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From the outset, HIA member David Maiolo of RODA Developments had clear aspirations for what his building company would represent and what it would offer its clients: a transparent and trustworthy approach to building designed to dispel the negative stigma that at times has plagued the construction industry.
Beginning his building career as a carpenter, David says he saw firsthand the power of open communication, honesty and collaboration in transforming attitudes towards industry, and knew this approach would be integral to building a successful business. For the most part he believes these values, along with a strong commitment to high-quality craftsmanship, have had a positive impact on RODA’s growth.
Established in 2006, the Melbourne-based business today enjoys a solid reputation as a specialist in custom builds, home design and multi-unit developments, backed by a team of skilled trades and support staff. Its original mission statement has underpinned its evolution into a sought-after boutique builder, while the launch of an impressive Style Studio, located at its headquarters in Preston, has added to RODA’s prestige and simplified its design and construction process.
But there was a point in the business’ trajectory where it was struggling to make headway, building only four dwellings a year – a circumstance David was determined to change. He realised a business couldn’t grow on good values alone, and his ambitious goals for RODA would be unattainable without a proven system to keep new enquiries coming in.
From 2017 onwards, one of David’s biggest leaps of faith was investing in marketing. ‘I was always sceptical about it,’ he explains. ‘I believed word of mouth was the only way to get work.’
David admits he had fallen into the builder’s trap of attempting to do it all himself. RODA’s early marketing initiatives involved flyer letterbox drops, newspaper ads and sponsoring local soccer teams. But after a poor return on investment he realised it simply wasn’t working. So, after he had attended several insightful seminars, David took the plunge and outsourced his marketing to a professional agency, Sea Salt Marketing.
RODA outsources a wide variety of marketing activities to the agency, from visible initiatives such as Facebook and Google Ads, regular social media posting, blogs and email marketing to back-end considerations, such as search engine optimisation (SEO). The business has also recently rebranded with a new logo and website to better reflect its evolution, and provide a foundation for growth in years to come.
Of these activities, David champions email marketing and social media as the most effective. ‘Building is an industry where people will only build once or maybe twice in their life, so having an email touching base every month or so keeps us front of mind for when a client is ready to start the journey,’ he says.
Engaging an agency also opened David’s eyes to the importance of a strong social media presence. Not only did he see it as a way to showcase RODA’s projects and expertise, but with the amount of time people spend on these platforms he felt neglecting them would be ‘business suicide’.
‘We tried it out and quickly realised we’ve been missing out on the opportunity for a long time. The worry of wondering when the phone would ring quickly diminished.’
David says he identifies marketing as a pivotal pillar to RODA’s success and continued growth. The business today completes more than 60 builds per year, an astronomical jump in work in just three years. By implementing a long-term marketing strategy, while still being nimble enough to be ahead of digital trends, RODA has guaranteed a steady stream of enquiries.
For this reason, he strongly advises other builders against attempting to manage their marketing in-house, where they run the risk of rushing and leaving it to the last minute. ‘For many builders, this may be the biggest investment they make in their business,’ he says. ‘It makes no sense to treat it as a DIY project because you just don’t get the return for it.’
David’s commitment to nurturing his staff’s development is another factor he attributes to RODA’s growth in recent years. As the director, he says he takes great pride in watching the personal and professional growth of his people, and enrolled his team in various training courses offered by HIA.
In the past year, RODA staff have completed HIA training courses that include ‘Dispute Resolution’, ‘Estimating and Tendering’ and ‘Contract Administration’. The training, David says, has been essential in furthering their industry knowledge in areas that go beyond just delivering a great home. ‘As someone who believes a business is defined by its people, I know that investing in their professional development is an investment in RODA’s future,’ he says.
David emphasises the value of the ‘Understanding HIA Contracts’ course, stating it has had a huge impact on his team’s ability to administer builds and translate information to clients to mitigate any onsite issues. He recommends other builders take advantage of their HIA membership by utilising the services available to them, whether that’s asking for legal advice or turning to the Association’s industry updates and resources in times of uncertainty, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
David has taken many steps over the past few years to make RODA the business it is today and feels the future at RODA is looking bright. Enquiries are regularly rolling in, as evidenced by the business’ astounding growth from four to 60 projects per year over a short period of time.
For David, the decisions to invest in marketing and the professional development of his staff were significant turning points that have shaped the business’ success and expansion. Now, he envisions a future that doesn’t rely so much on him as the face of RODA.
With increased confidence in the professional strength of his team and the strategic direction of the business, this reality doesn’t seem too far away. And he’s hopeful that his commitment to building quality and transparent customer service is helping to change attitudes to the industry he has invested so much of himself into, one project at a time.
As a Melbourne builder, David Maiolo has had to deal with the full consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic – yet after the obligatory adjustment period, the business has settled into new ways of working. In particular, its online portal has been more important than ever for staff and clients to track the progress of their builds – allowing homeowners to feel in the loop despite being unable to visit the site.
On advice for other builders, David recommends using this disruption as an opportunity to reconsider and change aspects of your business that just weren’t working as they should. ‘Try and forecast your pipeline as much as possible to avoid reacting in the future because the industry will leave you behind,’ he says.
And in what has been a common theme of discussion throughout the isolating nature of this pandemic, he also encourages builders to reach out to others in the industry. ‘Everyone is going through the same problems and have been through the same issues – talking them out with likeminded people can do wonders for your mental health.’