Construction and engineering can be a tough, rough-and-tumble game, especially when the marketplace is as challenging as it is in St. Lucia currently. The St. Lucian economy has been mired in a prolonged slump, and its construction and engineering sector operators have found themselves treading water on more than one occasion. Amarna Consult Limited (ACL), however, has been an exception to the rule, and has enjoyed great success thanks to the powerful bridges it has built with a network of fellow partners and suppliers around the world. Amarna’s Managing Director, Akhnaton St. Rose, told us more.
It is telling that even over the course of what has been a pretty tough decade, Amarna has risen from its humble beginnings in St. Lucia to become a respected name in its field in the Caribbean. More than this, though, the company has reached out across the globe, and become a name that is highly regarded over continents.
Amarna has established a reputation for excellence as a Civil, Structural & Geotechnical Engineering firm, and has further developed its repertoire to include Architecture, Project Management, Construction and Development services. As its portfolio of successfully completed projects shows, Armana has a penchant for delivering optimised and quality controlled designs at speed, and, most importantly, at value. It goes without saying that, to achieve this, ACL consistently offers a high degree of productivity and efficiency, and a design process, which combines cutting-edge technologies with the best and brightest talent the industry has to offer. Not that this tells the whole story, however.
“We live like human beings who wish to enjoy everything we can. It’s not all about business and maximising profit for us. It’s not about egos. We prefer a simpler life of just partnering with people we like working with. We’re a small outfit based in St. Lucia that has gained the ability to work internationally, but there is no limit to what we want to do. We’re very ambitious and have very open minds,” said Akhnaton. So just how is it that a small engineering consultancy operating solely in a St. Lucian market develops a reputation for excellence, grows into a regional establishment and is now conducting business and knocking on the door of international markets on every continent? The answer is simple, in Akhnaton’s view: partnerships, collaboration, and a customer-first approach to doing business.
He explained: “We have gone from being a local and regional operator to having a truly international reach, and this is thanks to our loyal, dedicated and exceptionally skilled team here at home, along with the strong partnerships that we’ve built with key companies and suppliers around the world. I think that is the thing that excites all of us the most right now – the ability to export our services globally.
When pursuing ambitious projects, like a Design-Build proposal for the Royalton Resort in Antigua that we are currently preparing, we will strategically partner and associate with other companies with whom we can share mutually beneficial relationships. For instance, our in-house Engineering & Architectural capabilities mesh well with the specialist skills available within Complete Marine Services Limited (CMS) based in St. Lucia for piling and marine construction; Kee-Chanona Limited (KCL) out of Trinidad & Tobago for tall building construction; and SpeedFloor USA operating out of Ohio who bring one of the lightest, fastest, easiest and safest to construct, light gauge steel (LGS) composite flooring systems in the world to the table. In short, we partner with like-minded companies with whom we can share mutually beneficial relationships. In so doing, the interaction is enjoyable, effortless and potently efficient.”
It is through collaborating with its small but incredibly strong network of international partners that Amarna has managed to operate across territories that Akhnaton and his team could only have dreamed of working in ten years ago. Whether as a project consultant, or a design-build contractor, or a partner to either, the company has taken on residential, government and commercial projects across a great many countries, which has enabled the company to continue generating revenue at a time when the marketplace at home in St. Lucia remains stagnant. Undoubtedly, Amarna’s international outlook is what has enabled the company to survive.
The company’s rise to prominence was no accident. Up until 2011, the company was all but confined to the Caribbean market, but a chance contract from a St. Kitts-based company which was having a resort built on the island changed everything, as Akhnaton explained:
“One of the largest Engineering Consultancies in Thailand had completed the Civil & Structural Engineering Design for a resort project in St. Kitts, and as a locally based engineer I was asked to review their proposal. After studying the design drawings, we proposed a more efficient structural solution for the building slabs, piling and foundations, which would enable construction cost estimates to be reduced from US$200 million all the way down to US$160 for the entire resort. CMS also played a major role in finalizing this solution.
Upon our submission, we were invited to Thailand to make a presentation to the engineers who had come up with the original design. However, we found that they weren’t too keen on incorporating our recommendations in a revised design. In the end we were engaged as the Civil & Structural Engineering Designers and were able to help the developer realize tremendous savings. To date more than 100,000 sq. ft. of building floor area has been constructed over this project, with the first building structure consisting of a six-storey block with post tensioned slabs and reinforced concrete moment frame on ductile iron piles. Since this project, several folks have started coming to us to ask us to provide a Value Engineering service to them too. This value engineering service, which doesn’t compromise on build quality, is probably the achievement I’m most proud of.”
The rest, as they, is history. It was as a direct result of this breakthrough that Amarna became acquainted with companies like SpeedFloor and Coles Associates – two of the company’s closest collaborations to this day, with whom it shares a powerful, and some might say symbiotic relationship. Akhnaton doesn’t see other technically sound and thriving companies as rivals, but rather as resources to learn from or partner with, harmoniously and collaboratively to the benefit of all. He doesn’t believe in competing. He just believes in the company and loves his craft.
Amarna’s reputation as one of the best in the business has been hard-earned, and Akhnaton is under no illusion as to what has made the company’s rise to the top possible in so short a period of time: it’s small, crack team of professionals.
“Our team is priceless. They are ambitious, hardworking, intelligent, productive and still keep on striving to improve,” explained Akhnaton proudly. He continued: “Our staff are more important than anything else really for the success of our company. They must be healthy, happy, and comfortable at work and at home. I try my best to show each team member that I am genuinely concerned about their well-being.
I try to find out the three things that team members like doing most – love doing most, in fact. If we are all doing what we love, then it doesn’t feel like work, because it just isn’t. To ensure efficiency, everybody works in specialist roles that best fit their interests and which they are most happy to do. This goes for technicians, engineers, architects, administrative staff – everybody here at Amarna.”
As is often the case with industry leading companies, there is an overt recognition at ACL that its staff are the key to its long-term future, which is why the company goes to great lengths to invest in its team in order to help them achieve professional and personal self-actualisation. There is also an ingrained culture of openness and collaboration, which has led to the sharing of ideas and information, and an environment in which staff can make recommendations to senior management and the leadership team for the betterment of the company.
In terms of what the future holds for ACL, these are optimistic times. The company is set to take a giant stride forward over the coming months and years, following its patent application through the European Patent Office for an innovative new LGS structural flooring system – a product that he believes could prove revolutionary. With the help of its Madrid-based patent agent ABG Patentes and business planning consultants HM Consultores in Aveiro, the current goal is to establish multiple production lines, the first of which is to be in Portugal.
“Traditionally, light-gauge steel used for composite flooring systems is one-way spanning. However, by using a two-way spanning system it basically utilises more efficiently the various materials engaged in supporting the floor loads, particularly the concrete. By developing compressive stresses in orthogonal directions within the concrete topping in a horizontal plane, a much lighter structure that can span much greater distances than traditional ones may be achieved. This will benefit clients, in that the lighter structure requires less materials, which drastically reduces cost,” Akhnaton concluded, on this subject.
With no planned development path to speak to, Amarna is unusual, in that it is drifting with great buoyancy at the top of its field. And with more as-of-yet undiscovered opportunities out there for the company, both at home and abroad, one only has to imagine what further success lies ahead for Akhnaton and his remarkable team over the years to come.