You would be hard-pressed to find a $2.7 billion business with 1730 employees, 345 projects this year out of 16 offices across Australia operating without an HR department and in-house lawyer.
But that’s how Hutchinson Builders operates, Greg Quinn, the man who’s been managing director of the 106-year-old private company for 17 years, told the QUT Business Leaders’ Forum today.
He inherited the “Hutchie’s” model of a flat operational structure with three or four team leaders back in 2001 when he was handpicked by then chairman Jack Hutchinson from his position of CEO at Queensland Master Builders.
Today there are 36 construction team leaders with 10 other support teams that all report to Mr Quinn.
“I know, it’s outrageous but it’s our model,” he said.
“We empower our teams. They are like mini builders in their own right. They have their own estimators, their own cost planners, designers, project managers, health and safety people, everybody fits within the team.
“We have a central cost reporting system that’s about all we have that is central.
“If our people don’t perform to expectations they accept that I am going to be on their doorstep. I’ve spent the last 17 years hovering over Hutchies making sure there are no chinks in the armour so that we can go in and deal with any shortcomings.”
Mr Quinn said another aspect of Hutchinson’s philosophy was “no disputes, no lawyers, no litigation”.
“If you (team leaders) have got an issue whether it’s a health a safety issue, a contractual issue, a legal issue, a problem with a client, a quality matter, sort it on day one and if you don’t, I want to know about it,” he said.
“We try to make sure everybody is focussed on the main game and that is good performance out on the jobs, making money on the projects, not delving into disputation and becoming obsessed with winning, we just cut a deal and move on.”
He said the Hutchies model generates loyalty from subcontractors and clients.
“I genuinely believe that some sub-contractors would prefer to work for Hutchies because they know we are non-adversarial, we are not going to hold a cheque on them, and we tend to think we get better pricing structure and better performance.”
He said the Hutchinson model was different.
“It works, even if it didn’t, we wouldn’t know how to change it.
“There are no commercial targets at Hutchies, we simply back our people. We say to those 36 team leaders do what you can and work within your means.”