How a ute, some tools and a road trip turned into one of the NT’s biggest construction companies.
AsBuild is one of the Northern Territory’s big construction companies. But founder, Paul Graham never planned it that way.
In fact, he didn’t even plan to move from Adelaide to the territory in the first place. It was an accident. “In 1998, I drove to Alice Springs in my HZ Holden ute with some tools in the back to visit a mate and never came back,” he recalls. “I was looking for a new adventure.”
And that was exactly what he got.
Like so many self-starters before him, Paul’s sense of adventure and entrepreneurial spirit was a perfect match to the incredible opportunities the NT presents.
From the time Paul was an apprentice, he’d always wanted to run a business, and once he arrived in Alice Springs, he saw an opportunity that was too hard to resist - a small, close-knit community, ready to grow.
It’s been hard, yet rewarding work ever since. He thanks the unique, NT community spirit for much of his success. He just loves the positivity.
He’s constantly amazed at how much everyone looks out for one another, often to the extent of recommending the opposition for business.
“Territorians are very supportive of each other - I can’t remember the last time we said no to someone who knocked on the door asking for a sponsorship or donation,” he says.
Paul started AsBuild NT in Alice Springs in 2007, working on large and small projects, anything from preschools to public housing villages to designer homes. Then, thanks to growth and the partnerships AsBuild had built over the years, expanded to Darwin in 2013.
“Alice Springs is a small town, people look after each other. And that’s given us the confidence to start our Darwin office.” The expansion also made sense as many of AsBuild’s Alice Springs clients had businesses in both locations. Besides, their growth had exceeded all expectations, so the move seemed obvious.
He doesn’t think he could have grown the same sort of business where he came from in Adelaide or in Sydney or Melbourne. The smaller area, with everything so close, has made it easy to work and move staff to and from multiple job sites.
“You couldn’t run the same kind of business elsewhere. Not to the same extent. Everything is so close. It’s easy to do business, get from job site to job site, location to location.”
There’s so much opportunity. Whether it’s the government releasing tenders or private enterprise reacting to a sprouting local economy, AsBuild’s future in NT is looking bright.
Paul’s always been impressed with the abilities of the local tradespeople he’s employed over the years.
“One things I find, is that the skillset I find of Territorians is very high, probably higher than I've seen from the people I see from other places coming through town,”he says.
“People think that it's like the wild west here but that's not the case. It's very professional.”
The strong skills most likely come from the importance in training locals through apprenticeships, combined with developing the know-how on working in sometimes harsh conditions.
“The NT invests in local people. There's no doubt about it. And they do it very well. Because we are a small community, we find employer/employee relationships are quite strong. We'll do things outside of work to build on it.“
“Whether it's work or relaxation. It's a great place to do business in, visit and to live. It's fantastic.”
While business is doing nicely at his Darwin office, Paul has a soft spot for Alice Springs. “It needs to be Australia’s inland capital,” he argues. “I’d love to see an arts and cultural museum. It needs to make a cultural statement, like the opera house. It’s losing the ‘a town like Alice’ kind of feel.”
Maybe Paul will build it.