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Creative Construction: Terry Younes

For Alliance Living Director Terry Younes, construction is about creating art, and that’s exactly what the firm, with its growing portfolio of properties, is focused on.

It was during his time working in construction out in Dubai for six years that Terry Younes realized precisely the sort of projects he didn’t want to work on.

Back then, he was working on billion-dollar “mega projects” in the glittering desert city where every apartment was essentially turned out of a cookie-cutter mold.

“They’re all the same,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “It becomes a people management role rather than building.”

Now, as Director of luxury construction firm Alliance Living, he infuses more creativity into his work.

“We’re very hands-on and involved in designs,” he explains. “Everything we build is custom, from the products we use to the specialized construction methodologies utilized on our sites. They’re all unique in their own way.

“It’s like art. You’re creating an artwork every time you build something.”

A Lifelong Calling

Younes has been immersed in the world of construction all his life – his family were in the industry, as were the people he went to school with. “It was just something that everyone was doing at the time,” he recalls. “We were familiar with it.”

Having spent a considerable amount of time working for other companies, eventually the opportunity arose to carve out a niche for himself. In search of a major investor for a project in Darling Point, Younes brought a builder developer on board who approached him with an idea soon after.

“Everything we build is custom, from the products we use to the method of construction utilized on our sites. They are all unique in their own way.”

“His partner said, ‘Let’s start our own construction business focusing on this type of work, not just our own developments’,” he shares.

“When you’re limited by your capital, how many developments can you undertake at any given time? But with construction, as long as you’ve got enough money to put up bonds, guarantees and cashflow yourself for a couple of months, you can take on quite a few projects, which we’ve been able to do.

“And it’s that ability that’s enabled us to grow over four years into the size we are today.”

Building the Brand

When the pair kicked things off, Alliance Living wasn’t a new business per se, rather a new venture under his business partner’s existing brand – a detail which worked to their advantage.

With the systems and procedures already in place, they could build on the already firm foundations swiftly and confidently. “Construction is very much about systems and procedures,” Younes explains. “If you dot your i’s, you cross your t’s, do your checks and balances, then generally everything goes well.

“We were able to take 10 years of systems development and put it into a format that works for us by fine-tuning and slightly amending the system.

“Also, we were lucky as the projects that we took on at the time weren’t high-risk, nor did we compromise on our pricing for the sake of winning work.”

Before the price increases seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, costs were still fairly stable, and Alliance Living was able to complete a handful of small projects. Unfortunately, a lot of builders overexposed themselves during this period, taking on too many projects at unbelievably low prices.

When the price increases hit, it was to the detriment of their businesses. “Off the back of that, we’ve been able to capitalize and grow our business quicker than we ever imagined.”

The Good Guys

While he describes the demise of many of the builders servicing the same market as “sad”, he stresses that many of them weren’t playing by the rules in the first place.

“It’s created an opportunity in the market for the good builders that are out there, the guys who are doing the right thing by their clients, employees and supply chain, to be around for the long term.”

“It’s created an opportunity in the market for the good builders out there to be around for the long term.”

Indeed, Alliance is now flourishing, with an annual forecast turnover of $50 million (US$32.8 million) this financial year and a landmark project in prime location Point Piper, Piper House, the icing is on the cake.

“That’s probably our biggest asset to date in terms of projects that we have on the books,” Younes says. “It’s a testament to the brand we’ve built and the trust our stakeholders have in our ability to deliver a quality product.”

But even now, he refers back to his time working in Dubai as a formative experience both in terms of founding his business, but also his leadership style. For there he was the youngest person in the room, subconsciously soaking up the know-how of the older professionals with decades of experience that surrounded him. “Back then, I didn’t really notice, but the lessons I learned from them have become ingrained in the way I do business,” he says.

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