Skip to main content

Building in uncertain times

This article is taken from Florence Magazine – July 2020 edition

The COVID-19 situation has hit many businesses and industries hard.

Within Australia, the building industry has managed to continue operations, albeit under changed working conditions and tightened restrictions.

We talk to MBA Young Builder of the Year, Rick Simmons of OneUp Building, about his insights on the current crisis and what it means for residential builders.

How are you feeling about the current situation?

Like everyone, we are of course nervous, and doing everything we can to adapt to the constantly evolving situation.

How is it impacting your business?

We are appreciative that to date at least, the construction industry is still in operation, and we are able to maintain a source of income.

Our current projects are continuing, albeit with the implementation of new management and safety procedures, while a few projects have been placed on hold.

As a business owner however, I’m now faced with a whole range of challenges on different fronts including, first and foremost the protection of staff and the implementation of new safety requirements, working closely with our clients to manage their situations, and also working to re-establish the pipeline of work that has now been put on hold or disappeared as a result of the current crisis.


The building industry is renowned for having its ups and downs. You’ve been in business for a while now, how do you prepare for uncertain times such as these?

I think that to operate any type of business, regardless of the industry, you need to prepare for the hard times as well as the good times. It’s the key to staying in business.

Having said that, I think that the building industry has a way of instilling resilience over time, and that’s one of our strengths. As builders we are constantly dealing with variables such as weather, site conditions, project briefs and adapting to the many client expectations — it’s a moving target with high stakes, and plenty of risks.

COVID-19 certainly wasn’t a scenario you could imagine coming, I do feel that as an industry, builders have to continually respond to dynamic situations, constantly assessing risk, and although the current situation is amplified, there are many traits that are the same.

What do you feel are the most important things that building companies like yours should be focusing on at the moment?

First priority is safety. Safety of your teams. Safety of your clients. Safety of the broader community.

Secondly, it’s about communication and working together. This is all the way from the client to the junior helping load the rubbish. We are all affected by this and we will all have to make compromises, but if we work together, that’s the best way of getting through.

I think another key element is to understand the impacts from your client’s point of view so that you can implement a strategy that works for the client and complements the needs of your team. For example, you might choose to stage some of the works to reduce costs, or slow the program to reduce trade congestion.

Where do you think things will head? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Can you see any opportunities that will emerge from this?

I’m positive our country will bounce back from this — it may take a while but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

People will still build, people need to build, it just may not be at the rate we are used to, and as an industry we will have to adapt to this.
The opportunities that lie ahead are for the builders and trades to be proactive now. This means reinvesting in your business and strategies. Be prepared to make big changes and be flexible because that’s what is needed to stay afloat.

Mental health is always a big issue, particularly in times of stress, do you have any recommendations or advice for people in the industry who are feeling the stress at the moment?

We need to stay in touch. This area is close to me and strongly believe in mental health and the need to address it head on.

For me the anxiety arises when you do not know or have too many what if’s. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with don’t knows and what if’s at the moment, so we need to understand what we can control, and what we cannot. I’m not doctor but as a builder, husband and father we all have our limitations and breaking points. It is a time of being kind to one another, to have open communication, support and working together

What have you learnt in the last few weeks?

It’s time to buckle up and prepare for a bumpy road ahead.



Rick Simmons, of OneUp Building, is the MBA NSW Young Builder of the Year 2019.

Rick has a deep love of building and good design, and is passionate about every project he, and his business partner Scott Sommerville take on.

Rick is a licensed builder and carpenter. His level of experience and master builder professionalism is evident in the long list of highend luxury homes he has built.

Having gained his early experience working alongside his mentors in luxury home construction and management in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Rick and Scott have gone on to build a business with a reputation for exceptional attention to detail, and an ability to realise an architect and client’s vision, without compromising on the design integrity.