Meeting Steve and Tracy Marais one can't but be drawn into the enthusiasm that this dynamic duo impart to everything they take on. It is no surprise that after only eight years in Australia they have achieved so much success, both personally and in their business.
Steve and Tracy head the Queensland construction and development company Condev, which they started six years ago on the Gold Coast. The company specialises in commercial and industrial developments of up to $35 million as well as multi unit residential and high end residential developments.
The reason for their tremendous business success, according to Tracy, is that from the outset they had a fully formed business plan and they ensured that they would be seen and accepted straight away as an Australian company (rather than a South African one) by locals. They went into a business that they knew (having had a similar business in Durban and Steve having worked for Hutchinson Builders in Brisbane for two years) and only started their own company once they felt they had sufficient Australian experience to do so. They do have some other South Africans working for them, but they are in the minority as they consciously employ staff in the same ratio as the Australian population.
It is not just their business that is well planned: Besides work, Tracy and Steve try to have a well balanced family life and both are keen cyclists as well. Their two adult children, Dean (22), who is studying building management at Tafe and daughter Andrea (21), who is doing urban design and environmental planning at university, live at home and share a love of sports and holidaying with their parents.
Their house in Robina, which they built themselves four months after arriving in Australia, was also well planned, allowing them enough space to entertain their friends, accommodate numerous guests from South Africa and relax with their family. I have been fortunate to help Tracy with some of the interior decorating in their home and have been impressed by her commitment to detail, confidence in her design choices and passion for perfection, characteristics that are evident in everything she does.
The house is ideally situated, facing north-east over the water. One of the things that they love about their home is being able to relax next to the water at “sundowner” time. The tranquility this provides allows them to reflect on their past and of course, plan for the future.
A few wise words…
Steve and Tracy's advice to newly arrived South Africans:
- Always have goals for business and lifestyle and work towards these.
- Don't be a ‘when we' and don't say to an Australian “In South Africa…” They are just not interested.
- Playing a sport is great for integrating and for social and business networking.
- Don't start a business in which you have no previous experience.
- Gain Australian experience by working for an Australian before starting your own business. Business in Australia is vastly different from what we knew in South Africa and you do need to educate yourself.
Deborah Atkins of Red Door Interiors has 25 years experience in decorating in South Africa and Australia. She designs in all areas of the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney.