Often when a business grows something gets lost along the way. The special feeling of excitement as a company grows and the close knit team feeling of achievement becomes diluted as success broadens horizons. At Construction Projects and Developments (Pty) Ltd. (CPD) success has indeed arrived in a big sense – but it is a culture that will never allow progress to get in the way of its culture.
CPD was started by Jamie Raubenheimer in 2008, when the 25 year property industry veteran spotted opportunities in the market with private equity firms. He was able to call upon his vast experience and a contact book brimmed full of excellent working relationships which he had made over the years.
The resulting company has gone from strength to strength, surviving the tough challenges presented by the economic downturn, thanks largely to a happy workforce, expertise and those vital relationships.
“We are a professional project management business that has involved ourselves in development management as well,” describes Raubenheimer, Managing Director. “We operate primarily as a principal agent for property developers but we also assume the role of development managers who offer turnkey solutions for third parties and we will assume risk through the development process for its own account if required.
“We specialize in managing the full development process from the identification of opportunities and land procurement through to construction and ensuring delivery on time and budget. We act as the developer’s advisors and intermediaries between the developers and the implementation team.”
So far the business model CPD has adopted has worked extremely well, yet tellingly, Raubenheimer identifies other qualities as key reasons for the business’ success: “We have established a firm set of principles covering integrity, innovation, flexibility and professionalism. All of these qualities are essential to building long-term relationships.
“We started in 2008 in response to the specific market need for professional development and project management. We have knitted together both aspects as many of the private equity companies did not have development management expertise,” he adds.
The company has quickly established an impressive portfolio of projects, with a particular focus on developing industrial, retail and commercial buildings, although Raubenheimer says that CPD also works on high-end residential projects from time to time.
CPD is headquartered in Bryanston, Sandton, but has developed a footprint throughout South Africa, with links to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Johannesburg, while project further afield have seen the company work in Botswana (where Raubenheimer’s business colleague Mike Brown is currently working with the government on a project incorporating offices, retail and a hotel) and Zimbabwe.
The company’s portfolio is varied, as Raubenheimer explains; “We have built a number of shopping centres and the biggest was a 40,000 square metre site at a cost of R 402 million, while we also built a 25,000 square metre centre in Cape Town at a value of R 350 million – each project is different and we can work on high end boutique projects through to industrial retail like Big Box. “On the commercial side we have an excellent track record constructing corporate head offices (like Microsoft’s in Johannesburg) and Medical Centres.”
Increasingly there is a demand for imaginatively designed buildings that are environmentally-friendly. The trend has lead CPD to educate its 14-strong team on more efficient ways to meet customer demands:
“The Green Building Council has a pre-set format for buildings and its Technical Manual is very detailed on the management and selection of green materials. The process of education for us has been to review that document and to implement its contents. The points scoring process for the registration of a green building is extremely complicated and we have used an external company to help on this.”
Raubenheimer attributes much of the success to a happy workforce – something he is extremely keen to preserve; “We are inclusive (rather than dictatorial) leaders and expect everyone to take leadership within the business. Some of the team are more experienced and work as mentors but one of the keys to our success has been the removal of any arrogance and as a consequence the team works really well together.”
He says that this is integral to the company’s involvement in a major project to develop a city in the Mpumalanga region: “We are working on the proposed development of Nkosi City, a development in a previously disadvantaged area just outside Nelspruit.
“My partner, Philip Kleijnhans, is currently heavily involved in fund raising. There is an extensive amount of the infrastructure development required on this project much of the finance is coming from government funds. The infrastructure needs to be built before the project can properly get underway and that means constructing a dam, developing water and sanitation systems and building roads before we roll out the residential and commercial aspects.”
The project is estimated to run to between R4.5 and R5 billion and is likely to last anywhere between seven and ten years. It is a huge undertaking and Raubenheimer is proud that CPD has been handed such a responsibility; “The Project comprises the development of in the order of 4,200 homes from entry level to upmarket designs, in addition to 400,000 square metres of commercial property (which will include industrial offices, hospitals and schools).
“The main reason for our involvement is our respected work ethic and the relationships we have forged with people and preserved over many years. We have developed excellent relations within the commercial sector and our ability to perform on time and within budget is widely recognised.”
The emphasis on strong ties and kudos are further reinforced by CPD’s continued growth in a down period for the sector, as Raubenheimer explains: “Whilst the economy has struggled construction costs if anything have increased and the cost of capital is high. At the same time the South African financial institutions are driving up their lending criteria and unless you have a fool proof scheme it is very hard to get schemes started in the ground.
“There is a lot of pressure and competitiveness in the market but fortunately we have lots of repeat business and have done very well. Without those relationships in place we would undoubtedly have been in trouble.”
But creative thinking has also found its place in the design elements of green projects – and according to Raubenheimer the ability to implement green thinking has allowed CPD to produce efficient systems that bypass the punitive effects of expensive green products.
“Our designs can make something look good even though it may be less complicated to assemble and much of that capability is created firstly on paper.
“It plays an essential role in our communications with our clients – many of whom are based in the United States. We have invested heavily to find the right system and now have a centralised hub that allows everyone to work on the latest model in the business,” he says.
However, perhaps CPD’s biggest investment is in its staff, something Raubenheimer feels can never be underestimated; “We do invest in personnel, not just for training but also to ensure they earn good money and want to stay – I feel we get an immediate return on our investment in this area as there is a general skills shortage in the country.
“The family unit is something I very much value and I love my job and going home to my family at the end of the day. I want to keep working in this area and I don’t want my staff to have to travel far away for their work and away from their families.
“We will grow but it will be organically and are in the process of a major merger and our prospects are great and the future looks fantastic. I won’t compromise the ethics or ethos of the business and don’t want to change the personal touch that we deliver on projects.”