Fairmont Group is an iconic South Australian company known for the support they lend to the community, and the 20,000-plus new homes they have constructed in their almost-50 years of business. According to Operations Manager Brenton Allen, their greatest achievement is the positive influence they have had on the regions building industry – their drive for high quality and low prices has set a standard others have been forced to match. “This is a company that we’re proud to be part of, and one that we’ll be even prouder to set up for the next generation and move forward with,” he says.
Fairmont has been in business since the late 60s, and was set up with the goal to provide low cost housing to the Adelaide market. Since then, it has evolved into one of Adelaide’s most prominent home builders, and the region’s biggest land developer. They build 800 to 1000 homes a year, while also developing 500 blocks a year.
Managing Director David Pickard’s has continued the company’s commitment to providing affordable housing, and the rewards of that go beyond financial. “To see the faces of some of the clients once they take possession of the home – many of them not thinking they’d ever get their home ownership – it’s incredible,” says Brenton. He recalls visiting a client, simply to ask how he liked his new house. “He took me by the hand, walked me out the back, and showed me his child on a swing set. He said ‘Mate, I never thought I’d be able to see this in my lifetime with my family.’ That’s a pleasing thing, being part of a company that cares about a community.”
Brenton began his career at Fairmont approximately six years ago, having been invited by David to work with him to grow and diversify the company, while raising their social commitment. “We used to be mostly a first or second home builder,” Brenton explains. “David wanted to grow that to other built-form products, including shopping centres, nursing homes, medical centres, and veterinary clinics – things that complement our land supply.”
It is that diversity, and the social benefits that result from it, that attracted Brenton to the business. “To be part of a company that had that diversity was something I couldn’t overlook,” he says. “At Fairmont it’s been very much at the forefront of new product development and new ideas.”
Diversity, as well as their community focus, is also a large part of what sets Fairmont apart in the marketplace. Equally as important is their scope of experience, which they have gained from being both a builder and a land developer, as well as having a dedicated team of sales staff, administration staff, and trades people. “We have a fairly broad understanding of our service, whether it be in built form or land supply,” Brenton says.
Another big advantage is the company’s Private ownership. “As a Privately-owned business, we’re not constrained by the corporate process in terms of decision making,” explains Brenton. “It’s very quick; we’re able to change directions when directions need changing very quickly, and keep up with what market trends are.” He says David is very active in all areas of the business – as are all their managers. “We’re all very hands on, and we’re all very much in touch with what’s happening. We’re not that far removed from what the staff is doing, how they’re doing it, and where the market is going.”
The company consists of roughly 75 staff members, and Brenton says the employee-company relationship is among the best he’s seen in his career. “The culture is very, very good,” he says. “The relationship with everybody here on every level is unique. I’ve been in the building industry all my life, and I’ve never been in a business that has this cross-functioning, and this harmony. That would be the best way to describe it.”
Fostering and maintaining that culture is a matter of rewarding their staff, and providing them with opportunities for advancement. “We’re always looking for people to take new leadership roles in the group,” Brenton says. “That’s how we look at keeping the company going – promoting internally, encouraging people to have ideas.”
Fairmon’s strong culture is not limited to the walls of their offices. It also extends to their relationships with their subcontractors – many of whom are second-generation, and have worked with Fairmont for 20 to 30 years. They have an end-of-the-year function for all their contractors and suppliers that celebrates these partnerships. That event includes food, drink, and fair rides, and routinely attracts in excess of 1000 people.
“That’s part of the culture that Fairmont breeds. We’re not far removed from the guy cleaning the floor on one of the sites. Everyone’s approachable,” Brenton says. “We’re pretty confident that we’ve got a template that works. All we’ve got to do is make sure that template keeps working in the future.”
That template can also be applied to Fairmont’s relationship with clients, most of whom are either repeat customers or referrals. “We’re building houses now for grandchildren of clients we built houses for in the 60s and 70s,” says Brenton. To earn that loyalty, Fairmont sets its aims beyond simply construction a building. “We’re building a goal; we’re building a dream that clients have.”
Allen says that there can be difficulties in doing that, but they pride themselves on working through those challenges and making sure that goal is achieved – on turning their client’s dreams into realities. “We have a very good success rate with our systems and processes,” he explains. “Our goal is to keep improving that, and if there are problems that arise it’s all about how quick we can resolve those problems and get people back on track.”
Coming up, Fairmont Homes has a couple significant projects that they are proud to be a part of. Land divisions in Seaford Heights in south Adelaide, and in Blakeview East in the north, for example, will both be carbon managed throughout the construction and land development process. “We hope to achieve within our own scope of work a carbon managed site,” Brento says. “That’s very unique.”
As a company, environmental sustainability is important to Fairmont Homes, and they have to strive to reduce their carbon footprint by more each year. Their North Terrace office even has a zero-carbon emission policy. They have worked with BalanceCarbon, an emissions auditing and consulting firm, to establish environmentally friendly processes. “Moving forward we hope to always grow with that, and be the leader in the field in this industry,” Brenton says.
Looking to the future, Allen says Fairmont will adapt and diversify to stay on top of market trends and developments. The Adelaide state government, for example, recently released a 30-year planning strategy that calls for a lot of inner city building development. “We’re looking to be part of that, and we’re looking to grow our medium density and high density built form department,” Brenton says. “We want to make sure we get our piece of the pie in the high density living market.”
At the same time, Fairmonts is also looking to stay true to their values – such as providing affordable housing and keeping the business privately -owned. “We’re looking at making sure the next generation of people moving up to home ownership can have an affordable product, and one that meets the needs of their lifestyle,” Brenton says. “We’re also looking to keep the business around for the next Pickard generation – David’s got two sons who will hopefully be active in the business in the future, and we want to make sure they have a business plan in action that will keep Fairmont going.”
Brenton says it is the Fairmont culture – and the values inherent in that culture – that has enabled them to maintain their level of success for so long. By continuing to honour that culture, as well as staying flexible and current, he sees that success continuing. “Hopefully in 20 to 25 year’s time we’ll still be a leader in the South Australian industry,” he concludes.