Bilal El-Cheikh was already an expert in the construction industry when he took on the role of Managing Director with Piety THP. And he has certainly enhanced his reputation in that time, thanks to the role he has played in turning Piety THP into a A$3 billion real estate developer with over 1,000 apartments under construction across Sydney.
His blueprint for success seems quite basic on the surface. “We’re a very simple company,” he explains. “A very people-focused company, both in terms of employees and suppliers.
“We pick up the right people to fit our business. And we’re very focused on what we have to do, in an industry where sometimes the larger companies don’t see the whole picture.”
That focus is increasingly on affordable housing in growth areas of Sydney. Bilal says that by “affordable housing” he means anything under A$650,000 for first home buyers. At least 50 per cent of Piety THP’s business will come from that sector.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a gap in the market for first home buyers,” Bilal continues. “We found that there are more people in the area who want an affordable apartment, so we’ve focused our business on that area. These apartments sell faster than high-end apartments as there are more people in that market, and there is a lot of growth potential.”
That growth potential involves land banking – buying land now and keeping it for future use. Piety THP finds sites that can be put aside now while it plans for the next three to five years. “Finding the right sites, in the right areas, is crucial,” says Bilal.
So far, Piety THP has concentrated on eight locations across Sydney: from Rockdale to Lidcombe, and Hurstville to Wentworth Point. Its apartments are seen as affordable and beautiful at the same time, Wentworth Point being a stand-out example. The developments are great for families, too, as they have plenty of outdoor space.
“All our decisions are made on Australian soil, so we’re very quick in making those decisions.”
“We’ve had great success with Wentworth Point,” says Bilal proudly. “That’s our biggest development to date. It’s actually been featured on Channel 9 and in newspapers and it’s won a few awards. The Mayor of Parramatta recently opened the park and said it was one of the best he had seen in many years, and that we have given back to the community.” Being based in Australia has also helped with growth, says Bilal. “All our decisions are made on Australian soil, so we’re very quick in making those decisions.”
The main area of focus for the next 12 to 18 months is to understand market expectations, continue to build with integrity and not compromise on quality while keeping costs down. Supply is crucial to that plan.
“If you don’t have good supply, your business will be damaged very quickly. So, we keep a very close relationship with our suppliers and our contractors Our suppliers are important to our growth. Even the smaller suppliers – their prompt action when we’re out of something plays a huge role in our development. From planning through to concrete, it’s right across the board.”
Piety THP Developments has been in business for about 30 years. Nine years ago, it saw an opportunity for growth, as Bilal explains. “We offer end-to-end property solutions, from investment and fund management to construction and development management. We provide cutting-edge finance, so we have deep ties with our community and everyone we deal with, considering them a part of the Piety THP family. The past eight years have been very good to us but, of course, that comes with hard work and great staff.
“We surround ourselves with a core team, many of whom have grown from humble beginnings into some of the leading traders and suppliers in their chosen field over the past decade.”
On the back of these principles, Piety THP is striving to create something that will last. “In terms of community, for many this is their first home; for others, it is where they are looking to downsize. Our philosophy is that we want people to grow with us, from our staff through to our suppliers and clients.”
Not surprisingly, Bilal’s leadership philosophy is based on people. “I try to surround myself with loyal people who are the best at what they do. You then need to provide them with a platform to share their ideas and watch them grow from there. Seeing happy faces makes for a good time. I love being surrounded by people who are happy and who we have made happy.”
“I love being surrounded by people who are happy and who we have made happy.”
His other leadership advice comes from the soccer field. “When my children were growing up, before soccer I’d tell them, ‘The ball does not come to you, you must go for the ball.’”
It reflects Bilal’s drive and desire, something he is passionate about. “I love the drive, I love the challenge. You can always strive higher and love what you do – and if you don’t love what you do, you can always find something else that you love. “I was fortunate enough to have good people around me.”
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