When Marc Kenney (pictured left) and Matt Hoffman (right) came together to lead Mettle into its new chapter, they didn’t realise just how quickly things would take off. Marc first got involved with the Brisbane-based construction business in 2014, when he acquired a shareholding in what would become Mettle, while Matt came on board in 2016.
They had worked together previously and had remained friends, so when Marc recognised a growing need for an office in New South Wales, Matt was the first person he called. With Marc in Brisbane and Matt in Sydney, Mettle began to expand rapidly, and they realised that if they wanted to keep the business sustainable then something had to change.
So they took a step back and re-evaluated what was important to them both personally and for Mettle as a business. The answer was its people. “When we had a long, hard think about the business, we started talking about what we wanted our values to be,” Marc says.
“We brought in a strategic business advisor, Susan Wanmer, who really helped us connect with who we are as a business and what we wanted to be known for. All that work helped us to develop a Bedrock Model where everything we do is underpinned by the bedrock which is our employees. Looking after your staff properly is not only the right thing to do but it helps the business. It’s the people who support the financial capital, which then allows the company to grow. That growth is measured around financial metrics, of course, but more importantly, stability in the bedrock – how we treat and nurture our staff – is the right foundation to support our impact on society and what we give back to our community.”
Supporting the community is something Marc is driven to do, particularly the charity Hear and Say. Every year, Mettle takes part in Loud Shirt Day, a day to raise awareness and funds to help kids who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“Both my children hear via technology, through cochlear implants, and so Hear and Say is an incredible charity supporting families like mine,” he says.
“Last year, the whole company met up and created what we believe might be the world’s biggest Loud Shirt at around five metres long by four metres wide and hung it from a giant coathanger off a crane. This year, we took the same shirt and hung it up in Brisbane, in front of city hall. The media came and the charity got some coverage on TV – a great result all round.”
As Mettle continues to grow as a business, Marc and Matt say they are constantly referring back to its values, especially when recruiting. “We’re hiring at the moment and are very focused on picking the right people,” Matt says.
“We’re a small business and so the importance of getting that right the first time is huge, particularly when it’s filling a senior role. You can really upset the apple cart if you don’t get the right person.”
Marc adds, “I think it’s easy to evaluate someone’s technical competencies, but to really match someone’s values to your business, it takes time and needs a bit more of a look under the hood. You want to know who this person is, what makes them tick and will they contribute to our values or undermine them? If it’s the latter, then they’re not worth hiring.”
As an industry, we’re ripe for disruption and so it’s up to individual businesses to lead by example.
Values are there to guide businesses through difficult times, and 2020 has had plenty of them. And while the global health crisis has affected all industries, it’s also taught valuable lessons to those willing to listen.
“Managing a business during the coronavirus lockdowns taught me a lot about my mettle,” Marc says. “I saw so many competitors rushing to make quick decisions and a lot of the time those decisions had no care for humans, it was all about protecting balance sheets. We chose to do the opposite and had a long game in mind. We brought our focus back to our values and who we are as a business. It also reiterated our belief that diversity of product is key to surviving in this industry.”
Matt agrees with Marc’s belief: “There’s an old saying that goes, ‘In times of crisis, people flock to quality,’ and we’ve definitely seen that this year, particularly with our clients. People are prepared to pay more if there is a surety of outcome. And when I say ‘quality’, that doesn’t just relate to the financial side of things; it can also be about making sure that, as a business, you’re engaging with people whose supply chain emulates your values. Our supply chain, and who we choose to partner with, is always in the back of my mind.”
A business that Mettle is proud to partner with is Queensland company Wagners. They are working together to build Mettle’s new headquarters. “As an industry, we’re ripe for disruption and so it’s up to individual businesses to lead by example, which is why we wanted to work with the team at Wagners,” Marc says.
“They are leading the way in Earth Friendly Concrete® [EFC®]. We wanted to make more conscious decisions when building our HQ and the EFC product is the only commercially available concrete that contains absolutely zero Portland cement. Using a geopolymer binder instead of carbon intensive cement saves about 250 kilograms of carbon for every cubic metre of concrete you pour. It’s a world first for a multi-storey in situ concrete structure.”
Managing a business during the coronavirus lockdowns taught me a lot about my mettle.
“Who would’ve thought there would’ve been a new way to look at concrete,” Matt laughs. “But this is a classic example of industry disruption. Someone realised there must be a better way to deliver concrete to a site that doesn’t suck up as much carbon as the traditional way and they’ve gone out and found it. It’s been a real educational process working with them and we’re keen to assist them in enhancing the product’s commercial use.”
A product like EFC has the potential to be a game-changer for those construction businesses with an ethical and environmental conscience, and Marc is doing what he can to help spread the word. “I’ve recently introduced the team at Wagners to the guys over at Built,” he says.
“Built has the contract to build the Atlassian headquarters in Sydney, which is a huge project. You know, innovation is a funny thing because no-one wants to go first but someone has got to, otherwise, things don’t move forward. It has been good to be part of that innovative journey. I’ve enjoyed being able to make that decision and know that Mettle is contributing to something bigger and that we’re helping to make a difference.”
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