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Synergy shows small local companies can achieve international success

Synergy shows small local companies can achieve international success

Chatting to Grant Hechter, who owns Synergy Property Solutions in Port Elizabeth, it is hard to miss the passion and enthusiastic energy that he has

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Chatting to Grant Hechter, who owns Synergy Property Solutions in Port Elizabeth, it is hard to miss the passion and enthusiastic energy that he has about his company and what it has achieved in its short history.

While it may be small on head count, Synergy, which was established in 2006, is quietly but incredibly changing perceptions, nationally and globally, about businesses from the Eastern Cape.

With his Senior Associate, Bruce McNicol, the dynamic duo have led a team of Quantity Surveyors and Construction Project Managers that has built an impressive record of delivering at several high-profile multi-million dollar property developments in the country and as far off as the Seychelles, Kenya, Saint Helena – a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean, and the United Arab Emirates.

“The Seychelles has been a huge opportunity for us with a residential apartment block that has just been launched now; the development of the Kempinski Seychelles Resort and the other project that we are busy with right now – a private residence for our client there,” described Hechter.

He used to run a company called Siseko Quantity Surveyors before pulling out to start Synergy, focussing exclusively private clients with their project management. They also have a property investment arm.

“Bruce is looking after St Helena, which has been in the news lately. There is a huge demand for hospitality there and we are again working with Adrian Gardiner and the Mantis Group, who are exploring opportunities there.

“Currently, we are also working with Basil Read (also PE-based and is building the island’s first-ever airport in a project that is worth over R4.6 billion) on a proposal for a hotel, which we will perhaps start building next year.

“Then we have a lodge that we are working on deep in the Serengeti in Tanzania.”

Local focus for Synergy

Locally, Synergy is involved with development of the award-winning 212-hectare Pearl Valley Golf & Country Estate, in the Western Cape. Synergy has also been involved with the development of the new Waterfront Business Park in Port Elizabeth’s Humewood.

“Bruce has also been involved with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) R57 million Life and Physical Sciences building project,” added Hechter.

“For a small company, we are handling a diverse range of projects and competing internationally as well.”

While economic ‘slow-down’ threatens many local businesses, Hechter said that they have had to refuse several jobs partly because of the amount of international travelling that they do and partly because they want to fully focus on the select clientele that they currently have.

International focus has also shielded them from the cyclical down-turns in the local economy.

“We have found that there are many opportunities internationally, which has enabled us to grow steadily every year since we started. There was a point, where we were focussed on the local market and our business actually suffered,” described Hechter.

“Having that international exposure nowadays is actually good for us as a small business especially when you consider that you get paid in dollars and pounds as compared to the Rand, which has taken a knock against other currencies recently.”

He said that this is what actually helped them to survive the 2009 Global Economic Recession.

“We were very fortunate that year because our clients were heavily invested in property developments across the Eastern Cape and when the Recession hit, all lights went out just like that. But that was the same time that we landed the Kempinski Seychelles Resort contract.

“So we were able to shift to the Seychelles and work on what was a US$150 million project,” Hechter said.

“When that project ended, the recession had passed and were then able to pick up from where we left off, with renewed interest in South Africa and the Eastern Cape.”

He said while Gardner opened a way for them to bid for the project against other international contractors, they still had to prove themselves.

“During the course of that project, several contractors were kicked off for non-performance but I am happy that at no point were asked to leave or our work questioned – we continue to perform to high standards,” Hechter said.

He said that while companies in the Eastern Cape are more risk-averse, in order to break on the international scene, certain risks have to be taken.

“There are many opportunities out there – so local businesses need to take that gamble and go out there and meet new people,” Hechter advised, adding that the advantage for clients working with small contractors from the province was that they get personal service from the business owners unlike in the listed, global companies where they are usually assigned a junior someone.

For companies looking to expand into Africa and globally, he said they should always invest into thoroughly researching the market before jumping in – and thorough research is not a one-day visit to the country!

With the amount of success Synergy has achieved so far, why have they not relocated to Jo’burg or Cape Town?

“Indeed, we have had plenty of opportunities to open offices in different countries and provinces, but PE is our home and, including our families, we are incredibly passionate about this city – so for the foreseeable future, we will continue to travel and still come back home to PE,” Hechter said.

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