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On the 22nd of August 1986, G. G. Betros & Associates was born and 2012 saw it’s rebranding to GBA Projects. Today marks the 30th birthday for a company whose humble beginnings started in the family home in Coromandel Valley, Adelaide.

For the past 30 weeks we have had the pleasure of reminiscing over 30 years of operations (one year for each week) writing a small piece about the activities of the business during that particular year. After about 15 weeks I had not run out of material by any long stretch of the imagination, in fact I had gone on my own personal journey of discovery in understanding what has made our business such a success.

For those first 15 years I was only young and quite oblivious to the happenings of 'the company' and what my father, Greg Betros, was actually up to. It wasn't until I started lending a hand some 13 years ago that I began to appreciate the amount of work that the company actually was able to undertake.

So for this final article, the 30th week, I took a chance to reflect on the three key components of the business’ history and what made it such a going concern.

What Kick-started the business

Any new start up either sinks or swims in its first year of operations. The first year was certainly swimmable given the massive exposure GBA had to the booming computing industry. 

The introduction of computing power was clearly the main driver for launching GBA Projects. The majority of subject matter experts in the mid-late 80's were considered scheduling 'gurus' because quite simply they were the only ones able to drive the software and produce those ‘fancy graphics’ for senior management. 

Greg became one of these SME’s, undertaking to know each software package inside and out. He had found himself a niche and he exploited it quickly becoming Adelaide’s go-to guy for scheduling. Although this was also the case for several other sole traders at the time.

These sole traders considered each other as ‘associates’ because quite frankly if one was too busy to help a project with scheduling work, the others could step in or refer on to others again.

It became apparent quite quickly that for our business to grow it needed workload to support new employees, but also new employees to support new clients. The 90’s was our first ‘boom’ as we found the best method of getting new work was through word-of-mouth through our associates.

What made it a success

Not only did we have the ability to provide a niche service to projects, but our approach was based purely on ‘getting it technically correct’. One of my favorite articles is by Martin Vaughan of Core Consulting who writes about “Lamenting the Loss of Planning/Scheduling Skills”. The introduction of cheaper software packages like Microsoft Project coupled with better access to improved computing performance led to the loss of the ‘skill of scheduling’. Novice schedulers can now simply ‘click and drag’ bars around a Gantt chart thus turning them red or green. There is minimal thought nowadays behind what the algorithms are doing to calculate those critical and non-critical activities.

The thing that made GBA Projects a success was not as much due to its professionalism, but more-so its scheduling approach in that even today we never forget "the theory" as we use the software. The forward and backward pass algorithm is a must-know for all schedulers and as such, a true scheduler should be able to do a simple manual calculation of the critical path thus being able to understand their own outputs. This is why our training material has been so heavily focused on using pen and paper before keyboards and mouse clicks.

But even as important as technical prowess, a successful scheduler is one who is extroverted, able to think creatively and more importantly – can clearly communicate in different environments. When I reflect on the people who have been a part of our business journey over the years we haven’t always hired an engineer. We’ve successfully proven that you don’t need to be an engineer to be a scheduler or planner. Of course it helps but the most important skillset required is communication which lets you ask the right questions at the right times. Nine times out of ten these people are able to demonstrate true ‘consultancy skills’ growing their knowledge and promoting the business.

 

What is ahead for the next 30 years

A few years ago, Greg presented a whitepaper at the Deltek user group in Sydney where he presented “what has changed in the last 25 years? Nothing”. The issues our industry face are three fold:

  1. Budgetary – companies are cash-strapped and will turn to lower rates and internal recruitment instead of SME’s. This means there will be a greater propensity to hire the wrong person for the job. 

    Cheaper won't necessarily mean better. Projects will be at risk

  2. Lack of standards and certifications – whilst there are many standards and certifications out there for us project control practitioners it will take many more years for industry to adopt certification as a pre-requisite to hiring a project controls professional. This is partially due to the lack of understanding by senior management the world over.

    There will be demand for people to 'clean up the mess' left by others and undoubtedly many claims to dispute over

  3. Lack of talent – as the economic downturn started in 2015 the job market fluctuated. There now exists a distinct lack of talent/expertise in the market place for projects that are starting to gain legs. SME's have left Adelaide (and Australia) in search of similar roles paying the same rates. When I talk ‘talent’ I refer to those extroverted, exceptional communicators who can think through problems and provide solutions, and most certainly not job hoppers.

    as the economy slowly picks up, many of the better scheduling talent may return to Adelaide but won't get the rates they once enjoyed

The next few years will remain undoubtedly busy yet presided by a hint of economic uncertainty. However 2016 has been an incredible year for the company once more, albeit with some downturns in workloads no thanks to that same uncertainty in the market place.

Having finished a long term portfolio planning role at Santos (another proud SA company) GBA Projects turns its attention firmly to Sydney Water and BHP Billiton whilst assisting it’s long term client Spotless in the commissioning of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

This year we’ve already performed several project reviews for the O-Bahn City Access project and the Air 7000 project at the RAAF base in Adelaide. With nothing much ‘changing’ in the next 30 years I dare say that we will continue to become involved in claims, but not for time being.

And of course, we are still assisting clients in the preparation of claims.

For anyone who has ever operated their own business they can appreciate that it is tough, challenging and yet incredibly rewarding. Having personally begun in the IT industry, I’ve now had the ability to work in so many more industries and would not have had that opportunity had my Father gone to work for ‘the man’. Being in business and owning your own destiny is so addictive.

Congratulations to the whole GBA team on reaching a very significant milestone!

Testimonials

“GBA Projects has all the necessary skills and expertise to provide planning solutions to any process associated with the many facets of construction. The ability to apply the necessary logic for the integration of these activities into processes alien to the construction industry is invaluable.”
Gerald Lewis, Building Consultant to John Holland & Lend Lease
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For over 30 years GBA Projects has enabled project success through the implementation of best-of-breed systems and practices to minimise project risk, and enhance project performance.

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