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With the COVID-19 pandemic firmly in the rearview mirror and a growing Department of Defence (DOD) partnership, construction firm Mettle is forging its way into the future with fresh swagger in its step.
The pandemic was a time of ups and downs for the company, as for so many others.
“We were very lucky as most of our projects were classified as essential works, so they were able to stay open which helped us a lot,” Director Matt Hoffman tells The CEO Magazine.
“I had to learn to lead remotely when traditionally I would lead face to face. Initially I found it challenging, but this is now the new way of doing business.”
– Matt Hoffman
Although Mettle was impacted by a ban on tradespeople in certain projects, it managed the situation by calling on subcontracted partners to assist with labor.
“At times it was hard to obtain materials, however our supply chain usually found what we were looking for,” Hoffman says. “We found that, where possible, we had to order local products as anything from overseas was very difficult to obtain.”
It actually turned out to be a good opportunity to strengthen Mettle’s relationships with its partners, and forced the company to find new ways of working such as holding meetings via video conferencing platforms.
“I had to learn to lead remotely when traditionally I would lead face to face,” he says. “Initially I found it challenging, but this is now the new way of doing business.”
Now, with the lion’s share of the pandemic difficulties behind it, the company has emerged from its chaos with a streamlined way of working.
“Post-pandemic, we worked on building our business base to provide firm footing for our next phase of growth,” Managing Director Marc Kenney says.
“There are plenty of opportunities in the market that suit Mettle’s work profile – it’s about finding the right ones that have the best chance of being viable and able to be built in these conditions. Working with the right clients who have the right drivers and imperatives is essential. ”
In addition, Mettle has focused on diversifying its portfolio, demonstrated by its recent addition of the Defence Business Unit.
“Working with the right clients who have the right drivers and imperatives is essential.”
– Marc Kenney
“The Defence Business Unit will provide a great avenue to continue to scale our existing business in both size and geography,” Kenney says. “We have not postured defensively in the market.”
In this new landscape, opportunities are plentiful, according to Kenney.
“It’s about finding the right ones that have the best chance of being viable and able to be built in these conditions,” he explains. “Working with the right clients who have the right drivers and imperatives is essential.”
Now, the challenges it faces revolve around escalation issues, supply chain management and talent pool management.
Mettle is well-equipped to handle these, thanks to the evolution it underwent during the pandemic.
“We have had to shake off old-school thinking and consciously adapt to the talent market without driving unsustainable business practices,” Kenney explains. “We have had to focus on being nimble and adapt quickly to fast-moving market conditions.”
He described having good companies in Mettle’s supply chain network is an essential ingredient in its growth plans, highlighting its relationship with DTG to illustrate this.
“We have had to focus on being nimble and adapt quickly to fast-moving market conditions.”
– Marc Kenney
“These deep relationships with quality companies like DTG help Mettle’s offering during early contractor involvement processes and tricky refurbishment projects,” he says.
Meanwhile, strengthened relationships with subcontractors are helping Mettle tackle labor shortages, with its ties with Active Conductors and Sphere great examples of this, according to Hoffman.
“These two subcontractors take pride in their work and always go above and beyond to ensure the project’s success no matter what challenges are put in front of them,” he says.
The company is also keep an eye on its own people.
“We also believe in investing in and looking after our employees, which means we have a low staff turnover,” Hoffman says.
Investing in the next generation of workers is also crucial, with a coordinated industry approach around training and apprenticeships required, he says. Mettle is already doing what it can on this front, promoting the message that it is a great industry to work in.
“Mettle has been investing a lot more in training and bringing in younger people, which has increased our skill base, which has also provided the company with a great vibe and a sense of excitement of what the future holds for us,” Hoffman says.
Now, as the pair look ahead, they are filled with optimism about the outlook for Mettle with the aim to hit A$200 million (US$133 million) per year in 2026. While New South Wales may experience a period of contraction over the next few years, preparations for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032 are expected to see a flurry of activity in Queensland.
“Mettle has been investing a lot more in training and bringing in younger people, which has increased our skill base, which has also provided the company with a great vibe and a sense of excitement.”
– Matt Hoffman
“Our key opportunities are to continue to diversify the business, grow sustainably and invest back into the business,” Kenney says. “Our growth plans see us growing our core business organically and having a period of establishment growth for our Defence Business Unit. One key focus to enable this to happen is attracting and retaining the right talent and support from our supply chain.”
With DOD contracts such an important pillar of that growth strategy, Mettle is making investments to ensure it thrives, setting up offices across Australia to provide the necessary support.
One of Mettle’s company values is to be curious, ask questions and listen. By being present and engaged, Hoffman and Kenney are confident they can weather any further disruptions while seizing the opportunities at hand to drive them toward their ambitious goals.
Mettle recently added National Defence Director Brant Wood and Director Queensland Michael Sutcliffe to its management lineup.
“There are many things that excite me about the future of the industry,” Wood says. “As an industry, we are seeing a shift toward more partnering opportunities, a more realistic approach to risk management and knowing who is best positioned to manage the risk. I’m excited to see the industry embrace equality, reducing the gender and pay gaps. Most exciting is to see the emergence of environmental sustainable development and inclusion as a primary component, not an afterthought.”
Sutcliffe is excited about a special event coming soon.
“For the Olympics to be coming to my hometown in 2032 still doesn’t feel real,” Sutcliffe reflects. “As a kid watching the Olympics, I never thought the Olympic Games would be in Brisbane in my lifetime, so it’s a dream come true for me.
“The Queensland construction industry is going to be put to the test over the next 10 years, which will have its challenges. But it will also bring opportunity and create an excitement in the industry, which will be unrivaled. I can’t wait to see it come to life and hopefully play a small part in it.”