One step ahead
‘Age is but a number’. This saying holds very true for Peter Philipp, founder and co-director of Sydney Marina Contracting (SMC). While still a student, Pete had both the ambition and drive to begin his own company, and he did just that. While in his last year at the University of Sydney, he established a marine construction company. “We really just started from scratch, a workmate and I,” says Pete. Shortly after establishing Sydney Marina, Pete was joined by co-director and fellow alumni Tom Wilcox in 2004. Tom and Pete attended university together and both directors bring their own set of skills, passions no comma and personality to the table. As a company, SMC recently celebrated its ten year anniversary, so Pete and Tom have been able to reflect and see how the company has grown over the years, in both size and reputation. SMC provides a new and innovative appeal, working to get the job done, on time, on budget, and to only the highest of standards.
Sydney Marina Contracting does small and large jobs in the field of marine construction. SMC is a very inclusive company, taking on a variety of projects of all different sizes. “We can and will do anything that’s on the water basically,” says Pete. “Whether it’s fixing jetties or commercial port work.” SMC offers marina installation and maintenance to wharf and jetty building and slipway construction. They have plenty of practical experience in all areas of marine construction. On average, SMC takes on about five projects a year within the one-to-two million dollar range and will sometimes receive the occasional larger project. They are currently working on a large project in Tasmania, for example, which is close to the eight million dollar mark. In addition to these they also do several smaller projects, making sure not to limit themselves based on project size.
Making their mark
While trends in any industry are constantly changing, Pete says it is up to SMC to make their own trends. “It’s a real niche industry and there aren’t that many other companies,” explains Pete. Not having many other companies to compete with can be seen as both a positive and a negative. However, competitive motivation or no, Sydney Marina always rises to the occasion. With a high ratio of civil engineers within their management team, SMC is delving more and more into design and construct contracting. “We do a lot of design work in house, that’s actually the method we prefer now,” says Pete. With the exception of steel fabrication, SMC tries to do the majority of their work in house. “All we really subcontract out is steel fabrication, but we still do some of that. Also supply and materials.” In terms of subcontractors, SMC keeps a relatively small network with only one subcontractor per discipline. It is this sort of exclusivity that keeps all invested parties happy. “We’re very much a relationship based company,” says Pete.
Currently SMC has about 35 employees. Keeping skilled and trained individuals can pose a challenge for any type of business, particularly smaller companies. Good staff members are often lost to the larger companies of their competition. SMC has found ways around this, simply by keeping their employees happy. SMC caters to the needs of their staff in various ways. SMC staff members are entitled to six weeks of holidays versus the standard four. Additionally, Pete says they’re “a close knit group of guys. Being out on the water is a good place to work.” SMC also encourages professional development for all their employees, young or old. “We highly encourage any type of further education. Whether it is in part time university or taking trade courses, it is all paid for by the company. We also give leave to do that,” says Pete. SMC is confident that only good can come from further educating their staff. SMC is sure to always provide a clean, safe working environment for all of their employees and this also includes minimising their impact on the communities in which they work. After all, their employees are individuals with families who live in these communities.
As green as can be
“Tom and I are both very green minded,” says Pete. He says reducing their greenhouse emissions is important to them. SMC is extremely careful during their material selection, always making sure that, they use the most sustainable products possible. “Using sustainable products in our construction is the area where we can contribute most to minimise greenhouse emissions,” says Pete. In addition to the products they use, Sydney Marina Contracting follows a specific protocol when it comes to recycling. In an attempt to reduce the waste they produce, they have a program which allows them to recycle timber. “A lot of the wharves we demolish are old timber, so basically we just recycle and reuse,” says Pete. In addition to environmental management plans and safe work method statements, SMC also meets all quality assurance guidelines and has all other accredited OH & S documentation.
SMC has remained relatively busy throughout the last few years, even during the Global Financial Crisis, which Pete says they weren’t even touched by. “It has to do with our growth in the market share. We’re growing faster and the market is shrinking,” says Pete. “We’re doing really well.” He attributes this to a couple of key factors, including the exceptional quality of their staff. With a high proportion of skilled management and professional managers, SMC has built itself a great work team. “We have four civil engineers in management so that’s really what separates us from others – having highly educated management,” says Pete.
Having only been around for ten years, SMC is only at their beginning. The future of Sydney Marina Contracting definitely looks bright. Their main centres are Hobart and Sydney but they expect continued growth in other states. “We recently won our first contract in Western Australia and that is a big area of expansion for us,” says Pete. SMC will continue to grow as a company as they expand into new territory.