Getting things done
RPF Building is one of Australia’s leading insurance repair specialists. For more than 20 years, they have been servicing the commercial, residential and industrial sectors on behalf of major insurance companies, and they have built a reputation as one of the country’s most reliable and respected providers. When a disaster strikes, they are committed to being on the ground with a hands-on approach. They are well known for their rapid claim assessment and their efficient, high quality repairs and restorations.
As the years progress, RPF Building is also becoming increasingly known for their other services and capabilities. Their reputation as a design and build contractor is growing. Their development expertise and experience is also being recognised.
According to Jacob Toole, Business Development Manager for the company, RPF is on the path to being recognised as an all-around provider of high quality built outcomes – no matter the size, sector, or complexity of the project.
“We have an extremely good, versatile, and hard-working workforce,” he says. “We’re used to handling all sorts of curveballs and difficult scenarios, and we’re used to coming up with solutions on the fly. We work quickly, smoothly, and we deliver fantastic quality. We have built a reputation for getting things done.”
That reputation has not been built overnight. The long process began with Reg Flannery, the company’s founder and principal, and a veteran of the insurance building industry.
Reg officially formed the company in 1999, but had been working in the sector for at least 10 years prior, having gotten his start after the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake. Over the years, he has steadily built his company up in terms of both size and reputation. For most of that history, he specialised in catastrophe response, but in recent years he decided to diversify and deliver some of his own developments.
Jacob, meanwhile, joined the company roughly eight years ago, originally to supervise some floor repair work in Bundaberg after Cyclone Oswald. That was supposed to be a “six month gig,” he recalls, but he performed well and was offered more and more supervisory work in the aftermath. He chose to stick around – and to climb the ladder – because he appreciated the company’s dedication to quality. Also, much like their insurer clients, he admired the company’s ability to stay viable and ready-to-respond, regardless of the ups-and-downs of the market.
“In the insurance game it’s a challenge because there’s no guarantee in workload,” he explains. “It’s all off the back of the weather, natural disasters, and accidents. There’s no guarantee in how much work is going to come through.”
“So as an insurance builder, our biggest challenge is maintaining a certain capacity,” he continues. “We have to maintain the ability to handle, say, $50 million as an example, in insurance repairs nationally, but still be able to survive if only $20 million comes through. That’s something RPF has perfected over the years. We have a flexible repair model. We have a team that’s efficient enough to handle high volumes, but we can also remain profitable at a lower turnover as well, so we always keep that ability to respond.”
“We can say to clients that ‘We’re here, we’re ready to take on a certain volume in repairs if that cyclone hits,’” he says. “But if it doesn’t hit, we’re still going to be here ticking along, and we’re going to be ready for the next storm.’
“Then when the storm actually hits, we’re able to deliver what we promise,” he adds. “We’re able to take on an absolute bucket load of work on next-to-no notice, and we’re able to mobilise right away and be there handle that work successfully.”
The ‘successful handling’, Jacob adds, is a credit to their long history in the insurance building industry. Working in that sector, he says, requires extremely stringent quality control systems.
“There’s a lot of liability involved,” he says. “If you’re not controlling quality and delivering a quality product, you’re going to be in trouble. You’re often working in remote areas, and if there are quality issues after, you’ll have to keep going out there. That’s a huge headache logistically and it’s a huge burden on your finances. The only way to avoid it is do things right the first time. That’s what we do.”
To ensure they do, RPF only employs licenced and reputable tradespeople they know to be reliable, and they make sure they adhere to a strict schedule of quality inspections and reporting. If there are any concerns, they make sure they identify them early on in the process so they can be addressed and rectified well before completion.
“I believe your ability to respond quickly, deliver quality work, and not have to deal with issues and rectifications down the track – that’s what determines your reputation in the insurance industry,” Jacob says. “That’s why we have such a good reputation. That’s why we have been able to succeed for 30 years in the insurance sector, and that’s why we’ve been able to grow year on year.”
Work to be proud of
In recent years, RPF Building has continuously distinguished themselves – not only as an insurance repair specialist, but also as a full-service design and build company. A recent and award-winning example of their expanded capability is their work on the The Edge Apartments in Wickham.
At the 2018 Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW Awards for Excellence, The Edge won a Commendation in the category for ‘Medium-Density Development – Below 100 Dwellings.’ The project comprised an outstanding collection of five townhouses, 20 units, and three adaptable residential / commercial spaces. All available spaces sold out, and they all have current market values well above the selling price.
The UDIA judges were full of praise for RPF’s contribution to the job. In their comments, they commended the company for the way they “carefully negotiated many difficult such constraints such as mine subsidence and stormwater provisions, without compromising the quality of the built outcome.” They added that the project’s commercial success is proof that a “high quality built outcome can last the construction phase and produce a better-than-sold product.”
A more recent example of RPF’s design and construct ability, meanwhile, would be their work on a series of 57 business and warehouse units on Darling Street in Carrington. On that project, they delivered an equally high quality built outcome – and commercial success has also since followed.
The site of that Carrington project previously had many uses – everything from the manufacture of tractors to mining parts, according to Jacob. He recalls that it was purchased by its current owner in 2017, and that many concepts were considered and then tabled before the new development was finalised by Tonner Design.
RPF’s first task on the project was to carefully demolish the existing steel structure on the land, which had 90 per cent asbestos cladding. Following that, the development application was approved in mid-2018, and RPF was given the green light to start building.
“We hit the ground running and made amazing headway with the development,” he says. “As a very proud building company we teamed up with the best local contractors in the business to work on this project and the results are certainly showing.”
Stage 1 of the project was completed and sold out in August 2019, with Stage 2 construction underway and due for completion this month. Currently, 80 per cent of the units are sold out. Jacob credits that rapid success to the development’s sought-after location – close to the Newcastle port, within minutes of the CBD and main arterial roads – but he also believe that RPF’s clever design and the quality of their workmanship also played a part.
Even as they prove themselves on developments like those, however, RPF has also continued to deliver acclaim-worthy work in the insurance space.
A couple years ago, for example, following Cyclone Debbie, the company completed over $15 million in repairs on high end residential properties on Hamilton Island and over $20 million in repairs on the mainland. Previously, they had no staff or contacts in that area, but a week after the cyclone they were on site and restoring some of the most exclusive, high-end houses in the country.
In the last 10 months, RPF has also fully restored over 500 homes that were damaged during the Townsville Floods. Jacob is particularly proud of the company’s response to that catastrophe.
“People are back in their homes less than a year on. That’s a great achievement. Their homes are fully reinstated and repaired, to a point where the owners are rapt and over the moon. That makes us very proud.”
Moving forward, RPF Building has an exciting future – both as an insurance repair builder, and as a developer. On the insurance repair side, they plan to continue growing the business and expanding their footprint, while venturing into industries that are “very closely aligned with insurance,” such as maintenance response and body corporate repair.
In order to achieve that growth, Jacob says the company will invest a lot of time and energy into honing and refining their internal systems and processes. Over the next year, their goal is to become more efficient in all aspects of their business in order to grow their revenue stream without having to greatly expand their team.
“We have such a good core team,” Jacob says. “Many people have been here for five to 10 years. It’s a great atmosphere here, there’s a great vibe in the office. We’ve all been on a long journey together. We trust them, and we want to be able to retain them and have them handle the extra work, rather than potentially bringing on people who don’t share our values and can’t be trusted to live up to our standards.”
In the development space, meanwhile, Jacob says they will continue to grow opportunistically. Reg Flannery, the Principal, is always on the lookout for new sites in growth areas, and he talks regularly with their architectural partners about potential future projects. To date, those opportunities have all been in the Newcastle area – where RPF is based and where Reg grew up – but in the near future the company plans to expand their reach.
“There are plenty of spaces along the East Coast of Australia that are on the brink of some pretty substantial capital gains over the next few years,” Jacob says. “We’re keeping an eye on them, and we’re looking forward to expanding beyond our Newcastle base and doing some developments in other cities.”
Lastly, the company sees more award recognition in their future. Jacob says those kinds of accolades mean a lot to the company and their team, and they will continue to pursue them.
“They show the general public that we’re a reputable and successful business,” he says. “The core of our business is insurance repairs, so that means we have to work in people’s houses all over the country, and they don’t necessarily know us from a bar of soap. The more industry recognition we receive, the more of a footprint we have, the more it helps with establishing a level of confidence and a level of trust with those homeowners.”
“In any year, we’ll carry out works in thousands of people’s properties,” he concludes. “A large majority of those people will have never heard of us until we turn up. But that recognition makes the homeowners comfortable. It helps the whole process run smoothly.”For more on RPF Building, their people, processes, and their range of building and development services, visit http://www.rpfbuilding.com.au/