Vaughan Constructions employs the ultimate sustainable principle: doing things the right way
When you are a recent graduate with the world laid out before you, finding an opportunity that keeps you engaged and excited is a wonderful beginning. When the firm you choose to start with meets those needs for the entirety of your career, it is good fortune indeed. It’s also the hallmark of an exceptional organisation, one that inspires loyalty, trust, and excellence amongst staff and clients.
Such is the case with Vaughan Constructions.
With a portfolio that contains some of the most impressive structures to rise beneath the Southern Cross, Vaughan is one of the nation’s most influential design and construction enterprises. Founded by Kenelm Vaughan Sr in 1955, the firm specialises in commercial, retail, and industrial construction. As highly regarded property and construction specialists, Vaughan’s expertise is sought by real estate investment trusts as well as private organisations and family businesses.
“Our projects range from $5 million Australian to $150 million,” noted Executive Managing Director Andrew Noble. “We serve many sectors, a broad range of customers and have the capabilities to deliver on projects of diverse size and scale.”
Noble is, in fact, the subject of our opening paragraph. Fresh out of school, he found an apprenticeship opportunity at Vaughan when he was just 18. “It was a great time to join the business. Kenelm Vaughan was still influential in the business around this time, and two of his sons, Ken and Matthew, were firmly taking the reins. Ken and Matt were inspirational leaders and innovators in their own right. They led the business in difficult times through a significant period of growth and maturation,” he recalled.
“For all the things I didn't know when I was a young man, one thing, thankfully, I did recognise and have a real appreciation for was that the business was really going somewhere, and I desperately wanted to be a part of it.”
Witnessing that hard work and commitment to the company was rewarded with opportunity, Noble worked amongst some of the industry’s best, including Ken and Matt, honing management skills and learning valuable lessons that have stood him in good stead to this day. “At times when things were getting hard or were not as perfect as we would’ve liked them to be, Ken always maintained a level head and would say, ‘Andy, just keep chopping wood.’
“What he meant by that was keep doing the right thing, keep working hard, look after your team, look after your customers, and your business will always be fine. You can imagine that over 30 years you have a lot of tough moments, and that very simple saying has always proved to be true. I've never forgotten it.”
Today, Noble sits on the company’s board alongside directors Ken and Matthew Vaughan, as well as Executive Directors Mark Byrne, Eric Law, and independent chairman Richard Garvey. “Mark rejoined Vaughan’s in 2017 and brings extensive industry experience on a national scale. He always sees things through the client’s eyes, and I think that understanding is the basis of the high levels of trust we enjoy. Eric is still the smartest person I’ve come across in our industry. He just continues to impress me. How lucky I am to have worked alongside him for so many years. And Richard is our wise counsel with the strongest of moral compasses. In addition to good governance, he particularly focusses on people — personally and professionally. He’s a fantastic resource. I really enjoy the support I receive from the board. I recognise that I’m past half way in my working life and I'm incredibly proud of past collective achievements of the business but, with the people that are in the business today, I'm particularly focused on and more excited about the future.”
The ultimate sustainability: customers for life.
In 2010, as the global economy was struggling to find its feet, Vaughan Constructions set performance targets as part of an ambitious 10-year plan. “I'm proud to say those targets are going to be met. Whatever our strategies or trajectory might be, it's always about sustainable growth. We're not an organisation that takes a sugar hit. We don't hire and fire. We believe in long-term, sustainable growth. We've always ensured that we remain nimble and agile enough to take advantage of short-term opportunities that are never at the expense of long-term objectives,” Noble said.
“Our national coverage is growing and consolidating, and we’re also expanding into sectors that we know our capability compliments.“
“The business looks very different today than it did 10 years ago when we set out our 10-year business growth plan. What didn’t change was the DNA of the business. The DNA of our business is our values combined with our highly evolved systems and processes. The greatest beneficiaries of that advantage are our customers.”
Another significant advantage that Vaughan brings to its customers is the courage to change. “I'm a believer and promoter of change, adapting, and evolution,” Noble mused. “If people aren’t responsive to change, it means the business will have trouble adjusting to change. When we communicate, whether it's written or verbal, in a group or one-on-one discussions, we are constantly encouraging people to accept change and be excited about it. You can't disregard the past as its taught you a lot, but you also can't hang on to it. There’s joy and excitement in change, particularly when it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, but on the whole, we adapt and thrive.”
Vaughan’s work on the Dulux paint manufacturing facility in Mickleham, VIC, is a prime example of that excitement. “This was a project where these type of buildings only get built about once every 50 years due to the size of capital investment required. So it goes that the technology in the process used in past paint manufacturing facilities were well and truly arcane and redundant,” he explained. “So, with our client, we were reinventing the wheel. We took on elements of the project that I can't say we were 100 per cent fearless about because it was scope that ‘builders’ typically didn’t take on. But we had a great client and we had the appetite to investigate, learn, and we determined that we had the confidence and the capability to do the work.”
The $165 million project represented the biggest capital investment in DuluxGroup history. Vaughan was brought in under an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) arrangement to explore all of the available options and technologies for the facility. A design and construct contract followed, and Vaughan completed the base build and fit out of the 22,600-square-metre facility, which is the largest, most modern coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand.
The facility employs the latest manufacturing technology available, shifting DuluxGroup to the leading edge of paint manufacturing technology. With a capacity of 100 million litres per year, the new build has nearly doubled their sales volume.
“That facility is now an international benchmark,” Noble said. “The things we have done here are being spoken about throughout Europe and throughout the industry as solutions for paint manufacturing. That's an example of where we were willing to take on additional elements of a project that initially seemed not in our hitting zone. Our results have been incredible. The accolades that the project has received nationally and internationally are something we are very, very proud of and they provide proof to me that our team is not only capable of adapting and evolving — they’re excellent at it.”
No wonder Vaughan’s estimable success is built on the concept of creating customers for life. “Our customers keep coming back. They don't just come back a second or third time, we have many examples that pass through generations,” he noted. “At the heart of the company is our operating model and the ethos of building customers for life, which is developed through every area of the business. Ultimately, everyone has a significant role in safeguarding our reputation and being part of a great business.
“Every single person in the business provides an experience, whether it's for a client, a subcontractor or a supplier — whatever it might be. It extends from the administration team, the first phone call, to the development manager who manages an early inquiry, right through to the construction team. Every single person that has a touch point with a customer formulates the customer's opinion, which will ultimately determine whether that customer has had a good or bad experience. It determines whether they come back. We build for people over generations, and that's what we call repeat business.”