The name really says it all
There is one thing to be said for Project Strategies (PSA): they are in a space that no one else occupies. Yes, there are project developers and managers, but no one quite takes on the scope of project management the way PSA does. Geoff Cunningham, Managing Director and founder, says that the “Barracks” project in Brisbane is typical of how they operate. The $120million Mixed Use project had many hurdles to overcome, but the success that Project Strategies has had with their methodology is well demonstrated by the successful outcome of the project.
On other large scale projects, the importance of establishing a strategy to achieve the desired outcome is critical. On the Vision Project (no longer proceeding as a result of the GFC) the team developed a strategy to obtain the numerous approvals for the proposed iconic 72 storey tower in the Brisbane CBD. Several Development Approvals were sought, each to achieve a specified outcome that was not easily obtainable with a single DA approach.
PSA’s reach is not limited to one location. They have completed work in Tasmania, all along the Eastern Seaboard states as well as overseas. In 1995, Geoff moved to Brisbane to set up a Brisbane office for a Sydney based project management firm. Shortly after, Geoff started his own project management business with a partner which continued until 2002 at which point the two directors went their own separate ways. It was at this divide that Geoff formed Project Strategies. “I have been in this industry for the better part of 27 years, and for the last nine I have been developing Project Strategies.” There are currently ten employees at Project Strategies, but they are looking to expand their workforce as the market recovers from the GFC.
Managing both the big and the small
Whilst Project Strategies has a building licence, it is only used for “emergencies” and small private developments that they undertake. The majority of their build capability is distributed to trusted and respected contractors. “We do put our money where our mouth is and do our own developments on small projects that we manage and build ourselves,” says Geoff.
Geoff says that one of the things that they do differently to their peers is that they do not work from a manual or follow ‘agency’ guidelines. “Instead we sit down with a client and figure out exactly what they need, and we can tailor our service to suit exactly what that client needs.” He says this has been important in attracting some of the big names that are operating in Queensland, including Woolworths. “Woolworths is one of our biggest clients, and we perform about six or seven different roles for them, so we have tailored the service to fit exactly into the mould that they need,” says Geoff. “We work with a large variety of clients from ASX listed developers, through to sole traders operating a retail tenancy in a shopping centre.”
Project Strategies also incorporates the specific skills of their team members to benefit the client. Whilst Project Management is the core service offered, PSA has undertaken Design Management roles for large scale projects for private developers, programme preparation for complex multi-staged projects as well as due diligence studies and detailed property advice for potential development opportunities.
What PSA have proven is that whilst they may only have ten staff, their capabilities are far larger than one would expect. PSA were appointed for the once proposed $1.2billion Vision Tower from a panel of 10 project management firms across Australia – not bad given the selection was not based on fees, but the team. Geoff also points out that it is not just the construction process that they can deal with; they also deal with processing plants, infrastructure, marinas, site acquisitions, etc.
Adapting to the market
One of the more unique services that Project Strategies offers is ‘Rescue Management’. “If a project gets into trouble, the first step for the financer is to establish what the options are to mitigate their new risk” says Geoff. “We can quickly undertake a ‘Point in Time’ assessment of the project to develop a Risk Profile. This allows us to develop more than one exit strategy.” Project Strategies has handled a few projects where the builder has gone bankrupt part way through the project. Their Rescue Management skills have resulted in the projects being completed for their client with minimal impact on time and with little or no affect on budget.
Currently, Project Strategies has several projects underway which are related to this field of work. Geoff points out that this may seem like an opportunistic avenue to explore given the recent financial climate, but Project Strategies has been involved in rescue management since 2002. “People always assume that it is only in a recession that projects ‘go bad’, but it is not. It happens during the boom times as well”. He says that they have to have services like these in order to remain fluid and adaptable to the client’s needs and the reality of the business.
The secret to Project Strategies’ success is the work ethic that he and the employees at the company have. “I have a lot of passion for what we do, and part of making the company reflect that passion is finding the right people who share that mindset.” He says that since the first day of their operations he has always made sure that there are people in the company that will provide for the future of Project Strategies. He says that the company is something that he remains passionate about, and even though he has been offered buy-out options from larger corporations, he’s turned them down in order to preserve the future of the company’s direction. “It’s not all about the money,” says Geoff “the lifestyle and enjoying coming to work is just as important.”