The Right Perspective
At Liberty Builders, they work with the specific objective of creating “positive long term relationships with clients,” says General Manager Tino Filippelli. With this clear objective in mind, the Liberty Builders team are passionate about ensuring that their clients are made to feel like partners throughout the design and construction process, and strive to always deliver the optimal result for their projects.
The key to Liberty Builders proficiency is the unique processes they use to assist clients through each stage of the construction process, starting at the preliminary stage. By being involved every step of the way, Liberty Builders can save their clients money and ensure the building process flows as smoothly as possible. “Utilising our unique processes and knowledge, we work to provide our clients with the most efficient construction possible,” says Tino. “That’s our goal.”
This goal was established 10 years ago, when Liberty Builders was founded as a family business by Tino and his uncle Benny Filippelli, an Italian immigrant involved in the construction industry. “He was basically self-taught and self-made,” Tino says. “He didn’t have much formal education but a lot of practical, real life construction experience.” Tino, on the other hand, did have a formal education – 10 years ago he completed a Masters degree in Economics and planned to go the United States to finish a PhD. Before he did, however, he developed an interest in the construction industry through contact with his uncle. “I said to him ‘Look, you have the real life practical construction experience. I have the business related formal training from my degree. Why don’t we combine the two and set up a structured business?’” That is exactly what they ended up doing, and the business took off from there. Unfortunately, last year, Tino’s uncle passed away after a fight with cancer. “Our team rallied behind him as a family,” Tino says. “Now that he has passed on, my team and I are committed to improving and expanding our company even further, in honour of what my Uncle started.”
Liberty Builders first projects were in the residential housing market. They then moved onto multi-unit projects, and eventually government work, such as schools. Recently, Tino says the company has narrowed its focus. “In the past three years we’ve really focused our business on working with developers of apartment projects,” he says.
The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, they have found that many developers were lacking in information. “Prospective clients were coming to us and asking us design questions. They would say ‘You guys are builders, what’s the most cost effective way of designing and building my apartment project?’” This was happening because developers were being asked to make those decisions by their designers, and they did not have the information and knowledge behind them – so they had to come to someone who did. “We kept getting asked those questions, which made us realise there’s a need for somebody to help developers ensure their projects are designed as efficiently as possible.”
The second reason Liberty Builders shifted their focus to apartment projects was that they realised what was happening to developers who left the design process exclusively to their consultants, without any input from a construction firm like themselves. “We were often asked to tender on apartment projects and would become frustrated when the documentation provided to us had flaws or was overdesigned, meaning that the project could have been designed in an alternative way that could have saved the clients money.” Liberty Builders would often end up re-documenting their clients’ projects for these reasons, until eventually deciding on a better way. “We said ‘rather than do this after our clients’ documentation has been completed by their consultants, why don’t we be proactive and approach developers who have their plans at the town planning stage?’ That way, we can show them how, by putting the right team of consultants together, and having somebody like us with the knowledge and experience required to be able to drive the documentation process, we could save our clients money up front through ensuring the most efficient design, and avoid the unnecessary costs, frustrations and time wasting associated with having to re-document their projects.”
That strategy became the core focus of Liberty Builders business, and now 80 per cent of their work is apartment complexes. At the moment, they have five of those on the go, with their projects typically residing in the 20 to 40 apartment bracket.
After assisting their clients with their designs in the preliminary and tendering stages, Liberty Builders continue to set themselves apart in the construction phase. “Our mentality is to always have a long term perspective on things,” Tino says. Some builders, for instance, will deliberately price projects as cheaply as possible just to secure the contract with a client, with the direct intention of later making as much money as they can on a project by claiming as many variations as possible during a project’s lifetime. Tino finds that view short-sighted, and at Liberty Builders they prefer to identify issues with documentation up front, and point them out to their clients. This allows them to deliver an accurate fixed quote and enable their clients to know what the true end cost of their projects will be from day one. “Because we are committed to having a long term relationship with our clients, we believe that the best approach is to be up front and help the client identify anything that can affect their costs from the beginning.” That approach has engendered a lot of good will for Liberty Builders among their client base. “We find that developers who we work with appreciate this approach, trust us because of this, and as such, want to continue to work with us. They know we are committed to creating a long term relationship, rather than just focusing on the short term profit objectives of one particular project.”
That long term focus informs more than just Liberty Builders relationship with their customers. “Not only do we have a long term perspective with our clients, but we also have a long term perspective with our own team,” Tino says. “We have a very close-knit team, who we truly value, appreciate and treat as family. ” For example, one of Liberty Builders site managers who lives in Yarrawonga (which is on the border of NSW and Victoria), has been welcomed into their family so much so, that he resides with Tino’s family during the week, to save him having to commute back to Yarrawonga. This sort of family culture ultimately helps serve the clients better as well, because it fosters loyalty and hard work among the Liberty team. “Our team is committed,” Tino explains. “We all have the same objective of performing to the best of our abilities, and we all want to continue to improve the company we’ve created together.”
That perspective also pays off when it comes to their subcontractors, some of whom have been with Liberty Builders right from the start of the business. “Some of our trades started off as a one man team, and as our company has grown they’ve also grown their teams alongside us.” Tino says that having a team mentality and encouraging trades to be a part of that team over the long term reflects positively on their end product. “They come to know what’s expected and are able to deliver to our high standard of construction,” he says.
Growing into a name
Originally the name Liberty Builders was simply the result of a brainstorming session. Tino, however, expects the company to grow into that name. “One of our short term goals is for our company to take on charity work for others. In the next two to three years I’d like my team and our company to look beyond our day to day business operations and show there’s more to construction than financial reasons.” Liberty Builders is looking to partner up with charities and either conduct or finance some charitable construction. “We want to give people more opportunities,” he explains. “In a sense, that’s freedom.”
In addition to moving into the charitable sector, Liberty Builders is continually working to improve and grow their business. “We are committed to making improvements in how we deliver to our clients every day,” Tino says. “Every single day, in every element of our business, we look for ways to continually improve.” These improvements can be small, yet important – at Liberty Builders they do not discount the little things. “We find that by continually making the one per cent improvements, they accumulate to massive improvements over the course of a year, or two years, or five years.”
Another area of their business Tino sees becoming more important in the future is building green, which he is personally interested in. “For fun, essentially, I became an accredited Thermal Performance Assessor through Sustainability Victoria,” he says. “It’s an increasingly important facet of the construction industry, and I believe that we have an obligation to build homes efficiently.” Liberty Builders are members of Master Builders accredited Green Living program. “For clients who are interested in incorporating those elements into their projects, we are very interested in helping them.”
Five to ten years from now, Tino plans to have continued to expand Liberty Builders’ profile and position as a leading builder of apartment projects in Melbourne, in their target niche. Tino says that he plans to “accomplish this and more by continuing to adopt and utilise the best construction systems, technologies and practices available, and above all else, continuing to foster and maintain excellent long term relationships with our clients.”