Officially started in January 1995, Total Construction (Total) humbly began operating out of a tiny 8m² office in Wetherill Park, Sydney. Now having operated successfully for more than 20 years, the company attributes its success to friendship and mutual respect. This stems from its two equal shareholders, Steve Taylor and Bill Franks who first shook hands more than 20 years ago as apprentices and still actively operate in the business.
Currently, Total has more than 100 staff that are working on projects across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Each state has a permanent office in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane respectively. “We are proud to have completed close to $1B worth of projects in the last 20 years.” States Jeff Jones, CEO of Total.
“Since its humble beginnings, Total has refined its target market into 4 segments which are significant to the business,” explains Jeff. He breaks these segments down and clarifies the company’s reasoning. “One is the industrial, commercial and education where we have a lot of history and work with some long term clients. Then we have a focus on the emerging or active markets in health and aged care. The final segments relate to the highly technical or evolving industries around renewable energies and the food & beverage industry which is forever innovating its processing. All four segments have a different reason for being in the business, but they have one thing in common and that is that we look for markets where we can add value.”
Within these markets, the services Total offer varies depending on what their clients need. With a motto of “Concept to Completion”, Total offers services that span the entire life cycle of construction and increase or decrease according to the stage they are involved in. Some of these services include cost planning and feasibility studies, design and process engineering management, construction and project management, as well as post completion maintenance and warranty management.
Total’s services also include a focus on sustainability. “Firstly, to be sustainable, I think it’s important to consider more than short term cost decisions,” states Jeff. By offering early contractor involvement, Total has the ability to sit with clients and discuss long term ownership costs. This approach from the project teams flows through to the supply chain decisions. “Certainly the use of recycled materials, in the steel or concrete area also provide essential sustainability both in the development and in the construction delivery. We have a number of clients who actually specify the level of recycled materials to be used in the content of their buildings and we also challenge designs by including additional input into the project,” explains Jeff.
Total enjoys around 80% of its turnover from repeat clients and can proudly point to partners like Kennards Self Storage that have been a client since the very beginning. “Extended relationships in the construction industry are only possible if you approach projects as if the end result is your own,” says Jeff.
Consistent with this process, Total values and encourages long term relationships with consultants, subcontractors and suppliers alike. These relationships ensure that project challenges are resolved in a collaborative manner for the benefit of the end client. The approach to the large scale and complex projects is no different with the critical factor being the value proposition that Total can offer.
In addition to repeat clients, Total looks forward to projects from new clients. Recently, they have successfully been awarded two major aged care projects to commence within the next quarter. These projects range upwards of $20M and are from both types of clients. One project, taking place in Queensland, is with a repeat client of the business which follows the completion of a similar facility 4 months ago, whereas the NSW project is a new client to the business that has been referred from other highly satisfied clients.
There are a number of highly confidential (due to the industrial intelligence) projects in both the food & beverage and renewable energies segments. These projects are awaiting formal internal approval which is required before Total is able to announce them. Being a common aspect in some markets, the business remains very confident in the expertise that it has invested in this capability.
At the NSW 2014 MBA (Master Builders Association) Builders’ Excellence Awards, Total was awarded the “Most Innovative Project” award for the Central Thermal Plant (CTP) at Broadway. “We are very proud of this high profile award and recognition amongst our peers which could not have been possible without the significant contribution that our consultants, subcontractors and suppliers made executing this project from concept to completion,” says Jeff. Being an Australian first in a residential setting, Total was engaged to design, supply, fabricate and install all mechanical, electrical and hydraulic services and fully commission the Central Thermal Plant. The CTP is required to provide district heating and cooling for 2,100 apartments and 50,000m² of office and commercial space for 11 high rise buildings.
The project also won the “Best Cogeneration or District Energy Project” from the Energy Efficiency Council during the 2014 Awards Ceremony and was nominated for a National Award at the 2014 MBA National Builders Excellence Awards.
“Total highly values its long term membership with the MBA in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. We certainly see the merits in having an organisation like the MBA look after our viewpoints and interests across the construction industry. Recently we have also been accessing the various direct services they provide such as training and assistance with industrial relations,” states Jeff. Total has also become involved in supporting “Mates in Construction”, a charity organisation established to reduce the level of suicide amongst Australian construction workers.
Just like construction itself, the construction industry is always faced with risks. From his perspective, Jeff explains, “The biggest risk to long term sustainability in the construction industry is not establishing a point of difference. Otherwise it is a race to the bottom, based on cost and no value added to the end user. The industry will always be a buyers’ market due to the low barriers to entry, both formal (e.g. licencing) and informal (e.g. client prequalification schemes).” Rather than simply drifting and competing, Total continues to evolve into market segments which allow its capabilities to be valued accordingly.
A chartered accountant by trade, Jeff has been involved with companies in both the engineering and construction industries for the last 20 years. “Over that time, I identified two important criteria about myself. Firstly, I enjoy the direct connection with shareholders that working in private companies enable. Similar to the ethos of Total of approaching projects like it was their own, it is critical that business decisions are made with the shareholders’ interests in mind. The second is the combination of analytical and strategical reasoning gained from completing an MBA with AGSM (Australian Graduate School of Management). It has given me the confidence to embrace the challenges of delivering in the role of CEO,” Jeff explains. Lastly, he advised us of his personal objective with Total, stating it’s “…to extract the best out of a highly motivated and capable team.”