The road towards a greener and more sustainable South Africa is a long one. As construction and project management companies get to grips with Green Star ratings, brought into South Africa over the last four years, the construction industry has suffered at the hands of the global economic downturn.
Throughout this turbulent time, one young, entrepreneurial newcomer to the project management industry has created a very favourable impression, not just at home, but increasingly across the African continent. The Profica group of companies has embraced both the environmental and continental opportunities presented to them and has grown successfully during this challenging period.
The company, headquartered in Johannesburg, has established a footprint not only across South Africa, but also much further afield, with activities throughout the African continent.
Profica has a focus on professional project and construction management in the built environment, providing stand-alone project, construction and development management services across a diverse range of industries; its current portfolio including managing new build and refurbishments for hotels, shopping centres and head offices for local and multi-national clients.
The business has had a meteoric rise to become the recipient of the prestigious 2011 PMR (Professional Management Review) Diamond Arrow Award, rating Profica as the highest in the category for Project Management (built environment), in South Africa.
Tim White, Managing Director, was one of four founders of the business back in 2005. Speaking recently on Summit Television’s ‘The Big Small Business Show’, he recalled how the company was able to grow:
“We started as four young guys in 2005; our overhead costs were quite low and all we needed was a cell phone and a lap top and that was it.
“It was a boom-time in the property and construction industry at that time, so we went and presented to a variety of clients: property funds and big future developers; and I think that some of them took a look at these youngster and threw us a bone and decided to try us out.
“We delivered on our first project and the second one and we continued to deliver successfully from there.”
The recipe for Profica’s success has been a combination of its international best practice expertise gained by its current directors and project managers across the globe and the opportunities to work beyond South Africa’s borders. Both factors have been significantly assisted by the company’s open approach and dedication to its clientele, as Aaron Bigmore, Senior project manager, explained, in the same programme:
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we are very hands-on; not just with the project and client, but with the consultants, contractors and everyone that we deal with.”
It is an approach that continues to yield excellent results as Profica’s 30-strong workforce aims to add value to each successful project. One way in which the company has certainly succeeded is through its involvement as a member of the panel of experts of the Technical Working Group for the Green Star Retail and Multi-unit residential Rating Tools, having been elected by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) to participate in defining best practice in green building.
Undoubtedly such affiliations can only be good for business but whilst the domestic construction market has struggled, the combination of good reputation and strong relationships has enabled Profica to spread its wings, as White explained during the same broadcast:
“The challenge has been to sustain the growth; we went through the boom and that came to an abrupt halt in South Africa in 2008 and 2009. We had some legacy projects that continued but we then had to ride the cycle and provide the same services in a much more cut throat environment where the margins were tighter and everyone had to cut their fees and costs.
“The challenge was to provide the same professional, high standard of service, but for a lesser fee. How we overcame that was to set up systems and procedures including a web-based document control and project management system, which allows us to manage projects more efficiently using this tool.
“One of the other challenges here in South Africa is that Africa is calling and we got pulled into opportunities in Africa through a variety of clients. A lot of multi-nationals were expanding their businesses throughout the Continent and we ended up working on projects as far afield as Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda.”
Interestingly, Profica’s project managers have undertaken work in 28 countries on the continent in the last 3 years. Profica now has a substantial team on the ground in Nigeria and is managing projects currently in Ghana, Kenya, Angola, Zambia, Mauritius and Mozambique. Other projects at planning stages are in Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda.
The name PROF-ICA, comes from PROF-essional project management Afr-ICA, and it is clear the company is providing professional services throughout Africa.
Meanwhile, domestically, Profica has continued to work on major projects. The company is currently completing the refurbishment and upgrade of General Electric’s headquarters in Midrand.
This particular contract offered challenges as the building was ongoing at the time of writing, Profica is confident that the project will be completed on time and under budget.
The company completed a similar warehousing project recently on behalf of Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN), sited on the N1 Business Park, close to R55 to Pretoria. The work saw Profica appointed as project managers on the refurbishment and fit-out for processing purposes of a warehouse, which is to be used for the packaging of MTN’s products.
2012 also saw the successful completion of a new office development for Rio Tinto, located on Erf 15 Harries Road, Illovo, for the Illovo Edge Partnership.
Profica is also currently working as project manager for Fluor on the construction of their new South African office in Woodmead, while its role in the Southgate Shopping Mall expansion, taking place on brown field land south of Johannesburg, is due for completion in the first quarter of 2013.
The tide is turning! One of Profica’s projects recently started in the ground. A large regional shopping centre project, of 75,000m2 of lettable area in Centurion, which they have been working on for a number of years, commenced with bulk earthworks in October this year and building work will kick off early in 2013. This unique development in a new precinct / town centre consists of a single level centre with a multi-level structured parkade and is project managed by Profica.
Today the business continues to flourish. The young entrepreneurial spirit remains very much a part of Profica – and that extends not only to its founders, but to all staff. As part of the television interview, Evelyn Mosiuoa, a project manager, explained how the open culture has helped her development:
“It has been a very good experience and a training curve (for me) over the past four years. The company took me and trained me and what I like about the company is that they just said “Go for it” and provided support for me.
“One of the company values is that we need to be open; starting from the directors down to everyone else in the business. That openness makes you feel a part of the team.”
It has of course also played its part when dealing with customers and White says that those relationships have helped the company to venture into Africa and continue to grow at a time when the South African market remains relatively stagnant:
“For us the opportunities are in Africa. Eighteen months ago 15 per cent of our work was outside of South Africa, now we are closer to 35 per cent to 40 per cent. This has been lead by South African corporations and businesses also wanting to grow – and for them, their growth is into the continent.
“We continue to provide international best practice on developments and construction projects in some challenging areas. Often, while the need for quality buildings and facilities is dire, the execution can be time consuming and requires systematic processes and dogged determination in order to deliver high specification projects in sometimes remote areas.
“There are some exceptional and exciting projects planned throughout the continent and it is our team’s pioneering spirit that allows us to be the front runners for shopping centres, hotels, offices, industrial facilities and live-work-play projects.”