Originally published in Housing Magazine.
The ongoing pandemic has ushered in an economic recession, with many businesses and workers in the building industry hit hard across the country. But for Melbourne-based Sheridan Building, these uncertain times have coincided with an unprecedented period of growth for the bespoke building business.
But this isn’t surprising. Construction is, after all, in their blood. Brother duo, Jarrod and Travis Sheridan, who started the company in 2007, are third-generation builders (and third-generation HIA members). They grew up completely immersed in the trade, surrounded by builders like their father, Stuart Sheridan, who has over 50 years of experience in the industry and stewarded his own successful building company, S & C Sheridan. The business specialised in quality renovations and extensions, and also managed to thrive during a global recession.
‘What recession, says busy builder’
This headline ran in a newspaper article in the 1980s, celebrating Stuart Sheridan’s success. Travis and Jarrod say their father’s experience working successfully through a recession always reminds them of the importance of local work.
‘It is always important to maintain a local presence in the community, but even more so during a downturn,’ Jarrod says. ‘You need to stay front of mind for potential clients in your area at all times.’
From their father, Jarrod and Travis have gained an unmatched, in-depth knowledge of every facet of construction, especially when it comes to combining old structures with new works.
‘After working on hundreds of homes and seeing what works and doesn’t work over time, his experience is invaluable,’ Jarrod says. ‘He also has a real gift for developing a good rapport with clients and subcontractors, which ensures every project runs smoothly.’
Stuart remains a crucial collaborator and confidant in his sons’ business. The family best works together by delegating roles based on special expertise and skills. ‘We find that each person has a different skill set which ensures we can cover all aspects of the business effectively,’ Jarrod adds.
Sheridan Building offers a full design and construction service, including a virtual design studio allowing homeowners to walk through the proposed concept, even down to the furnishings they may wish to incorporate and where. Jarrod says when their clients utilise the in-house design service, the team oversee the entire project from start to finish.
‘This ensures a more cohesive and cost-effective build process and results in a higher-quality end product,’ he says.
The experienced builders pride themselves on high-quality workmanship and exceptional attention to detail, while delivering projects on time and within budget. Travis says they approach each construction project as if it were their own home and are involved in every aspect of the building process – from early consultation all the way to completion. ‘For us, nothing is more important than fulfilling our clients’ vision for their home,’ he says.
These values and practices have led the Sheridan Building team to a number of accolades for their building work, including multiple HIA awards, though the brothers are quick to point out their achievements are not defined by external awards. Instead, they say they are proud to be contributing to the quality of residential construction and training new trades to walk in their footsteps. Sheridan Building has one of the highest completion rates for apprentices in the region, and as a result of working alongside the passion, drive and dedication of their employers, a number of these apprentices have been inspired to start their own successful building businesses.
Staying the course during a pandemic
Like their father before them, Jarrod and Travis were forced to contend with a global recession – the Global Financial Crisis – right about the time they launched Sheridan Building. The pair remember well the lessons learnt from surviving the GFC and are applying it to the present day recession.
They are using this time to finesse their business by resolving inefficiencies and expanding the services they offer to clients. This, they hope, will help them to better position their company in the eventual recovery. ‘We anticipate clients having to reduce the scope of their projects as credit becomes tighter,’ Jarrod says. ‘We are positioning ourselves to be able to assist clients to meet a restricted budget by offering a detailed cost analysis of their project.
‘This is to give them complete control over where their money is spent. We expect this will help ensure projects do proceed, albeit at a slightly lower overall cost.’
Working on their business has also involved hiring the services of marketing agency, Sea Salt Marketing, to help target their niche market, fix irregular workflows and increase turnover. Nine months in, and their marketing activities – including brand awareness across Facebook, Instagram, signage and newsletters – have provided a significant boost to their business. Sheridan Building believes investing in marketing will help them stay afloat during the economic downturn.
‘Most builders have a trade background, so may not fully comprehend what marketing is, and how it can affect their business,’ Travis says. ‘I would advise them to view marketing not just as a sign at the front of their site and a website, but to view it as every interaction the public has with your business, from delivery drivers through to old school friends on Facebook. Each one of these interactions builds your image, so they all matter.’
Another great tool he says has been their HIA membership, which has provided crucial industry updates, legal advice and insights on the latest in new building technologies.
Beyond the economic issues facing builders right now, Sheridan Building believes keeping on top of the ever-increasing amount of administration and paperwork involved in each build is one of the biggest challenges for small construction companies. Jarrod says working with a bookkeeper and using quality software helps small builders maintain their focus on construction.
‘Try to focus on what you are good at and enjoy doing, and employ others to do the rest. There are risks in increasing your overheads, but there may be greater long-term risks in not doing this,’ Jarrod says.
In the future, Sheridan Building hopes to stabilise its workflow, maximise efficiencies, retain a consistent margin, increase turnover and continue building a strong team of dedicated employees. If the company’s growth in the past year is anything to go by, it is certainly on its way – even in the face of another recession.