Doyen of St. Francis’ building trade

With 43 years experience and more than 500 buildings constructed, Custom Construction has acquired more experience designing and building homes for St. Francis conditions than any other body.

Robin Simpson author of “St. Francis Bay – The Monument Around Us: The Story of Leighton and Ann Hulett and St. Francis Bay writes: “Greg West can be legitimately regarded as the doyen of the St. Francis building trade”.

Greg attributes the success of Custom Construction to the high standards that are maintained in all aspects of the business.

“From insisting on high standards of workmanship and housekeeping on site, to neat and tidy book keeping and administrative systems, we are fastidious about the way we work, and this has contributed to a quality end product.”

He says the company’s core strength is residential building and points out that the quality and size of houses in the St. Francis area has increased immeasurably from 43 years ago and it is not only because of the growth of the permanent population.

“From building small holiday cottages, we are now building homes that compare with the owners’ permanent residence. There has been a dramatic change in people’s expectations and requirements from the early years when holiday homes were mostly rondavel-type structures with thatched roofs and rudimentary facilities. There was no electricity for many years and no tar roads.”

Greg points out that most of the company’s business comes through word of mouth and referrals from satisfied customers.

Design has become an important part of Custom Construction’s business. “It is a part of the business that I have always enjoyed, because the process of creating of something on paper and then seeing it transformed into brick and mortar, with people living in it, is a large part of the reason that I do what I do.”

The growth and development of the St. Francis region has supported the growth and sustainability of Custom Construction, contends Greg. “St. Francis is an area in which has attracted an affluent population so even when there has been an economic downturn we have tended to find that it has not affected the St. Francis market as dramatically as the broader market. The town also continues to grow with a new golf links development 90 percent sold out, which implies another 400 houses being built over the next few years and further developments are also coming on stream. Furthermore, there is a growing trend of buyers acquiring old houses, which they demolish to make way for new, larger residences. “St. Francis also enjoys a significant percentage of foreign home owners from all over the world although our main market continues to be from Gauteng.”

Though Custom Construction’s growth has paralleled the growth of the St. Francis area, the size of the company has reached the point which Greg believes is sustainable, manageable and controllable.“Although the St. Francis area continues to grow exponentially, we do not intend to grow the business any further. At its present size, Custom Construction is able to deliver high quality, custom-built homes designed for people with their specific requirements in mind. “If we attempted to build many more units a year in a broader geographic region we would lose the tight control we have over our operations, which would impact on productivity and quality. We made a conscious choice not to grow any bigger and to confine our operations to the St. Francis area so as not to compromise the quality of our product. Our customer base has confidence in the standard of our workmanship, which is reinforced by our efficient back-up and repair service.”

Greg admits that things do go wrong on building sites and Custom Construction has always stood by their product. “We have been back and carried out repairs on a house 17 years after it was built and not charged the owner, because we took responsibility for the problem. This also helps build confidence in our customer base.”

Custom Construction has always emphasised staff training and skills development.Greg says the growth of the company has been made easier by its ability to promote staff from within its ranks due to the emphasis on training. “People that flourish within Custom Construction display a good feeling about themselves and take pride in what they do. Clients often comment positively on the respectful and tidy nature of or employees.”

He points out that Custom Construction’s brand which has been built over 43 years is very strong in the St. Francis area and has been vital to the company’s success. “We have always tried to live up to the name we chose for the business by custom designing and constructing homes to our clients’ requirements.”

The biggest challenge facing Custom Construction, according to Greg, is finding the correct staff and maintaining the high standards the company has set. “It is a daily challenge to make sure high standards and quality workmanship is sustained. We are often asked to repair work done by somebody else and we see the evidence of short cuts and shoddy workmanship, which is why each site is managed and supervised down to the last detail. “We are a hands-on operation.”

Greg believes Custom Construction’s prospects for the future are bright.“St. Francis Bay is well established. It has reached a point of critical mass with enough people living in the area for it to be a self sustaining town as opposed to merely a holiday village and it is still growing as a retirement town and international holiday destination.” Custom Construction aims to remain part of this growth.