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Pindan back to school for $103m of work

April 8, 2010

WA Business News

In three decades of being in business together, Pindan owners George Allingame and David Pringle say they have disagreed on little. Things didn’t even get heated when a “poor business decision” by Mr Allingame to venture into ‘mortarless’ blocks cost the Belmont-based construction company $250,000. “We’ve been partners for 30-something years and we’ve never had an argument,” Mr Allingame told WA Business News. “It’s one of those things; he’s doing his best, he knows I’m doing my best, if something goes wrong, well, we didn’t mean to do it.” That easygoing approach has been a constant throughout the growth of the company, which now employs more than 200 staff and has a list of projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They include Stockland’s $70 million Islands Apartments at South Beach, Cape Bouvard’s $50 million ‘One Brighton’ apartments in Mandurah, and Brookfield Multiplex’s Leighton apartments. For the 12 months ahead, Pindan has secured $89 million of construction work at 62 primary schools, as well as $14 million of school maintenance work at 100 schools, through the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program. During the global financial crisis the private company grew its workforce by 15 per cent and launched two new spin-off companies – new-home builder Switch Homes for Living, and transportable accommodation business Formas Australia. Pindan used the downturn to restructure internally and expand capabilities, combining its grouped dwellings and small-to-medium commercial works section to create Pindan Projects. The new division was created to manage the expected growth in those two sectors. Messrs Allingame and Pringle agree that staying private has enabled the business to remain flexible, which they say is important for a diversified company operating across commercial construction, luxury apartments, grouped housing, aged-care facilities, offices, retail and schools. “Staying private, I think, allows you to be more nimble and we can make decisions quickly and so we don’t have to go before a board and say ‘can we do this or that?’” Mr Allingame said. “And if we lose a pile of money doing something, well we might get upset, but you deal with it and move on. “I think you have to be adaptable in this type of industry because there are runs of things; sometimes residential (construction) is strong, sometimes commercial (construction) is strong, you have to really be able to build all of those things and adapt to the marketplace. “But the key, no matter what, is having the right staff.” While Mr Allingame has a chemical engineering background and Mr Pringle experience in the financial sector, the two have developed a successful working dynamic through a flat management structure and a strong commitment to recruiting apprentices. Pindan director of business development, Scott Davison, said the company’s ability to expand even during the economic downturn was aided by the management structure and a philosophy of investing heavily in staff and building client relationships. “One thing when the (global financial crisis) hit and the work started drying up was we tried to keep our staff, so we made an executive decision that we were going to sacrifice the company’s profits to maintain our workforce,” he said. “We carried a lot more people than we commercially had to.” To retain its workforce, Pindan offers a structure where each staff member receives a percentage of profits as a yearly bonus, with all staff also receiving an extra five days’ paid annual leave each year, on top of the industry norm. Pindan was originally part of the Armstrong Jones Property Group, which in the 1970s built caravan parks, houses, and small offices, before Mr Allingame bought out the owners and eventually partnered with Mr Pringle.

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