Living the dream

Taking a long-term view, Ultimo Constructions planned and prepped for business growth in advance and now they’re reaping the rewards.

Author

Ian Bushnell

Perth building company Ultimo Constructions is just like the homes it builds – set on solid foundations, well planned and able to thrive in challenging environments. In less than a decade the winner of the 2019 HIA Australian Small Professional Builder/Renovator award has grown from a husband-and-wife team building three homes a year to a six-member team completing 35 builds a year, with a specialisation in property development and custom built homes.

Owners Rebecca and Angelo Rossi say they could not even have imagined this when they started out in 2010. But meticulous planning, an ability to read the market, an eye for recruiting the right people and a willingness to take on jobs that others might shy away from, has earned them an enviable reputation in Perth’s competitive market.

General manager Rebecca Rossi, who won the 2015 HIA Australian Business Partner award, says the latest honour is a worthy recognition for the team and the company for how they work successfully with clients on usually the biggest investment they will ever make.

‘Your customer service starts within your team. You can’t deliver a good service and build beautiful and good quality homes without a happy team,’ she says.

Angelo was hardly a novice when they started out in 2010, having had his own carpentry business and been a site supervisor for a major builder, studying part-time for eight years to acquire his builder’s licence.

After starting a family, the pair decided it was time to take that leap of faith and go out on their own: ‘It was Angelo’s dream to start his own company, and I said I would always support him and do the office work, never thinking that we’d grow to this level and be a national professional builder,’ Rebecca says.

ultimo owners
Rebecca and Angelo Rossi of Ultimo Constructions won the 2019 HIA Australian Small Professional Builder/Renovator award.
ultimo sitting
Ultimo takes on a diverse palette of projects ranging in value from $300,000 to $2 million but the company’s specialty and passion is property development.

The plan was always to stay a small company but growth came year-on-year, moving from that platform of just three builds to 35 in 2019, with the major expansion coming in the past five years despite difficult economic conditions in the west. This can be attributed to Ultimo’s growing reputation for quality and an enjoyable project experience. But Rebecca and Angelo do their homework, crunch the numbers and understand the market.

‘It’s difficult when you’re growing because it kind of happens quickly, but we were prepared for it because we knew from forecasting and watching the sales grow that work was coming on,’ Rebecca says. ‘So we recruited the right people and had them trained up for when the jobs started. We set ourselves up for the growth in advance.’

From the beginning, the key has been getting the processes and core values right, then bringing other people into the team and developing them to deliver the company’s vision.
Rebecca says being able to grow the business in a downturn is ‘a pretty awesome achievement’. 

‘You’ve got to forecast and really build relationships to win the work.’

Those relationships include a reliable and quality crew of subcontractors, suppliers, local community networks, and attending events, such as trade events and the HIA conference, which help lift the company profile and brand awareness.

The business’ website and social media, run by Ultimo’s marketing coordinator, also gets the message out. But word of mouth referrals remains the backbone of the business, just like it was in its first year. 

Ultimo takes on a diverse palette of projects ranging in value from $300,000 to $2 million but the company’s specialty and passion is property development, helping clients maximise the potential of their blocks and taking the stress out of what can be a difficult process.

‘We have worked a lot on our client experience and client journey, trying to increase client experience from start to finish,’ Rebecca says.

Ultimo delivers a customised process, providing plans that remain the property of the client, giving them the flexibility to seek other quotes so they don’t feel locked in. It’s all about building trust and when the client decides to commit, Ultimo can project manage the build all the way through.

‘We try to provide a stress-free experience, especially with property development. If that’s successful the client will come back and do it again. We like our clients to succeed in projects; we like repeat clients.’

ultimo home
‘[Angelo] really loves the challenging sites that no one else can build on...where he can really think outside the box'
ultimo bathroom
‘We try to provide a stress-free experience, especially with property development. If that's successful, the client will come back'

A vital part of that process has been the adoption of project management software Beams Build. It has simplified the management of multiple building sites, where site managers have the app on their iPads so they can access everything they need.

It also has an online client portal so they can access contract documents and track work progress, as well as providing client communications during construction.

Ultimo prides itself on accepting jobs that challenge the team and Angelo in particular. ‘He really loves the challenging sites that no one else can build on, for him that’s the ultimate build where he can really think outside the box and is challenged to build a product on a really difficult site,’ Rebecca says.

One such build is a favourite – a five unit townhouse site in Sorrento with ocean views that required extensive limestone retaining walls. Another was to retain and build on a big block in Burswood with an eight-metre drop from the front to the rear of the site, requiring substantial excavation.

Besides steep slopes, Rebecca sees finance and lending as a challenge for Ultimo and the industry, although with tax arrangements now to stay the same, interest rates at historic lows and an easing of loan requirements, the future looks brighter for WA.

But she remains concerned about a possible skills shortage in the next two to three years, saying more apprentices and young people were needed to fill a range of roles in the building industry, not just out onsite.

HIA members from the beginning, Rebecca and Angelo value the support and advice the organisation has been able to provide, and the events that keep members up-to-date with industry trends. ‘You definitely need that support in this industry, whether it be legal advice, insurance, contract, whatever,’ Rebecca says.

Ultimo is still growing and Rebecca hopes that in five years they can achieve their goal of having a full service team, bringing a drafts person in-house. 

Whatever the challenges, you can be sure the Ultimo team will be ready for them.

ultimo team

‘Your customer service starts within your team...

You can’t deliver a good service and build beautiful and good quality homes without a happy team.

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