Harrogate Civil Construction is a Johannesburg-based civil construction and building development company. Operating out of Midrand, Gauteng, the company is involved in numerous medium to large-scale construction contracts across South Africa. Harrogate was founded by couple Kieran and Julie Rabitte back in 2003; after 30 years of experience with blue chip construction companies, the pair decided to take their expertise and apply to an entity of their own. We caught up with the company to see what they have built in those 15 years.
When they started out, the Rabittes only had one TLB and a roller to the company’s name. With these, they took on small road and earthwork contracts – a humble beginning on which they have built something that boomed. Today, Harrogate’s operations cover a spectrum of contract types, specialising in bulk earthworks, roadworks, concrete works, township and substation infrastructure, paving, kerbs and channels and storm-water construction. During this growth, the Rabittes focused on keeping the values of small business in place: they built their organisation around a family-orientated structure and put value on creating and maintaining great working relationships with staff and clients alike.
Concentrating on its projects in Gauteng, Harrogate has achieved a steady annual growth of between 10% and 15%, thanks in part to this people-first attitude and the firm relationships it has forged. We spoke with Tamara de Jong, Harrogate’s Marketing Manager, about some of these ongoing connections: “Our customers are mainly large development companies, architects and private businesses. As the industry is heavily reliant on strong relationships, we owe every success to those clients that have remained loyal to us over the years, such as Murray and Dickson, Tyris Construction, Probest Projects and Lexkon.”
Harrogate now employs a team 150 strong. With this workforce, they have their fingers in an impressive number of pies; last year, they completed seventeen different construction projects, mostly in the Gauteng area, and they currently have 24 projects already underway this year. We asked Tamara about the company’s current slate, and whether there were any exciting new projects lined up on the horizon:
“Major projects that we have ‘won’ recently include #EdenSandton and #Illovo96. These projects are indicative of our favourite type of project, while still being large and interesting.” The work at the Illovo 96 project is striving for something more than excellence – it is striving to achieve excellence in a green way. As Tamara continued; “We are thankful to be involved in projects that strive for green development such as Illovo 96 and Law on Keyes.”
Harrogate’s excavation work for the Illovo 96 office build represents a R 3,600,000 project for the company, during which they have excavated about 40,000m3 of earth and reached their target depth of 13m in only two and a half months. Meanwhile, their work on the Eden Sandton build is “vast, interesting and multi-faceted.” The project is an upmarket residential project, developing in the heart of Rivonia – only a few minutes’ drive from Sandton CBD. The build includes 354 units, all built to luxurious quality to provide a tranquil and enviable home environment for those who can afford them. The units will range from one and two bed apartments to three or four bed duplexes. The project brags creative and varied architecture and a superior standard of living, making it an engaging challenge for Harrogate and a perfect project for demonstrating their expertise alongside a talented team of contractors.
Competition over construction contracts is high in South Africa, but Harrogate has a busy year already lined up for them. As the company declares, “Harrogate continuously strives to be progressive, dynamic, flexible and efficient to meet the ever-changing demands of the construction industry today. Our capabilities, both in size and experience, have turned Harrogate into a leading company in the industry since its inception.” We asked Tamara what exactly set the company apart from their rivals: “With the combination of our director’s education and his international skillset, we have developed a business structure unique to Harrogate that ties in old and new techniques and ideas.” These fresh approaches are followed by a team of well-qualified and experienced personnel, with specialists in substation civils, building development, township infrastructure and even equestrian arena surfacing working under the Harrogate name.
On a more practical level, they also have the resources: “We have an extensive fleet of trucks that can rapidly service sites, as well as multiple tip sites in prime locations. Our allocation of sites to project managers also highlights their individual strengths in the industry and helps us to provide service quality to the highest standards.”
However, more than their expanding services and capabilities, it is the company’s investment in people that continues to see it flourish: “We strongly believe that trust amongst staff ensures their dedication to responsibility and success. It has been evidenced within Harrogate that as soon as trust is broken, the system unravels from thereunder. When we trust our project managers to follow through with their responsibility, they then tend to place their best foot forward in terms of quality and professionalism, and they aspire to do better. That, in my opinion, is good leadership.”
As Tamara said, this trust and hands-off management places the responsibility on the individual to perform to their best, and this faith and expectation in turn produces a fantastic work ethic in Harrogate’s employees. Speaking for herself, Tamara expressed her own work ethic – one that reflects the attitudes that Harrogate’s fantastic leadership fosters, and the attitudes needed in construction industry as a whole: “I have a personal philosophy, in that whatever I do will be done with integrity. If mistakes happen, I am honest about them and take full responsibility for them whilst turning them into learning opportunities. This is something indicative of the construction industry as well, where problems such as water logging on sites or logistical issues are only overcome through trial and error and meticulous planning. When we make mistakes, we must creatively come up with solutions to rectify them.”
If this attitude is carried from one end of the chain to the other, then no wonder Harrogate continues to grow in capability and excellence. The company has expressed confidence in South Africa’s economy, and looks forward to growing and developing into the larger market. Judging from their success and rate of growth so far, it won’t be longer until this is the case!