Savvy Construction was formed in 2009 by current owner and director Ryan Cole. After working for several building and construction firms in Australia as well the United Kingdom, Ryan realized he needed something more. “I needed something for myself so I created my business.” Selling his family home to finance a new building company, Savvy Construction began to take shape and he spent the next 6 months laying the foundation. After finding suppliers, tradesmen and designers, Savvy Construction finally came together in March, 2010. After 5 years of steady growth, Ryan has brought Savvy Construction as far as governing bodies in WA will allow it. Ryan says, “At this point, we’re looking to concentrate on other avenues in order to expand the business.”
“We build anything from a couple hundred thousand up to a couple million and we are an extremely hands on building company”, Ryan stated when speaking about his business. With a mix of renovating and building, traditional and modern, they offer and work with a wide range of materials. Renovation projects on older homes have seen Savvy replicating extensive art deco extensions to an existing art deco home 85 years old. Their flexibility and openness has definitely paid off, as Ryan says, “… our work is 90-95% referral based.” Out of the last 25 projects in the past 5 years, 22 have been as a result of referrals and from relationships that have been built with owners 2-3 jobs previous. “That’s why even if it’s a small project, we will do it.” Working backwards, Ryan starts with his clients’ budget in order to maximize what Savvy is able to offer them with regards to their specific needs and requirements.
A lot of building companies tend to focus on new builds, with former tradesmen such as Ryan often tackling the renovation side of the industry. He explains, “Coming from a trade background, we understand the nuts and bolts. 75% of our projects are renovations.” Renovations tend to vary from being fairly simple to extremely complex. Ryan recalls a large scale project which incorporated erecting a second floor as well as a rooftop terrace as the third storey.
The original structure having been built around 85 years ago, Savvy used its expertise to replicate external finishes whilst utilizing today’s technology. “In general, with houses that are 70-120 years old, you don’t know what you’re going to be dealing with until you open up the canvas.” states Ryan. He stresses the importance of communicating with the clients and keeping the lines open. “To me, it doesn’t matter if the job costs thousands or millions, at the end of the day it’s just more building that goes into it.” Our quality and customer service is the same for all of our clients regardless of the build cost and complexity.
Savvy Construction takes on a wide range of projects but environmental sustainability is a common factor. Using eco-friendly materials and designs, the latest in insulation, triple glazed windows, custom frames, rain water harvesting and tanks for pools and toilet lines, PV panels and even sprinkler systems for fire prone areas, Savvy is always willing to work with their clients to reduce the carbon footprint and have a ‘greener’ home.
Now having been building for over 5 years, Savvy Construction and Ryan personally have earned well deserved recognition and numerous awards, including winning the Ric New Medal for Excellence in 2010 and also winning several HIA Perth Housing Awards for their renovations and additions in 2011 and 2012. Even in categories they don’t win, they are never far behind, being a finalist in awards given by the HIA (Housing Industry Association) as well as the MBA (Master Builders Association). In 2013 Ryan was the winner of MBA Best New Builder and went on to become the national winner of MBA Young Master Builder of the Year; a major industry and personal achievement. It didn’t stop there; in 2014 Ryan was recognized by Business News in WA and was a 40Under40 winner and finalist for Best Amongst Equals.
When it comes to relationships within the industry, Ryan’s are well maintained. Starting out as an apprentice for the MBA, he now sits on the training committee and is involved with the housing council. He claims these organizations are “tried and tested” and they know exactly what’s going on in the industry. “As a small builder, we face so many hurdles,” Ryan states. He explained that being an affiliate or member of the MBA and HIA amongst others, is extremely beneficial and helpful. He also said the same for his suppliers, who have backed him from the start and helped him to grow to where he is now. “We are all trying to do the same thing; to run a successful business – and we all need people, particularly mentors to help us reach our goals.” Ryan strongly believes that sharing expertise can help a business be successful. He explained, “I think that it is very important in this industry to bounce ideas off each other. None of my long time friends run a building company, so I can’t talk to them about day to day business matters. Having made some good friends within the industry with people who are similar to me makes it a lot easier in some of the decision making.”
With new horizons in 2015 for Savvy Construction, Ryan mentions an issue he believes is of most concern this year, trade shortages. With recent months seeing a large amount of building approvals in WA and with construction within the mining industry being able to offer higher salaries, it’s something that continues to affect the residential building industry. Even with governing bodies starting to rectify codes and approval times in WA, this is still an issue. Fortunately for Ryan, if his clients allow him to, he is able to eliminate the need for some of those trades (particularly wet trades) by changing the design and building process.
At 20 years old, Ryan had completed a 4 year apprenticeship in well under 3. Being a 4th generation carpenter, it was something he always saw himself doing. “My dad is still a carpenter; he’s 63 and still swinging the hammer.” At the age of 22 Ryan was forced off the tools when he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Ryan states he, “had to reset my skill level and change my ways, I didn’t knows what I was going to do, but I’m lucky for the way it all worked out.” In 2002 Ryan and his wife travelled overseas and he was fortunate to work with a large construction company as a financial controller and financial manager. He mentions, “…that set the scene for me, that’s what made me a business person…that’s where Savvy came from. Running a business is very different than being a builder and in order to be successful it’s essential that both components are fully understood.” After returning from overseas Ryan worked as a senior commercial estimator whilst at the same time studying for his Diploma in Building; with the intention of concentrating on the residential building market once he had gained his registration. He is currently looking to expand his business by moving into a new build subsidized housing market – with a twist! Probably like most business owners within the industry, he states he eventually wants to “step back and not have to be so heavily involved.”
Living by his philosophy of sharing advice, Ryan left us with a wise statement, stating “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or think your questions may be stupid; ask talented people and expect the unexpected. There will almost always be someone who knows about you and has seen you grow and develop and would love to help you. When you start a business there are times that you don’t know where to go for the answer. That is when you really begin to understand your core strengths. Be prepared to outsource and be prepared to ask people, otherwise you probably will never grow your business.”