Pensar in 2019 – looking back, looking forward – with Karl Yunker, Pensar MD

As the year draws to a close it’s standard practice to reflect on the year that was. Did I achieve everything I set out to? What were the highlights? What were the lowlights? Where on earth did that curve ball come from? If only I’d known that at the beginning of the year…

From Pensar’s perspective, while every one of the 20 years we’ve been in business has had an element of the above, 2019 has been a real foundation year for our company – and not just because we have reached the milestone of two decades in business. When I began the business in 2000 I realise now that I was pretty naïve – which was actually a great thing. If you listen to everyone who tells you all the things that can go wrong when you’re starting out, you’d never start anything – you have to believe in yourself, back yourself and well, have a crack.

People often feel that if you work hard in a business you’ll eventually get to the point where things will settle down. In my experience there is always an element of organised chaos going on – without this the business won’t perform in the long-term. You should always be looking to stretch your capabilities and push yourself to do more than you’re comfortable with.

This is what we’ve done at Pensar – we never sit still.  When I say that 2019 has been a foundation year for us, I don’t attribute this to any one key milestone or activity – rather the coming together of a whole range of elements. We have grown in both capacity and capability across all of our divisions and while some of the projects we’ve undertaken have been standouts (such as the Molendinar Water Treatment Plant on the Gold Coast and the LoganWIA Reservoir Renewals Project at Greenbank), it’s the number we have taken on across all divisions, their diversity and often highly technical nature that have made it a standout year.

We have also developed new capabilities in areas where we see there is significant opportunity –  such as our Subsurface Utility Engineering division (known as SUE) which enables us to develop a 3D format to determine if there are any clashes in design. Already this has saved our clients and us significant time and cost in design changes.

Our Infrastructure Rehabilitation business is also an area we have grown and I’m proud to say that over the past 18 months we have developed a reputation as specialists in this field.

This year we were announced as members of the Brisbane City Council and Gold Coast City Council Subsurface Utility Engineering Panels, the Central Coast Water Infrastructure Panel and Sunshine Coast Traffic Signal Panel. This recognition of our expertise offers significant business opportunity.

If people ask me what I attribute Pensar’s success to, I would have to say there are two core elements – a well-thought out and executed business strategy, and the people within our company who have built and now live that strategy.

It’s not that hard to develop a business strategy – the challenge lies in working out how to implement it. We have made sure that our strategy for growth, the markets we want to target, the people we hire and the culture we want them to embody are relevant and align with our capability. We have also made sure to target areas where there is the right economic opportunity. Next year we will have a couple of fairly significant announcements to make on our future direction and I look forward to sharing these when the time is right.

I mentioned previously that our people are a key element of our success. I am incredibly proud of our team. Unlike much of the construction industry, which is often made up of big pyramid structures and, let’s face it, a lot of egos, we have an egalitarian structure. We want to attract the best and brightest, to offer them opportunities for learning and career progression and really get them engaged in the direction of the business – this is in our cultural DNA. It’s the 20 and 30-year-olds who are our future leaders so we have to look after them. When I look at how much some of our younger leaders know, they are way in front of where I was at their age. We also have quite a few senior guys who will be retiring in 10 to 15 years so now is the time to future-proof our business ahead of their leaving.

What am I excited about for 2020? That’s actually a tough question to answer as I’ve been excited about every year since I started Pensar two decades ago. But if I have to pick something, I would say I’m excited about taking advantage of the new capabilities and industry recognition that have really come to maturity in 2019. For two decades we have been growing, maturing and always learning – and as we head into our 21st year I’m looking forward to applying all of this knowledge and experience to the benefit of our clients as well as our business. Managing a business is a matrix – there is no one thing that defines success – it’s the combination of everything working together and if you can get that 80% right 80% of the time, then you’ve got a good chance.

My prediction is that 2020 is going to be a cracker of a year!

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