Speak with founding director of Auckland’s Precision Construction Limited (PCL) and you’ll learn that Grant Millar has always been a man with a mission.
Proudly living up to their motto Do it right the first time, ‘precision’ is not a term that was chosen lightly when Grant’s business was first formed. He not only founded PCL 35 years ago, but has remained hands on and involved throughout all stages of his business. Where many start-ups fail after the first few years, Grant made sure his business was robust with dynamic systems and procedures to support it.Having built an enviable track record in residential and light commercial construction for a broad spectrum of clients, and with 100 employees and three directors now in tow, Grant continues to work with Alliott NZ and his Chartered Accountant brother Greg Millar for professional advice covering all aspects of PCL.
“We started with just the two of us doing everything on paper,” says Grant. “After my wife passed away 15 years ago I decided to forge ahead and grow the business.”
“Alliott NZ and Greg have been our accountants during our business lifetime, and they have worked with us as it has grown.”
Back when the New Zealand building industry was unlicensed, Grant had the foresight to make his business water tight and set PCL apart, enabling them to move into the high-end market.
“We started by setting out our processes on spreadsheets and creating formal systems as we needed to. I documented all our procedures and manuals from scratch.”
The ramifications of doing so have had benefits for PCL’s staff retention and their ability to grow.
“As some employees have become shareholders and directors, they’ve become privy to the financial workings of PCL. As for any business in our industry there are ups and down with cash flow and Greg has been extremely helpful in letting us know when we can draw money without putting undue strain on the business.”
“You have to make time to make clarity,” says Grant. “Especially for new shareholders and understanding the financial workings of a business.”
Having formalised key performance indicators (KPIs) on margins, growth and a long-term plan go a long way towards that financial understanding.
These days Grant’s role is General Manager overseeing finance, staff welfare and marketing. He is passionate about the building industry and believes passing on skills, especially through the training of apprentices, is fundamental in maintaining PCL’s high standards.
His meticulousness and attention to detail helped them break into Auckland’s high-end building market.
“To be successful I had to leverage my skills and therefore duplicate,” says Grant. “We are always looking to improve our quality assurance checklists, our procurement and supply procedures which helps us win projects and build great relationships with all our stakeholders.”
Grant and his co-directors meet with Greg at Alliott’s every quarter to review results and plan ahead.
“A big part of our planning for the year starts by creating a list of projected work, tenders and jobs in hand so we have a pipeline spreadsheet of job probability which we monitor and use to plan our sales,” says Grant. “It works well and we always hit our targets.”
PCL used to struggle with chasing and correctly coding timesheets, which was not only a bad use of time but created headaches.
“We talked about that with Greg and subsequently installed TimeFiler online live timesheets which has been a revelation to our business. What used to take us 21 hours each week chasing and fixing time sheets now automatically ticks over.”
“All employee timesheets are signed off by our Project Managers and we can track all our jobs accurately. The huge benefit is you can pull out reports on every job and prevent blow out. Plus it loads directly into our head office dashboard and feeds into our accounting system so there’s no extra data entry for payroll or double handling.”
And thanks to Alliott NZ, Grant and his team formulated their business plan with Greg in 2005. Because they exceeded all their targets they got PCL’s commercial division off the ground.
“I’m not sure if it’s because we more aware or alert to our performance targets, but discussing our monthly management accounts, the P&L for every job or our budget vs actual has real, tangible benefits.”
With the company undergoing another phase of growth, Grant is also grateful for Alliott NZ’s tax insight, which he makes sure is on the agenda at every meeting.
Combining the expertise at Alliott NZ with unique building systems facilitates a quality assurance culture that allows PCL to successfully operate in the demanding sphere of architecturally designed homes. Their superior results speak for themselves, but Grant is philosophical.
“I have always had a fundamental philosophy about developing relationships and loyalty, which permeates all aspects of my professional and personal life. Doing business is very much about reciprocation – learning from each other and building on synergies – which is why we have worked with Greg and Alliott NZ for as long as we have.”