28/05/2009 - 00:00

SVT adjusts focus to make the most of its best people

28/05/2009 - 00:00

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THE death of its co-founder, Michael Norton, six years ago had a dramatic effect on West Leederville-based consulting engineers SVT Engineering Consultants.

SVT adjusts focus to make the most of its best people

THE death of its co-founder, Michael Norton, six years ago had a dramatic effect on West Leederville-based consulting engineers SVT Engineering Consultants.

The passing of Professor Norton at age 51, just as the state's resources boom was beginning to take hold, highlighted the frailty of building a business around key people. For SVT, the resource boom posed more of a threat than an opportunity at that time, as it struggled to cope with ever-increasing client demands.

The response by fellow co-founder, Paul Keswick, was a proposition for change that would enable the company to build a more sustainable business and better help those within the business to reach their full potential.

The company's process formally started about three and half years ago and has since reaped significant rewards, growing turnover by 26 per cent in 2006-07 and by 40 per cent in 2007-08 to $9.5 million.

In the past financial year, the number of full-time equivalent staff has almost doubled, with forecasts of an ever better result for 2008-09 - about 77 FTE staff with a projected turnover of $12 million.

At the start of the company's growth phase the first management team planning meeting found the company: was stretched to its limits; had an overdependence on key people; was a highly reactive business; and clients' needs were getting lost in the background noise.

Its growth strategy was key to focusing the company, leading change and aligning team members, and involving everyone in the process.

The process gave the company an understanding of 'who we are', 'how we make money', 'what we do', 'how we need to do it', and 'who we can do it for'.

SVT improved its capacity to work on the business, breaking the 'too busy working in the business' cycle by bringing on board additional skills and resources while learning how to do it.

It also invested in a wide range of improvement initiatives across its processes, systems and infrastructure, moving from a 'do it when we can' philosophy to one of bringing in facilitation and expertise to make critical work happen.

Another key growth strategy for the company was to recruit ahead of the demand curve. With revenues closely tied to head count, combined with the difficulties in recruiting specialists on demand, this strategy has been essential to move the company from a reactive to proactive company, both internally and with clients.

The strategy also assists with staff retention and motivation by having the capacity to take on new opportunities, share the workload, free up more time to work on the business and create leadership and mentoring opportunities.

Today, the SVT team says it is more in control, engaged in building the business globally and adopting a more proactive approach with its clients by surveying them and listening to their needs.

The SVT team describes itself as one of WA's best-kept business secrets - a local company with representative offices in Victoria and Kuala Lumpur, quietly going about its business servicing the oil and gas, mining, mineral processing and utilities sectors.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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