17/03/2011 - 00:00

Four into one works fine at KAPP

17/03/2011 - 00:00

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THE adage that the whole is more than the sum of its parts is an apt description for how Balcatta-based KAPP Engineering runs its business.

THE adage that the whole is more than the sum of its parts is an apt description for how Balcatta-based KAPP Engineering runs its business.

The company’s founding owners – Kieran Sadlier, Amir Tanady, Praveen Paul and Peter Parlongo – started the business after leaving the engineering services firm where they worked and became friends.

Leaving that company during a downturn in business, the four engineers took some of the valuable ‘what-not-to-do’ lessons they had learned and established KAPP based on the belief that they would work as a team on every project, regardless of scale and monetary value.

“That has been one of our main selling points from day one, that we are not just a one-man band,” Mr Parlongo said.

“We don’t use contract workers; you come to us, you get us as a team and we are all divided into our own roles within the project.

“The project might only be a couple of thousand dollars but you would have three or four guys working on it.”

After leaving the firm and setting up shop in Mr Parlongo’s spare bedroom, the business partners were faced with the challenge of establishing the business with no capital, no investors and no financial backing – all they had was a couple of credit cards.

Starting a business with only a few clients from their previous employment and through cold calling was challenging. Messrs Paul and Parlongo said having four team members to flesh-out ideas and learn from was integral in the early days of the company. Reflecting on the early days they describe themselves, as “pretty hard-core engineers”, with little business background.

But Mr Parlongo said this allowed them to develop their business based on providing service and ethical practices rather than the bottom line, which he added was vastly different to the practices of the firm they had been working for.

“It was a boom time, it was 2005, it was very competitive and people became quite complacent. Customers were chasing you and our competitors were saying, ‘no, I’m too busy, I’m going up north’. So we decided if we focused on the local market we could service it really well and run a really ethical business,” Mr Parlongo said.

“Not many businesses wanted to work in the metro area because it didn’t pay as well, and the mining was paying much more, so it was neglected.

“We were running a very ethical business from day one, we wanted to make sure we treated everyone with respect.”

Another reason for remaining in the metro area was to capitalise on the strength of the partners’ collective knowledge.

“Our strength was in our team. If you send individual guys out to a site then you are only as strong as they are, you are very reliant on them,” Mr Parlongo said.

So with a strong values base in place, KAPP went about establishing a market in Perth.

Mr Paul said that, after a year of operations, KAPP decided to secure the distribution licence for one of the products it used frequently in an effort to extend the marketing reach.

This helped the business to live up to its self-imposed expectations.

“One of our main core values is finding a solution for every customer; any customer that respects us enough to get in contact with our company, we make sure we give them a solution,” he said.

By establishing the product sales section of the business KAPP not only had a new sales market to develop long-standing relationships with, but also had a new and constant revenue stream.

KAPP specialises in control systems for manufacturing plants, and while in its early years it focused on the water treatment market, the business has since broadened its scope and has worked on train lifting systems, waste composting facilities and, currently, the roof control system for the Perth Arena.

Mr Parlongo said KAPP was now focused on extending its market further by establishing training facilitations at is Balcatta-owned premises.

By offering training in using what he described as the “programmable brains” of a project, Mr Parlongo said KAPP had further diversified its service offering.

KAPP’s strategies have worked in the long run; the company established a client base of smaller businesses, which eventually helped with word-of-mouth business referrals and now has a client base of 200.

In 2006, after a year of operation, a new engineer joined the team when the business’s workload grew beyond the four founders’ capacity to manage it.

KAPP has built its principles and core values into its key performance indicators for staff in the quarterly appraisals, with staff members’ adoption of these closely monitored. But finding suitable candidates when a company’s values system is so strictly applied across its operations can be challenging.

Messrs Paul and Parlongo recall their first recruit was with KAPP for just less than one year, but when the team discovered he was not upholding the values of the business properly, they quickly established a more intense recruiting system.

They now run a six-month recruitment process, which is heavily focused establishing that candidates are aligned to the values of the business.

“By recruitment we need to make sure they tick all the boxes of the core values and it is complying with the core values, because that is something that is instilled in us,” Mr Paul said.

 

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