, Stephen Henry, and Nicholas Stergiou, has rapidly grown to become a well-respected member of Sydney’s fitout and refurbishment market.
The business was conceptualised in December 2011, when Mr Fusca and his partners left the firm that they had worked with for almost 2 decades. “Once we resigned, we put our heads together, and decided that forming our own business was the best option for us. We had no work lined up and really didn’t know what to expect, we also didn’t know how the market would accept us as a new company.” Joe recalls. “It’s been quite a rewarding journey, establishing a business from scratch, coming up with a name, and creating its own identity and brand and taking it to the market.” As it worked out, the relationships we had forged along the way put us in good stead,
Boosted by early opportunities with a number of reputable companies, Graphite was able to develop a solid support base, and today can be found working closely with many well known corporations in Sydney.
Positioned as a head contractor, Graphite is committed to providing the delivery of a project, from commencement to completion as well as maintaining the relationship well after the project is done.
Usually in conjunction with a client-side project manager, this is accomplished through a variety of project delivery models depending on the client’s needs and time constraints. Generally speaking, there are three main models but it is the norm to see hybrids of the three:
If the project is fully designed, Graphite prices and delivers the work under a Lump Sum model. Alternatively, the firm acts as a Construction Manager procuring trades in an open-book manner and delivering the work for a fee. Lastly, Graphite can be engaged under a Design and Construct model; this is particularly well suited for smaller projects and for clients that don’t have their own design teams, or when time is an issue. In such a situation, the group does not offer an in-house design service, but will match the client with their most suitable design partner. This way the client gets to choose the design team that feels right for them.
“We’ve got a lot of experience working in fitout, we’ve been doing it for well over 20 years,” Mr Fusca says. “While there’s a lot of companies out there that can claim to have similar experience, it really comes down to who is actually running your project. The benefit of using Graphite is that one of the directors will be directly involved with the project. We’re involved in every detail from start to finish, and we’re happy to bring our experience to the table. We have grown to 15 staff in the Sydney office but we are all still very hands-on”
When the drive for greener building standards began to gain momentum in the mid-2000’s, Joe was fortunate to be involved in one of the first Greenstar-rated fitout projects to be delivered in a non-Greenstar rated building. “It was a learning experience for all involved. I think the Green Building Council’s done a wonderful job educating the market, and it’s had everybody lift their game cross the board,” he says. Upon its establishment, Graphite adopted best practice in terms of recycling and waste disposal, to the point that the business was awarded ISO 14001 for Environmental Management Systems in 2014. “It’s just part of the way we do business in general and furthermore many client’s expect it”
Currently, Joe is excited to announce that Graphite has been selected to carry out the second stage of the University of Sydney’s MBA School project, which consists of the conversion of two floors of an office building into the school’s new facility. “We did the first stage almost two years ago;” he says, “Along with ZIP Industries head office, it was one of our first significant projects.” Another of Graphite’s major projects was the fitout of ALDI Stores’ Executive Boardrooms and Training facility, which featured amongst other things, motorised operable walls and a fully integrated audiovisual system. The motorised walls, which were imported from Germany were only the second and third installations their kind in Australia. The company has also secured the next stage of work for Optus’ North Ryde campus, as well as an expansion for the sales and administration area of Volkswagen’s Chullora head office.
The recent third-party certification of its quality management, safety, and environmental management systems stands as one of Graphite’s milestone achievements. Graphite was also the recipient of the 2014 Master Builders Award for Best Fitout from 1.75 to 2 Million Dollars for its work on ALDI Stores’ Executive Boardrooms, and has been officially accepted onto the University of Sydney’s contractor’s panel. As well, Joe feels that celebrating 3 years in business was a milestone in and of itself within the industry. “All of a sudden, the marketplace takes you a little bit more seriously.” he says. “We’re no longer just a few guys who may have decided to start a business on a whim. We’re making it work, we’re very sound financially, and we’re doing repeat business with the most reputable of clients. That’s more important than getting the business in the first place; when they ask you back, you know you’re doing something right.”
When Joe, Michael, Stephen, and Nicholas departed from their previous employment to create Graphite, they found that many of the partnerships they had previously established carried over with them. “Suppliers that we had worked with over the years actually came knocking, and offered to help,” Mr Fusca says. “We managed our cash flow quite well, treated them fairly, and we paid everybody on time; that’s why they kept coming back and asking for more work.” Graphite is also a proud member of the MBA relying on them should the company require any industry information or training. Joe is also passionate about the development of young people and actively involved as a mentor with the NAWIC (National Association of Women In Construction) Mentoring Program.
The number of organisations moving to Barangaroo has had a significant impact on the local market. “There’s already been a lot of lease negotiations going on, with companies “backfilling” into a really good space that existing companies are moving out of once they move to Barangaroo,” says Joe, who notes that this state of flux has also led to a plethora of new fitout and upgrade projects within existing buildings to both attract new tenants and retain current ones. Mr Fusca also points out that such market activity brings with it a scarcity of some suppliers and subcontracting trades, particularly cabinetmakers and joiners. “They’re in high demand; a lot of the quality guys are being kept quite busy just through the increased activity at the moment.”
From the start, Joe Fusca’s goal when founding Graphite alongside his partners was to create a strong company with a well-respected brand. “We all shared that vision, we don’t necessarily want to be the biggest; we just want to be the best, and regarded as the go-to guys if you need a quality fitout done in the Sydney market.”
We have often been asked if we work interstate, and while there are no immediate plans to establish interstate offices, who knows what the future may bring.
For more information on Graphite go to www.graphiteprojects.com.au