Look­ing down the line

– When you run a 24-hour busi­ness, it’s im­por­tant to have all your checks, bal­ances and sys­tems in place. When you run a 24hour busi­ness ser­vic­ing the min­ing com­mu­nity this is an even greater im­per­a­tive.

Business First - - CONTENTS -

If there’s one thing John Kennedy knows it’s con­struc­tion ser­vices. Since 1999, he has been of­fer­ing a range of ser­vices in­clud­ing steel fab­ri­ca­tion and erec­tion, de­mo­li­tion, scaf­fold­ing, plumb­ing, elec­tri­cal, car­pen­try, civil and me­chan­i­cal. That list of ser­vices has grown over the years as Good­line’s rep­u­ta­tion as the go-to guys for ser­vice and main­te­nance has grown through­out the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Western Aus­tralia, Dar­win and Queens­land.

John be­gan the busi­ness in Weipa, the site of the world’s largest baux­ite mine. His in­ten­tion was to cre­ate a holis­tic ser­vice pri­mar­ily for Rio Tinto sup­ply­ing any­thing from me­chan­i­cal and struc­tural work to elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing ser­vices. The key ar­eas of spe­cial­i­sa­tion to­day in­clude steel fab­ri­ca­tion, steel erec­tions, de­mo­li­tions, scaf­fold­ing, plumb­ing, plas­tic weld­ing, civil car­pen­try and elec­tri­cal data com- mu­ni­ca­tions. With a di­verse range of ser­vices on of­fer from project con­cep­tion through to project man­age­ment and on­go­ing main­te­nance.

“I bought a busi­ness in Weipa that was al­ready sup­ply­ing ser­vices, but on a very small scale,” John says. “They had about eight people and I wanted to ex­pand it from there.”

The busi­ness as it stood at the time of the buy­out was less am­bi­tious than John en­vi­sioned.

“We had to make a busi­ness that was re­ac­tive, seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” says John of his vi­sion to not only ex­pand the busi­ness, but also change the in­dus­try. “I wanted to be avail­able for any re­quire­ments to the two mines op­er­at­ing in Weipa.

“One bloke had a plumb­ing busi­ness, one had an elec­tri­cal busi­ness and there were metal fab­ri­ca­tors and a range of lit­tle businesses, so my idea was to com­bine them. Be­cause of the remoteness and the shut­down as­pect, I felt we could com­bine all that labour and do the shut­down. When Rio Tinto wants 40 men for a shut, mainly they want boil­er­mak­ers, rig­gers and TAs, but elec­tri­cians can work as TAs. We just get it all done.”

Dwayne Finch is the gen­eral man­ager of Good­line. He says John has taken that con­cept right across ev­ery di­vi­sion that op­er­ates to­day and the strength of the busi­ness is due to hav­ing the right busi­ness con­cept.

“John set up the busi­ness pri­mar­ily to serve the baux­ite for Rio Tinto, Co­ma­lco at the time,” Dwayne says. “John’s plan was to be the main con­trac­tor in town and sup­ply a ser­vice to the min­ing op­er­a­tions and a ser­vice to the com­mu­nity.”

By 2004 Good­line had grown to more than 200 em­ploy­ees. The ap­pren­tice­ship had been done, the rep­u­ta­tion forged. And that’s when the big break came.

“In 2004 I went over to Port Hed­land and had a look around. I heard that they were look­ing for a good con­trac­tor. I met with BHP Pro­cure­ment and they wouldn’t prom­ise me any work, but they said if you come over here we’d cer­tainly look at you for any piece­meal work. We didn’t have too much suc­cess with BHP in the early days, but we picked up some work with Rio Tinto and Fortes­cue Metals was just start­ing off. We did all their steel erec­tion work and things took off from there.”

Good­line now ser­vice Rio, BHP and FMG in Port Hed­land.

Ini­tially, in April 2005 John sent a team of five people to the Pil­bara. To­day there are over 500 people work­ing there (he had 80 in the re­gion by Christ­mas of 2005). It was a risky move but like any good leader, John is not averse to risk. The move to West Aus­tralia is case in point.

“I had some good people. Mick Far­rell was the key to that move. I could see West Aus­tralia had enor­mous po­ten­tial and I said to Mick, I wouldn’t go there with­out him tak­ing lead­er­ship in that re­gion. He ac­cepted it, and he’s still over there to to­day.”

The move to Dar­win in 2009 was an­other big risk.

“A sim­ple move to Dar­win costs you about $2 mil­lion to start off,” John says. “We don’t have the same in­fra­struc­ture there as we do in Port Hed­land, but we went up there with five people and it grew to 80. It’s now set­tled at about 35 but it fluc­tu­ates and you have to be ready to ex­pand or con­tract as cir­cum­stance dic­tates.

The labour force across Good­line is drop­ping at the mo­ment as the min­ing in­dus­try un­der­goes some nec­es­sary change, but it is un­likely to dip be­low 600 people. Still, 600 people is a far cry from the eight people Good­line started with.

There are three el­e­ments both John and Dwayne put Good­line’s suc­cess down to: 1. In­dus­try de­mand. 2. Hav­ing the right busi­ness con­cept. 3. Hav­ing the right people.

Dwayne says to build the clien­tele the three el­e­ments above are crit­i­cal.

“You need to po­si­tion yourself in the right place, and be re­ac­tive to the clients’ needs. You need to take a multi-dis­ci­plined ap­proach. Then you need to give them the right cul­ture and you do that by build­ing the right cul­ture of people. We’ve put a lot of em­pha­sis around safety. We’ve built our sys­tems up to be at a high level. We take that to ev­ery job re­gard­less of what the sta­tus is for the site to op­er­ate at.

“The keys to main­tain­ing the on­go­ing re­la­tion­ships with these com­pa­nies is to take a good, hon­est ap­proach. We run a rel­a­tively lean, but strong, skilled team. They can man­age the works well, and make sure they all have the same cul­ture. They can deliver on time and do it safely.”

De­spite much of the work be­ing done in West Aus­tralia, Good­line main­tains its base of op­er­a­tions in Queens­land.

“Labour is af­ford­able. The of­fice space is af­ford­able and with tech­nol­ogy con­nect­ing us, we have a sta­ble work­force.”

An­other thing that sep­a­rates Good­line from its com­peti­tors is its pre-as­sem­bly ap­proach. This came about be­cause the lo­gis­tics for a job forced John to think out­side the box to be able to deliver.

“That ap­proach was driven by lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion. We had to get the steel work done, while FMG were do­ing the civil foun­da­tions in par­al­lel. To meet the sched­ule we had to take the ac­com­mo­da­tion con­straint away. From there we’ve tried to deliver that con­cept across the coun­try, and we’ll con­tinue to do that where the op­por­tu­nity be­comes avail­able. Sur­pris­ingly enough, on the back end, we’ve seen from a commercial as­pect it was vi­able. It also brought money back into the lo­cal economies.”

John is ded­i­cated to the com­mu­nity as well as the businesses he con­tracts to. He be­lieves that all com­pa­nies should have strong re­la­tion­ships with the com­mu­ni­ties in which they work, par­tic­u­larly in re­mote ar­eas.

“We need to main­tain that re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity and un­der­stand that we don’t just work for the min­ers, we work for ev­ery­body in town. If some­one needs some­thing fixed up at their house, or in­dus­trial com­plex, then we’ll go and do that work as well.”

As for the fu­ture, Good­line is push­ing fur­ther into Queens­land and open­ing that mar­ket up in gas and coal. They are tak­ing a slow ap­proach and wait­ing for the mar­ket to open up so they can di­rect them­selves into main­te­nance and shut­down ser­vices for that in­dus­try.

“We do it quite well in all our other di­vi­sions, and half our rev­enue is built off that. That’s where we see the fu­ture. We be­come a multi-ser­vice com­pany based in strate­gic po­si­tions so that we can of­fer that ser­vice, and then still do the projects as they come along,” John says.

John Kennedy

Dwayne Finch

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