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A calculated risk has led to reward for this year’s Managing Director of the Year

When PARC Engineering’s Daniel Debattista stepped away from his comfortable life to co-found a new company, he knew the risk he was taking. Now, just over five years later, the company is positively thriving and he has been named The CEO Magazine’s 2023 Managing Director of the Year.

During a critical juncture in his career, Daniel Debattista found himself downing a few drinks with friends and mulling over his next move.

Little did he know at the time, but those beers with friends would lead to what would be a major pivot in his professional life, despite a healthy dose of self-doubt and plenty of well-meaning warnings from family, friends and colleagues.

As the kind of person who approaches challenges with “a red-hot crack”, Debattista forged ahead with his mind made up.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the resources and energy sectors, punctuated by leadership roles on operational and construction projects for internationally recognized companies at home and abroad, Debattista leapt from a comfortable General Manager role into the great unknown.

“When you’re trying to start a business, there isn’t an ‘A plus B equals C.’ There’s no silver bullet. No-one’s got the answers.”

In April 2018, alongside a friend with whom he’d shared those beers while pondering his professional future, Debattista found himself working in the back of an old aircraft hangar in Jandakot, Western Australia. Together, the Co-Founders established PARC Engineering.

Within one year, the fledgling company had signed their first big contract. Now, several years on, PARC Engineering is continuing to achieve exponential growth, expanding its team from its two founding members to a 450-strong workforce and moving into three offices, including an 8,000-square-metre laydown yard in Perth.

“When you’re trying to start a business, there isn’t an ‘A plus B equals C.’ There’s no silver bullet. No-one’s got the answers,” Debattista says.

“You’ve just got to find your own way there – even if your path isn’t fully aligned with everyone else’s. So you want to take a little bit – advice, information – from each of those who cross your path; just take the bits that fit your own journey.”

executive of the year

Guiding the Ship

This year, Debattista is the recipient of The CEO Magazine’s 2023 Managing Director of the Year award.

“As PARC Engineering’s Managing Director, I’m responsible for guiding the ship and ensuring our company keeps on thriving,” he says. “As a leader, I notice opportunity and I have plans to ensure the longevity, stability and further growth of the business.”

The past 12 months have been non-stop, full of opportunities and future plans. Debattista even recorded a podcast and, notably, has developed a sustainable venture, Koomba Bidi, with ex-Australian Rules footballer Stephen Hill. The company specializes in plant and equipment hire and is already gaining traction on major construction projects.

“We created an Indigenous-owned business to support our company. Longer term, our goal is for Koomba Bidi to be profitable enough to support PARC Engineering and others,” he says.

Also this year, PARC Engineering was named a finalist in the 2022 RISE Awards in the Large Business category. The company has continued to develop key contracts with important clients, such as Fortescue Metals Group, Roy Hill and several government authorities.

In addition, the company has received recertification of several important International Organization for Standardization certifications. “This significantly expanded our tendering, client and project-delivery opportunities, particularly in public infrastructure,” Debattista says. “I kept momentum and recognized opportunity by not relying on a stationary game plan.”

A key challenge with any growing business is margins and cashflow. PARC Engineering has managed both with aplomb, with margins increasing between the 2022 and 2023 financial years. Debattista credits this to the company’s discipline in locking in and executing planning sessions and working diligently to understand markets, clients and competitors.

daniel debattista

A Team Effort

Debattista says the company’s success to date is in no small part down to his team, which he says he has handpicked and nurtured from day one. “Culture within a company is certainly not built in a day,” he acknowledges.

“It has taken years of effort and lots of tweaks to internal operations. I’ve dedicated my PARC journey to sourcing the right people at a senior level to guide and mentor the greater team.

“You feel like a footy coach more than a businessperson at times. Everyone’s got their strengths and weaknesses, and you try to put all these people together and let them play their roles. You let the team perform. You get them involved and engaged so they realize their strengths. You get everyone’s strengths together to get that winning team.”

The company’s leadership, Debattista included, has a direct line of communication with the entire workforce – a move that he sees as PARC Engineering’s biggest competitive advantage.

“I’m extremely proud of all PARC employees. And I have great confidence my team can deliver.”

Employees have witnessed and contributed to the company’s significant growth, he says, and in turn, the company continues to invest in them, offering annual pay increases, bonus incentives, training courses, reward programs, events and more.

“I’m extremely proud of all PARC employees. And I have great confidence my team can deliver,” he says.

He also sees awards like The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards as an important way to motivate the whole company.

“If this award boosts internal morale and shows the whole PARC team that their combined effort has helped nominate me, I stand proud. I’m here to guide and motivate, and I hope my staff always strives to reach for the stars.”

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