HIGHLY COMMENDED YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR

HIGHLY COMMENDED YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR

HAVING a proactive approach to construction work has been a profitable trait for commercial painters UHK, with 35 per cent growth in FY11.

The past 12 months have flown by for UHK director Theodore Vairaktaris (pictured), who describes it as one of consolidation and growth in his company’s share of tier-one projects.

“Our ethic of project transparency has been the key to our success. We act as our client’s partner in projects, from consulting services through to quality application,” says Vairaktaris.

“We are extremely proactive through the whole programming of the works, from scheduling and finish through to quality and timely completion within budget. We get builders to do things differently, which is the Usher secret of success.”

UHK has tapped project work in Brisbane at the $150 million Hamilton Harbour; $80 million Portside Wharf; $60 million Azure Blue Redcliffe; $30 million Wheeler on The Park and $12 million Sudima Suites.

Closer to home, the company has worked on the Victoria Towers in Southport, Ecovillage at Currumbin and Broadwater Parklands redevelopment.

Although opportunities on the Coast are still relatively scarce, UHK has managed to secure its share of maintenance and restoration jobs.

“There isn’t a lot happening on the Coast; it’s been very tough. We are doing some high-rise repainting at the Amira Beachfront Apartments, QT (formerly the Gold Coast International Hotel) and renovations at the Marina Mirage shopping centre,” says Vairaktaris.

“We’re staying optimistic that the confidence will turn and the State Government will fast-track projects and make it more affordable for developers.”

Cyclone Yasi in March brought considerable growth to UHK’s new Townsville office.

“We weren’t affected when the cyclone passed, but observed a jump in reconstruction work. We’ve initiated a lot of flood rectification work at Mission Beach and Tully with 10 staff on-board,” says Vairaktaris.

The new year offers further expansion opportunities in the northern Queensland town of Moranbah, which has become a hive of projects due to its rapid population growth from the mining boom.

“Moranbah is a booming little town with many different builders already requiring services. It’s a big cultural shift for staff and their families and people are often mistaken for thinking they can just fly-in, get work and leave,” says Vairaktaris.

“Mining is a tough industry to work in as you need to be set up correctly. Safety is a huge issue and you need to make sure it’s 100 per cent.”

Throughout the year, UHK has appointed financial controllers and expanded its board of directors from three to six. The company has also developed its own enterprise scheduling and financial-controlling software to cope with the swelling workplace.

“It’s much easier now because everybody can take ownership of their roles, access information and be held accountable,” says Vairaktaris.

Recruitment professionals have predicted an impending shortage of new and qualified tradespeople due to sluggish apprentice numbers since the building sector’s downturn.

The average age of qualified painters tends to be 50 to 55, prompting Vairaktaris to warn that the industry needs to combat the skills shortage now before it becomes more severe.

To this end, UHK has implemented a staff training program not only to up-skill employees and contractors, but also attract a younger wave of commercial painters.

Although the industry has been on its knees for the past few years, the future is looking up for this ambitious, growing company.

Floating on the Australian Securities Exchange continues to be a long-term goal for UHK. Until then, Vairaktaris will focus on organic growth and recruiting the right staff.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED
Theodore Vairaktaris
UHK/Usher and
Son Painting Contractors
CONSTRUCTION
Age: 35
Business Est: 2003
Staff: 150+
(including contractors)
Growth: 35 per cent
Turnover: $13 million

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