Honouring our Word Delivers Best Practice
The construction industry in South Australia and nationally has faced enormous challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work, live and play.
In my role as Chief Executive Officer of Sarah Constructions, my most important task is ensuring that our internal values drive behaviours defining industry best practice. Sarah’s values (People, Collaboration, Solutions and Honour) and the behaviours that define them have always been integral to the success of our business, but over the past three years I have found myself often reflecting on the value of Honour, and how it has helped us navigate business post-pandemic.
To me, honour is about respect; for yourself, your clients and stakeholders, and your colleagues. Most simply, I define it as “saying what you are going to do, and then doing as you said”. Honour is about actions; transparently following through on promises and building trust at every stage of the project lifecycle.
The supply chain, resourcing, and cost challenges we have faced have been largely out of the industry’s control and have tested everyone. As projects have been delayed, the strain on our clients, teams and partners has been difficult to manage, and conducting ourselves in an honourable way has never been more important.
Honouring our Word with our Clients
More than 70% of our business is generated from repeat clients, and I believe that Sarah’s point of difference is the level of effort we invest in understanding our client’s project objectives. Our clients trust us to build long-term assets for their success, and we understand that high quality delivery is non-negotiable.
As the pandemic impacted projects, we quickly realised that honour and honesty were the key to reducing stressful situations. Honour makes it easier to have hard conversations, and we have committed to having them early, and remaining open and transparent.
Upfront and honest communication allowed us to collaboratively reprogram and reprice projects, ensuring that our clients could make the necessary adjustments to minimise impacts on business continuity and their personnel.
It was critical that we set realistic expectations to allow our teams to honour Sarah’s commitments. It has not always been easy, but largely, I believe that the right response has created the right outcomes for everyone. Now, more than ever, the willingness to have early, robust, and often difficult discussions is critical.
“Sarah Constructions showcased their depth of professional skills and the stability of their subcontractor and supplier relationships during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their ability to maintain program delivery, supply chain and relationships is not only measured by the fact that the project is 10 weeks ahead of schedule but also at quality level that meets the promise of an ECH housing product for older South Australians.”
Dorothy Nycz, Former Chief Operating Officer
Adrian Esplin with Cancer Council Chief Executive Kerry Rowlands and the Cancer Council Redevelopment Team
Equitable and Honourable Relationships with Delivery Partners and Stakeholders
The challenges we faced also impacted our subcontractors, suppliers, and consultants, all of whom were trying to honour their own commitments to their stakeholders.
Our approach was to ensure that relationships remained equitable, where every party understood the limitations and expectations, and dealings remained fair and firm. We knew that regardless of the project status, we had to continue our commitment to pay in full, and on time. If we said that a project would be ready for services or supply delivery, we honoured our word and made sure it was.
We also invested heavily in maintaining relationships with project consultants, honouring their vision and understanding the integrity of the design, and these open discussions allowed us to manage supply constraints without impacting quality.
Our teams have always practiced timely and honest communication with the communities and operational environments where they work, and this continued to be a focus. Despite the challenging environment, our approach allowed us to maintain mutually honourable relationships with our delivery partners and stakeholders.
“Sarah Constructions has a motto – Building great Relationships – and from a client’s perspective I can verify that they ‘walk the talk. The critical collaborative culture that Sarah Constructions embrace achieves the best outcomes for their clients.”
Deb O’Riley, Former Director – New Schools
Department for Education
Acting Honourably with Each Other
Exceptional projects are delivered by exceptional people, and our 250+ team members are Sarah’s most valuable assets.
It is important to me that everyone enjoys coming to work and understands the valuable contribution they make to the success and evolution of the company. It is equally important that our leadership team honour its commitments to create an environment where everyone feels respected and safe to speak up, and to invest in the development of each and every staff member.
We know that our people have chosen Sarah as a career rather than just a job, and we have a responsibility to honour their commitment with the investment of time and money required to develop them.
Honour goes hand-in-hand with accountability, and it is critical that when we don’t follow through with commitments, we are called out and shift our behaviour to re-align with our values. I make a personal daily commitment to be accountable for my own actions and to actively encourage honourable behaviour across all levels of the company.
Acting honourably means we have continued to build credibility and authenticity with our clients, and I am incredibly proud of the way our teams have continually behaved under unprecedented circumstances. Together, we will continue to hold ourselves to the standard where our clients and partners can say “this is what the construction experience should always be like.”