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Housing : March 2009
Developer Profile Anthony’s first job was in real estate when he was just 19. In the early ’90s he started working in a sales role at Henley Properties in Victoria, and later moved to a more operational role and ran Henley’s businesses in Sydney and Brisbane. He later became Henley’s Queensland state manager and eventually returned to Melbourne as national general manager. In 1999, Anthony decided it was time to venture out on his own. ‘I got to the stage where I thought there were other ways to go about business,’ he says. ‘I saw opportunities in the marketplace for a different product, different business model and different delivery focus. There just wasn’t enough focus on meeting the client’s expectations.’ Anthony, along with colleagues Danny Stutterd and David Shergold, set out on a new business journey. ‘We had developed a personal friendship. And we had the same vision and passion about where we wanted to go,’ Anthony says. At the time, Porter Davis was the only company to offer guaranteed starts and guaranteed completions. Anthony says they also focused on introducing fresh colours and more open living spaces in their designs. ‘We were very much the originators of alfresco living, which has been welldocumented in various court cases over the years,’ he says. ‘In the ’90s everything seemed to be beige. So we introduced new colours and a new look.’ ‘In the ’90s everything seemed to be beige. So we introduced new colours and a new look’ Porter Davis opened their first display home in January 2000. It now has 19 new displays. ‘Originally our aim was to build about 300 houses a year over a three to four year period,’ he says. ‘We ended up selling about 300 houses in the first year. ‘Things grew dramatically from our original plan. We now build 1200 to 1300 houses a year. But we remain focused and maintain a “hands-on” approach with the business.’ While Danny and David are no longer with the company, Anthony has partnered with two new business heads, Paul Wolff and Steve Tankey, and Porter Davis has continued to thrive. 24 The company employs about 300 people, and runs its own accredited training programs, diplomas and cadetships. It has a small builder and small business culture (six separate business centres across Melbourne) which Porter Davis believes provides clients with the ultimate in service and quality assurance. Business turnover is now over $300 million a year. And Porter Davis is currently one of the biggest players in the Victorian new-home market. Regarding the general future of the industry, Anthony says the gradual slowing of the marketplace in the last half of 2008 would have been worse had it not been for consecutive interest rate cuts and the tripling of the First Home Owners Grant. Porter Davis is holding up relatively well, with increased activity from both first home buyers and investors in the top end of the market. But Anthony says the federal government needs to extend the deadline for the grant beyond June 30 (the grant falls back to $7000 after this date), to ensure continued activity and jobs. ‘Whether Australia avoids a recession depends on employment,’ he says. ‘People won’t move forward without jobs. There’s not much activity in construction at the Know your market Anthony Roberts’ general tips for business success: work hard, get to know your market, and listen to your customers. He also suggests reinvesting in your business if there is extra cash flow. ‘Business success ultimately stems from the people who work for you,’ he says. ‘We’ve managed to develop a really strong culture. One of our core charters is about having people who are flexible and adapt to whatever the market dishes out to us.’ Above all else, Anthony says the main quality that’s helped him succeed in the industry is perseverance. He says most young players entering the industry today are impatient for success. ‘But things don’t happen overnight. It’s a journey. Find people in the industry who can be your mentor. Spend time getting to know your market, and have a clear vision of where you want to go.’ moment and there will be a lot of pressure on subcontractors over the coming months to find work. ‘My concern is that there will be a big black hole left after the First Home Owners Grant (increase) ends. It places questions over what will happen in 2010, and whether activity will pick up.’ H HOUSING MARCH 2009