For Keystone Civil Construction, striving for perfection is all in a day’s work.
Some businesses are content to meet industry standards and do well for their efforts. But businesses that work with the intention to set the standards create new levels of excellence for others to follow. They become keystones that support and sustain the industry at large.
VENTURE recently spoke with Patrick O'Reilly, managing director of Keystone Civil Construction, a young, privately owned company making blistering progress throughout Victoria. Just five years old, Keystone Civil is growing by leaps and bounds, increasing revenue 100 percent year over year since its 2014 founding in Geelong.
“We focus not just on compliance or meeting a standard; we focus on trying to do our work in the right way for the benefit of all and setting our own standards,” he said. “We really want to set the standard amongst our team, as that becomes our own internal benchmark that follows through to the delivery of each project.”
That attitude is paying dividends quickly for Keystone, which delivers a full range of construction and engineering services for infrastructure, including project management, land development, road construction and reconstruction, water and sewer infrastructure, bulk earthworks, landfill and lining construction, and more.
An agile corporate structure enabled the firm to successfully tender large projects at a very early stage, providing a quick jumpstart. And, by concentrating on building its own infrastructure first, lining up critical accreditations in quality (AS/NZS ISO 9001), health and safety (AS/NZS 4801) and environmental management (ISO 14001), Keystone positioned itself to race forward from inception.
When asked what kind of mettle is needed to perform complex, essential work while balancing the organisational demands of aggressive growth mode, O’Reilly’s engineering background leapt to the fore: “Our focus each year is very simple. It's to continually challenge ourselves to deliver work safer and more efficiently by every member of the team and be proud of what we do every day.”
Pride, Passion, and Reaching for Perfection
“We are doing exceptionally well as a business. But we're only at the very start of our journey, and where we will be in two, three, or four years’ time is what's really exciting. Everything we're doing is about tomorrow and the future,” O’Reilly noted. “We’ve invested heavily in equipment and technology to help deliver our clients’ work, but it's also for the benefit of our team members. It's about creating something that everybody's proud of, from our people to our clients. We're proud to have the best equipment and the best people.”
Keystone recently completed a critical project for Barwon Water to help secure the water supply for the Geelong region, about 75 kilometres west of Geelong. Keystone Civil were awarded the contract to remove approximately 1 km over open channel and replace the aging infrastructure with a 1,600-mm GRP pipeline. Restricted access, steep embankments, deep excavations all in a remote location were some of the challenges faced throughout the project.
“It looked from the outset like an extremely challenging job, and I'm like a kid in the candy shop sometimes when I get to the job and see the possibilities,” he confessed. “We invested a lot in providing solutions to the client on that particular job. We spent over half a million dollars on 12-tonne civil dump trucks so that we could traverse and access the narrow access way. We invested in pipe cutters and different technologies. From the planning stages the job ran incredibly smoothly. From start to finish, we delivered a month ahead of schedule and on budget. It really was a win-win for our client, for ourselves, and for all the stakeholders. It was a good collaborative project and there was teamwork at its best. The team morale fostered resulted in an enjoyable project.”
Cultivating a team of like-minded individuals has been central to the company’s present success and is the crucial component of its future goals. In O’Reilly’s view, aligning great people and strong processes is just the beginning.
“You have to be critical of yourself and what you do and understand that you can't be complacent at all — ever. It's quite a strange concept, but there will never be a time when we get it completely right, and there'll never be a time when we get it completely wrong. We’ll never reach perfection because it's unachievable,” he mused. “When you do think perfection is achievable, it means you’re content and you stop growing and developing yourself. Always looking for improvement might be one of my strengths and one of my weaknesses, but that's what I seek out, and that’s what our teams are doing.”
For Keystone, every step is a step towards improvement, no matter how well or ingeniously the work is performed. “The main focus for us is on creating a culture and creating something that we're proud of. For me personally, the satisfaction I get from what we do is the enjoyment. It comes from being proud of what we do,” he explained. “That’s the big driver — to get as close to perfection as we possibly can so that every time we go out there we have peace of mind in our team, and when we walk away from a project we get that warm fuzzy feeling of doing a great job, of nailing it day-in and day-out.
“It's strange. When you focus on that, and you focus on people and the quality of what you deliver, the rest just seems to look after itself. All of a sudden you're doing good work, you're in different areas and you're getting recognition for that,” he marvelled.
“We’ve got targets of how we want to grow and into what size, and we're going to continue to diversify and innovate, not imitate, but first and foremost we want to keep doing what we've done in the past and looking at where our areas of improvement are. That's going to bring joy to the team, creating a work environment that is sustainable and that others are envious of so that people are excited by and intrigued with what it is that we do,” he said. “If we get that right, that's exciting. We don't want to be the biggest company in the world, but we want to strive to be the best that we can be … not only ‘Your Construction Partner of Choice,’ but ‘Your Employer of Choice’ also.”