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2020 EOFY – Letter to CDSE Community

Person in suit

From:    David Firgaira

              (Managing Director - CDSE Consulting)

To:        CDSE’s Community

Dear valued member of CDSE Consulting’s community,

One recent recognition we had at our Annual Company Review was how our “team” is not limited to just our current staff and contractors, but it is also made up of others who advocate for us, who share in forwarding our vision and values, and/or have partnered with or invested in CDSE in some way (that may not be just financial).

The purpose of this letter is first and foremost to acknowledge your contribution and to say thank you. We could not have had even close to the level of success that we have without the incredible community of support and it is deeply appreciated, and not something to ever be taken for granted. So if you don’t manage to read anything else in this letter please take away this one thing from it… thank you!

Financial Performance

Financially our performance has been way off the charts. CDSE is now in it’s third year of existence as an entity, starting in 2017. At the end of our first financial year, three months after leaving employment, CDSE was in trouble to the point I needed to borrow money from my in-laws just to feed the family. Our second financial year our revenue grew by a factor of more than 30! This is more a reflection of how poor the first year was, the result of finding ongoing and consistent work, and CDSE’s first employee’s and subcontractor’s being recruited.

This last financial year our revenue grew again by nearly four times the previous 2018/2019 financial year. We as a management team set the company quarterly goals which we felt would be hard to achieve, and not rational or logical, and actually achieved them in all but the final quarter.

Lessons learned from this were:

  • As engineers we are wired to make decisions based on hard facts and logic. If we carry this into how we manage a business and how we set ourselves goals it would be limiting, and we would not achieve what is possible. The stress of setting what seemed to be lofty targets produced creativity, exploration of how to make deals and arrangements work and brought out performance that would not have happened otherwise.
  • Not achieving the target in the final quarter was not a failing. We played full out, did everything in our control and that we gave our word to doing in the effort achieve the target and it was still a very successful quarter by all other measures.

Another achievement has been the elevation of our financial systems and processes. It has been heartbreaking to hear the impact that the COVID-19 restrictions have had on so many businesses, but also shocking to realise how financially strained many businesses are and how quickly they needed to close or downsize. In December we implemented “Profit First” principals, completely overhauled our accounts and banking structure. This meant we were well prepared for the impact of COVID-19, had clarity on our cash position and even able to invest into “pivoting” and look for opportunities to grow and diversify in the midst of such an unexpected change.

I am proud of how far into the lockdown restrictions CDSE has been able to remain sustainable due to the financial systems were put in place. It has allowed us time, but it is limited and the challenges of this will be addressed later in this letter.

The Team

In the last financial year CDSE’s team has increased from three staff and one subcontractor, to ten staff and two subcontractors, effectively tripling in size. Our Management Team has also grown from two to four, with Will Colvin joining as CDSE’s Business Manager in October, and Nick Vierros as CDSE’s IT Manager in June.

I am very present to how each new team member has not matched the skills and service offering we had, but have each brought another dimension of skills and experience that makes the CDSE brand and our capability more powerful in what we can offer.

We completed our first team training day in early March at a full day event just prior to the first Coronavirus lockdowns and have since had multiple online training sessions. Training sessions have always confirmed the interview and recruitment of staff processes have done well at providing CDSE with a strong team well aligned with our companies vision (Creating Extraordinary Communities) and values (Integrity, Leadership, Authentic Communication and Infinite Possibility).

In 2019/2020 three team members (in most cases with their partners) completed a 3-month intensive High-Performance Coaching program with Rugare Gomo. Almost without a doubt, the most fulfilling times of my year have been sitting in the debriefing at the end of these programs and hearing the impact it has had on their life. It has been incredibly moving and humbling to be able to provide this gift to the team.

Further to this CDSE now has five subcommittees that have been created and are now functioning independent of CDSE’s Management, the subcommittees created are:

  • Media and Branding
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Social and Events
  • Risk and Auditing
  • Foundations

These subcommittees have assisted with a huge variety of projects that ultimately all fulfil on CDSE’s vision of Creating Extraordinary Communities. They include:

  • The sponsorship of two girls in Zimbabwe through the Gomo Foundation
  • The rebranding of CDSE’s logo and website
  • The launching of CDSE on Facebook, Instagram and Linked In
  • Creation of Christmas Parties, and Social Events for the team (especially necessary during the COVID-19 lockdowns)
  • The creation of exercise groups
  • Donations from the team to the Blood bank

And this is just a fraction of the initiatives coming out of these subcommittees.

Diversification

The 2019-2020 financial year has also seen CDSE broaden its service offering.

CDSE has recruited our own in-house photographer and branding facilitator, who has come in part-time to assist with our brand awareness and taking professional photos of events and the team for our social media platforms. While this may not seem important for a civil engineering consultancy, we have seen the support and connection this has created with our community, which is a clear alignment with the company vision.

CDSE has added IT Services to its service offering. CDSE assisted the SPARK consortium with IT support, assisted the Salini-Impregio SRU Bid team with Project Office selection, and put in an offer to set up and provide them with full IT support had the project been awarded to them. Further to this CDSE began development of our own software designed to support Small to Medium Businesses (SME’s) impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDSE was approached and produced a proposal to provide Business Support Consulting. While the project has been put on hold, this is another area that CDSE is being recognised as being able to provide value and assistance to its community and one that we are excited to move into.

The Pandemic

Coupled with all the changes a normal financial year might bring, came the unprecedented impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic. In response CDSE moved quickly to:

  • Create and implement a Working from Home Policy
  • Move the whole team to working from home before the restrictions were enforcing it
  • Escalate the provision of mindfulness and counselling services through UpriseTM
  • Create a buddy system to check on each other
  • Introduce weekly team meetings
  • Send Working from Home kits, personalised for the team with goodies to boost the team spirit
  • Seek what grants, and government assistance we could qualify for
  • Create and enact a contingency plan to prepare and plan for the uncertain impact.

It has demonstrated the agility of CDSE to respond quickly and decisively, to make decisions that align with the company values, and get in the world of our team and ensure we provide the support and care needed in what are tough times.

The other kind of growth

The other news for CDSE was the first company baby, and my second son; Isaiah Lucas Firgaira was born on the 6th of May. It is a testament to the business, that as the Managing Director, I was able to take a full three months paternity leave to focus on my family and our adjustment to becoming a family of 8! This also aligns with one of the companies stated purposes of “People being Present with their Families”.

The CDSE Management Team embraced the opportunity to step up and run the company in my absence. It was certainly a good test to see if the business had been well set up to operate independent of me. While it was not without its challenges, I am absolutely assured that CDSE is in good hands.

I look forward to extending similar opportunities to the rest of the team as they grow their families too.

The Year Ahead 2020/2021

No doubt 2020/2021 has its challenges. To date the year has started slower than expected and with the re-tendering of the Suburban Roads Upgrade Project, Stage 4 Coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne, uncertainty on other Major Project starts and known delays and issues with existing Major Civil Projects the future looks uncertain.

It has been all hands on deck to find and create work, and we are expecting CDSE to continue growing, expanding our diversification, while consolidating our partnerships and capabilities within our current reach. We expect:

  • To complete and begin sales for our own software
  • That the IT Services arm of CDSE will be self-sustaining and an area of rapid growth
  • To grow outside of Melbourne and Victoria for the projects we work on and deliver
  • To complete our own civil designs and projects as a head contractor
  • To become a trusted SME’s Service Provider
  • To develop and build partnerships with other companies where there are opportunities to tap into capabilities that meet client needs
  • To strengthen our policies and internal processes to ensure strong foundations for growth
  • Expand our services to more Local Government’s

We certainly look forward to the end of the restrictions, and the restarting of the economy in Victoria. We know that there is a substantial pipeline of work in the major civil projects industry, and that there will be opportunities when they come back online. In the meantime we are focusing on the opportunities we can see in the current market and keeping CDSE, and everything CDSE support and have committed to continuing. It is not yet certain, and I am very conscience of what is at stake motivating me and our team to persevere and find opportunity.

I want to finish by once again thanking you for your partnership and support, our community is in our Vision Statement because we value it so highly. I look forward to sharing with you how this year has actually transpired.  

Kind regards,


David Firgaira
Managing Director - CDSE Consulting