Sarah is a family owned and operated business specialising in the provision of construction, fitout, and refurbishment services. The company, which was originally founded over 50 years ago by Harry Sarah as H.F. Sarah and Sons, and is currently under 3rd generation family ownership of Tim and James Sarah, has built itself over time to be one of the leading local contractors in South Australia.
While offering services spanning across the construction sector, Sarah has developed specialist fitout and refurbishment teams trained to work within existing facilities, particularly institutional clients such as universities, shopping centres, and supermarkets, and carry out their project without affecting the client’s operation. “It’s about having the people who can actually work very closely with our customers and, effectively, work when and where they’re not working, to ensure a seamless approach,” explains General Manager Adrian Esplin, who recalls a recent $90 000 fitout that the company undertook for the Red Cross, an important customer, which involved the upgrade of the group’s facilities over a 10-day period while remaining fully operational. Sarah also carries out new builds within the education, retail, and commercial office sector, and is viewed as a leader in the market for innovation and cost management, which has resulted in repeat business from many of the company’s institutional clients. The company is additionally known for its in-house capability to find significant cost savings through minor changes in a project’s overall design.
Sarah has set itself a number of internal sustainability targets, including the achievement of a minimum standard of 80% recycled waste. “That’s what we want to do to have sustainable practice around recycling;” says Adrian, “we put a process in place, and engage the right subcontractors who understand and can work with that process.” Sarah currently works with a series of GreenStar professionals, as well as a dedicated services manager, who work with the client and their design team to ensure that all sustainability requirements are achieved with the build. “Ultimately, it’s a combination of our strategy to be a leader in this field, having the process that backs that up, and the people who actually understand it,” says Mr Esplin. We then work through that with our customers, their designers, and, most importantly, our subcontractors.”
Known for its delivery of high quality works within time and budget, Sarah has the skill base and structure to take on a multitude of complex projects, such as the current extension of the Colonnades Shopping Centre, the largest regional shopping centre in the Southern fringe of Adelaide’s metropolitan area. The company is also building the new facility for the Royal Flying Doctor Service on the apron to the runway of the Adelaide Airport, a purpose built structure featuring a large hangar, state-of-the-art medical facilities, and an administrative area. Sarah is additionally carrying out a number of large civic projects, including the Leisure Centre in Campbelltown, a large council in Adelaide’s North-eastern suburbs. The centre will feature a new basketball court, new grandstands, new Olympic pools, a new children’s pool and water park, all under cover. Sarah’s long history and reputation for quality have provided the business with opportunities to work alongside iconic South Australian brands, such asBeerenberg, which is currently in the process of tripling the size of its production facility in the Adelaide Hills.
Sarah is known for its structured processes and staff with attention to detail leading to high quality outcomes for their customers. Integral to these processes is the third party accreditation for all systems in accordance with international standards and the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner. “It demonstrates that we have the structure and process to support the larger and more complex works that we take on,” explains Adrian. This quality standard is backed up by recent Master Builder (MBA) industry awards winning excellence in construction for both the category for $10m – $20m (Margaret Ames Centre) and $20m – $50m (Adelaide High). The Adelaide High project was completed 3 months ahead of schedule and the Margaret Ames Centre for Immanuel College is acknowledged nationally as the new benchmark facility for secondary school education.
Mr Esplin views Sarah’s relationship focused business model as a key element of the company’s continued success. “Our actual slogan is ‘Building Great Relationships,’” he says. “The owners of the business have always held a firm belief that our success comes through how we manage and work with our customers, designers, subcontractors, and suppliers. Without subcontractor and supplier relationships in particular, we can’t deliver the quality and product that we need to deliver.” Adrian also notes that Sarah’s 2nd generation owners, Neil and Don, both served as presidents of the MBA and AIB. “They certainly understand the importance and relevance of the industry bodies, and how they can help improve the industry,” he says. “At Sarah, we see ourselves as stakeholders of the property and building industry; It’s more than just here to deliver projects, we’re also here to ensure that the industry runs in the most appropriate manner, and looks after key subcontractors and suppliers.”
The current financial climate within the industry has necessitated a holding pattern for most businesses as they struggle to continue regular operations. “It’s been a tough time for the building industry over the past 2 years, and we’re seeing those times continue as many larger contractors have recently gone into liquidation, along with a number of subcontractors,” says Mr Esplin. “The biggest challenge over the next 12 months for the industry is for people to get their businesses operating the way that they need to be, and be aware of the state of the market that we all operate in, and build it again in an appropriate manner.”
Adrian Esplin began his career as a designer in the early 1990’s, within the civil engineering sector and local contractor Baulderston. In 2000, he moved from his position at Baulderstoneto Brookfield Multiplex as a Site Manager, quickly progressing to Project Manager, and, eventually, Regional Director of the Victorian/South Australian branch. In 2014, he was approached by Owners Tim and James to operate Sarah’s commercial construction business. “I cut my teeth on the floor delivering projects; it’s what I was, and still am, the most passionate about,” Adrian says. “It’s been a fantastic move; Sarah operates at the heart of where commercial activity occurs in South Australia. The business is well tuned and highly diverse in order to best deal with the Adelaide construction market.” While the company’s primary objective for the new year is to continue its delivery of quality projects while further developing key customer relationships, Sarah is also currently considering a number of strategic opportunities outside of the state. “While the market’s tough out there, we see the future for Sarah as really positive.”