The other factor in Henley’s success over the years has been to embrace innovation, whether that is including garages as a standard feature, making two-storey homes affordable for average buyers, developing open plan designs, offering finance or adopting five-star energy ratings before they were government mandated.
A decade ago it built a zero-emissions house with the CSIRO, and now offers a six-star energy rating across its standard house plans. The company has taken sustainability and high environmental standards seriously, not just because in doing so it adds value to the business but because it’s the right thing to do, Tony says.
‘You need to be at the forefront of that corporate and social responsibility, whether the consumer can see the value of it or not, you need to be doing it anyway.’
Henley has also been a keen adopter of IT, making a big investment in business management software in 2006 and using other systems and digital platforms to enhance its processes. Tony says a business needs to be really nimble in that area, and the COVID-19 situation has highlighted this. But at the same time, he says a business should not overcomplicate matters and should continue to ask the question, ‘will it make life better for the customer?’
Innovation can often involve risk, and bringing Japanese firm Sumitomo Forestry into the ownership in 2009 – in what Tony calls the most defining moment in the company’s history – has greatly strengthened Henley’s hand in that area.
Being awarded the HIA Professional Major Builder is a reflection on how far the company has come, and is valuable recognition for the Henley team who work incredibly hard, he adds. It also gives confidence to Henley’s customers that ‘we’re doing something right’.
‘It is making everyday builders raise the bar to try and win these awards and that’s a great thing for the industry.’
Looking ahead, Tony says that as lot sizes get smaller it will be important to stay ahead of the game from a design perspective, as well as finding ways to speed up construction to counter land supply and planning delays that are besetting the industry. Having enough land to build on is the key to affordability and is currently one of the most pressing issues for government and the industry.