When it comes to office space, Office Fitout Professionals is a company that can help. Based in Perth, and specialising in the construction of internal plasterboard and glass partitioning, their vast experience and extensive knowledge enables them to provide great service for every project – from conception to completion.
The company launched in 2007, just as the global financial crisis began to unfold. Although the economy was looking bleak, Office Fitout Professionals’ business model helped to differentiate them in Western Australia. Unlike many of their competitors, they have access to their own factories, and manufacture their own office furniture and screen systems.
“Most of the businesses in WA are service providers, they don’t do anything themselves,” says Owner and Director Joern Wilke. “That was really our main point of difference to everybody else, which helped us increase our market share. These days people are looking more at the bottom line to keep costs down.”
Joern has been in the furnishing industry for most of his life. Originally from Germany, he previously worked with a company that mainly dealt with furniture furnishing projects in the Middle East. He spent about 13 years in Dubai working on office, corporate and hotel furnishing projects. He also worked for several German-based companies running branch offices for a period of time.
“I relocated to Perth when the second Gulf War came along and went back into the same industry over here,” he says. By utilising the experience he amassed while abroad, Joern has led Office Fitout Professionals to a leadership position in the Western Australian market.
Taking on all projects
A significant portion of Office Fitout Professionals’ clients are in the mining industry, though the company is ready and willing to cater to more than just mining clients. “We’ll take on whatever comes our way,” Joern says. Even if it’s small fitout, or just one office, Office Fitout Professionals is happy to bring their expertise to a project.
The types of jobs they work on throughout WA range from full floor fitouts in the city to smaller-scale projects, including building renovations, office modifications, and others. “We are of the belief that the smaller jobs lead to the bigger jobs,” Joern says. “When the smaller businesses start expanding, they come back to you.”
Most of the company’s business – 90 per cent, in fact – comes from repeat customers. Throughout the duration of a project and beyond, Joern says he ensures they maintain a strong relationship. When a client needs more work done in the future, Joern wants Office Fitout Professionals to be the first company they call.
The most important aspect to creating repeat business, he continues, is appointing a site manager to every job. There needs to be someone that goes to the job site daily to ensure operations are running smoothly. Weekly progress meetings are then held for to bring up any possible issue, as well as to discuss what’s going right. “It’s about keeping ahead of the game,” he says. “We don’t just take on the job and run it remotely, we will have someone who goes to the site.”
At Office Fitout Professionals, customer service is never over – even if the job is. “At the end, we always make sure customers are happy with what we’ve done,” Joern says. “We stay in touch with existing clients.”
Point of difference
Office Fitout Professionals completes most of their work themselves, resorting to contract work only when necessary. When they do sub-contract, it’s mainly electrical, data, mechanical and hydraulic work.
This minimal need for outsourcing is the biggest point of difference for them because it allows them two advantages – lower costs and efficient project management. “Since we keep things in-house, I can check on things myself without asking anyone,” Joern says. “You’ve got greater control and you’re cutting out the middlemen.”
Another differentiating factor for Office Fitout Professionals is the positive relationships they enjoy with their 30 in-house staff members. Those strong relationships help them to keep their turnover extremely low, which is important to Joern and the company. They make sure each staff member is taken care of, and before someone new joins, they make sure they fit in with the existing staff. “We’ve pretty much got all the guys who’ve been with us since the beginning. They’re still here and they still want to be here,” he says.
When it comes to the sub-contractors the company does employ, highly positive relationships are still the norm. Office Fitout Professionals have a roster of tradespeople they deal with on a continuous basis, and they keep in close contact with them to let them know what they’re currently working on and what’s coming up. At the same time, Joern says, he will check on them at times to make sure the quotes given are still competitive. “That way we maintain a friendly and co-operative relationship, but we also keep them on their toes,” he explains. “It’s important for us to give our clients the best value for their money.”
More competition, less market
One of the recent challenges for Office Fitout Professionals has been an increase in competitors. One of the biggest concerns stems from the shopfitting industry. Numerous shopfitters have “had their backs against the wall,” leading them to jump ship into Office Fitout Professionals’ industry. The challenge is also territorial – companies move to WA from the eastern states to try and take a bite out of Office Fitout Professionals’ market share. This is where existing relationships and repeat business helps them remain on top, however.
The final obstacle has been the ongoing uncertainty in the global market, which has led the company to put the brakes on growth at this time. Instead, Joern says, they will focus on improving their processes and consolidating their position in the market. Their short-term goal is to maintain their size and staff levels without making any significant changes to the business. “Then it’s upwards and onwards from there,” he says.
Once the financial markets improve, the long-term future will see Office Fitout Professionals expand nationally. They also want to increase their manufacturing division to add some additional services to their portfolio. “Those are the future plans,” Joern says. “At the end of the day, we are the only company in WA that does what we do – doing as much ourselves as we possibly can.”