Victor Said started his first building business when he was just 21. But like many entrepreneurs, it took a few goes to land on a winning formula.
Said admits he went into his first business partnership “blindly” but he used that experience to found Rivergum Homes, a household-name in South Australian building and construction. Founded in 1994 when Said was 25, Rivergum Homes now employs more than 170 employees and builds homes in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. The company has recorded year-on-year growth since 2008 and turns over more than $180 million annually.
Rivergum Homes is part of the Said Housing Group, which also includes Said Property Developments and Adelaide Timber & Building Supplies.
I’m a South Australian local and my father comes from a cabinetmaking background. One of my brothers is a carpenter and he got me into it.
I wasn’t sure what to do after I finished school so I went to TAFE and did a building course. I went and did some work with my brother building homes but it wasn’t for me.
I ended up working for a company called Transat when I was around 17 or 18. They specialised in transportable homes.
That was 30 odd years ago. I did everything there, from administration to showing people the homes, supervising and estimating. I was there for around five years.
I thought: I could do this myself. I knew all the tradespeople and suppliers and I was often in charge as the owner was hardly there.
It was in that business that I met my first business partner at the age of 21. We decided to go out and start Selector Homes.
We knew the opportunity was there. We formed a partnership and found a site for displaying relocatable homes. There were three or four of us working from there. We started building granny flats and we would transport them from the yard.
We had that business for around three or four years. I had worked with two of the guys at Transat, but there were some issues there, so I decided to start up a business by myself.
I started Rivergum Homes from the backyard of my own home.
I think I am a natural business leader but I went into my first business partnership blindly. I spent a whole lot of money without the proper understanding.
The business grew quickly in the first 12 months. At Selector Homes, one of the challenges was producing homes that had to be transported; it restricted the size of what we could offer people.
At Rivergum we found a niche by deciding to build the homes on site and give people more options. We could build higher and offer more variety.
I never imagined my business would be anywhere near the size it is today. We have built more than 2000 homes.
I also never thought I would be building large three-storey homes and competing against all the large businesses in South Australia.
Most of the building firms here are third or fourth generation, with strong land ownership behind them. Our company is the only one without a strong land backing.
I plan to keep growing the business by expanding into the Victorian market and expanding our offering in Queensland. In the South Australian market we are really focusing on early-stage medium and high-density projects and, at the same time, we are purchasing our own development sites.
The future will be about innovation, customer satisfaction and protecting our brand.
I use a very structured business plan. We have a five-year strategic plan and business plans for each department and area. We assess financial risk once a month.
I’ve also had an advisory board for many years, which has provided a lot of valuable support along the way.
Trying to manage the opportunities for future growth is what keeps me up at night. And looking after my twin baby girls; that has been a big event in my life.
Appointing the appropriate people to help grow the business has been critical. Marc Taintey has recently been appointed as our chief operating officer, having previously been chief financial officer. He is one of the biggest things to happen to my business.
He has the experience and I know I can rely on him.
Tags: profile, Victor Said, building, construction, Rivergum Homes, South Australia, entrepreneurs