For university friends Sergio Pires and Marcel Zalloua the plan after graduating as Bachelor’s of Building was simple, to save some money and go backpacking together around Europe. Both landed jobs in the construction industry; Sergio for a company named Built and Marcel first as a contracts administrator at AMFM Construction, and then later alongside Sergio at Built. What was meant to be stepping a stone job to earn money for travelling, ended up being a career changing move for both.
The start of Sergio and Marcel’s business success story occurred when they saw an opportunity in the commercial fit-out market to take the plunge and create a company of their own, offering a service that was uniquely different. Marcel said “We decided to give it a shot as we were young and didn’t have much to lose.”
During 2004 Sergio and Marcel’s design and construction company Valmont, was founded in the mezzanine floor of a fruit factory in Sydney, belonging to Marcel’s father and named after a mountain in Canada where they had planned to go snowboarding.
With both still under 30 years of age, the young entrepreneurs have built one of the fastest growing companies in Australia. Recognition for this outstanding achievement has been realised over the past two years, as Valmont was ranked no. 2 in BRW’s 2009 Fast 100 list and again making the 2010 list. Sergio said “For the 2009/2010 financial year we turned over about $20million and have a projected turnover of $30million over the next year. We’ve managed to sustain such a rapid growth by ensuring we have a team dedicated to chasing work at all times. We also put client satisfaction as the most important responsibility for staff, which has proved successful as 50% of our turnover is from repeat clients.”
Originally focusing on retail fit outs and small commercial tenant construction, a design arm of Valmont was added in 2006, led by esteemed designer Jacqui Esdaile. Marcel said, “By making the whole design and construction process available in-house, we were able to offer a unique point of difference in a saturated market. The system has proved faster, more efficient and created value for tenants. We are a single point of contact which makes the complete fit out process more streamlined.”
With an interior designer on board, the commercial office sphere of the company really took off and Valmont caught the attention of various big guns including iiNet, Calibre Global and Virgin. During 2010 Valmont expanded to Peth where they have a second office. Sergio said “We already had a great client base in Perth and saw an opportunity for growth as there is a real lack of medium sized companies in the commercial office market.”
One of the greatest challenges Sergio and Marcel have found running their business is with staff. Marcel said, “It always proves difficult to find the best people and retain them. Developing and mentoring our team of 25 staff across Perth and Sydney is a priority for us if we are to continue moving forward and expanding.”
According to this dynamic duo, the manifestation of Valmont has only just begun, Sergio said, “We would like to open a Brisbane office within 18 months and a Melbourne office after. Eventually we’ll have an office in every major city in Australia.”
Marcel added, “We’re embarking on some major projects this year, especially in Perth. It’s satisfying that the bigger players in the market are no longer viewing us as the young guys – we’re an established brand and we’re driven to continue our reputation and solve every challenge that comes our way.”
Even though Valmont has moved forward at an ever increasing pace over the last six years, these guys still manage to make time for their passions. Sergio said, “I know when it’s time to have a laugh and when it’s time to get serious. I’m also a vintage Vespa addict.” Marcel adds, “I juggle my dedication to the business with spending time with my family and my love for car-racing.”
For more information about Valmont, please visit www.valmont.com.au