Company restructuring, workplace safety and stabilising the business are top-of-mind for Ross Taylor, Fletcher Building chief executive. But he also takes a somewhat lighter festive season touch, hoping for a better round of golf and telling of his family's ability to ensure he takes a break.
Q: How would you describe 2019 for your business?
A: It was about getting the business focused. We completed the sale of our international business, which has removed a lot of complexity from our operations. We are now trying to do similar things in the similar markets of Australia and New Zealand. We have growth opportunities in our New Zealand core businesses, a significant turnaround opportunity and prize in Australia, our New Zealand residential business has continued to grow and has now expanded into offsite manufacture, and we stabilised our construction business and started to win work in profitable sectors. And following a successful capital raise and our divestments, this is all underpinned by a very strong balance sheet and underlying cash flow. In a nutshell, 2019 has given us a good foundation for taking the company into the future.
• Fletcher Building turnaround: last year's $190m loss becomes $164m profit
• Premium - Market ponders future for a post-fire Fletcher Building
• Premium - Continuous Disclosure: Why Fletcher Building rallied while its Auckland project burned
Q: What do you think 2020 will bring?
A: The medium-term outlook is positive, with our key markets expected to grow for the next few years at least. In New Zealand, we have a very strong set of businesses that we need to ensure are performing consistently, and in Australia, we have a turnaround underway. So 2020 will have a strong focus on performance improvement in both markets. We also have a major focus on reviewing and resetting our safety practices right across the business, and decarbonising our operations, which includes our commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
Q: Going into an election year, what are the three biggest issues the Government needs to solve?
A: There are some great opportunities for the Government and business to work together on policies that will have a meaningful impact. Infrastructure investment will improve productivity and quality of life and in a country that is no stranger to natural disasters we should also be focused on the resilience of our infrastructure, both new and old. Affordable housing will remain a key focus and we need to be embracing innovation like offsite manufacture to speed up supply. Like all countries, action on climate change is front and centre. Governments need to take meaningful action, but they must also balance this with a just transition for local manufacturers that doesn't disadvantage them against imports. Otherwise, we will shift the problem offshore, hollow out industries and sacrifice jobs in the process.
Q: What was your favourite corporate stoush of the year?
A: Any one that didn't involve Fletcher Building.
Q: What should be uninvented in 2020?
A: Email access in holiday locations.
Q: What do you want to fix in 2020?
A: My golf handicap.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I did an egg run, delivering to people's homes in Brisbane. They came in trays of 24 so the few times I fell were spectacular. The guy who employed me made me pay for every egg I broke.
Q: What was your worst job?
A: During my university holiday work one year, I was working out on a dam construction site and when the sewage treatment settlement tank pump system broke I volunteered with two others to manually dig out all the sediment. That's a nice word for it. I got triple time for it but I know I felt at the time it really was not worth it. I am now sure it wasn't worth it.
Q: If you could change one thing about the workplace what would it be?
A: People getting injured. If I could eliminate all safety risks, I would. But instead, we have to eliminate the belief they are unavoidable and create a safety culture that keeps all our people safe every day.
Q: How do you stop yourself from working during the holiday period?
A: My family are very good at keeping me honest on this one.