A commitment to excellence: remembering Mainmark founder Philip Mack
On 9 April 2019, Mainmark staff bid a sad farewell to our company’s founder and chairman, Philip Mack.
Philip originally established the Mainmark group back in 1983, building the business from the ground up. The name came from an Aboriginal word ‘manymak’, which translated to ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, a word that strongly resonated with Philip and reflected his work ethic.
“We started with the name. From there, I’d like to think that I fostered a culture of excellence by setting a good example, although too often I have been tarred with the stigma of being a perfectionist, which is seen by many as impractical,” he once said.
Philip’s ethos set a successful course for Mainmark, one that was built on hard work and determination. In 1989, following the disastrous earthquake that affected Newcastle, Mainmark quickly established itself as a local industry leader in earthquake repair and remediation, with a focus on reinforcing stonework in heritage buildings and churches.
Russell Deller, who joined Philip as a member of Mainmark’s team in the early days and continues to this day, said: “Philip often thought back to where we began during the Newcastle earthquake repair days, fondly remembering the challenges and how we were always inventing and innovating.”
“He saw success as a by-product of doing something as best you can and genuinely seeking to solve a problem for someone else. He always asked, “Is there anything else we can do?” before leaving a person’s home, often resulting in us putting out wheelie bins!”
When the work in Newcastle concluded, the company ventured into new territory. One of company’s earliest projects involved reinforcing the iconic brickwork arches of the Paddy’s Markets’ façade in Sydney using specialist grouting techniques, while raising and re-levelling the floor with pressure cement grouting. The project proved to be a catalyst for the future of Mainmark.
During a quiet period for the business, Philip researched global innovations in ground engineering. A picture of Uretek resin injection from the United Kingdom struck a chord, leading Philip to design and build the first Uretek rig to suit Australian conditions. Philip gradually added one rig a year over the next five years.
In the early days, Philip was not only the business owner, but also a salesman, supervisor, accountant and even tea lady. As the organisation grew, he maintained a hands-on approach, which included travelling from Australia to oversee the first project in Japan, and then pumping the entire job by hand when the pump broke down.
When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, Philip was forced to reassess the Japanese business operation which was still in its infancy. Despite the economic challenges, he forged ahead, not wanting to let anyone down. It proved to be the right decision and, thanks to the combination of a strong product and good people, Philip’s determination paid off.
Under Philip’s guidance and commitment, Mainmark continued to diversify and expand globally, growing from a team of two to well over 300 employees with 15 offices across the globe, including eight offices, seven rigs and 70 staff in Japan.
Over the years, Philip instilled a strong work ethic, and culture of trust and loyalty in those that worked with him. It was simply a reflection of who he was and what he believed.
Philip’s commitment to excellence and family values never changed, and it was these qualities that drove Mainmark’s growth. He believed in getting the job right the first time, with careful planning to ensure the structure was correctly understood and remediated. This same ethos continues today.
Above all else, Philip valued people. He was phenomenally proud of his three sons Robert, David and Ian, and his wife Meaw.
Son David was equally proud of his dad, saying: “Philip took Mainmark from the front room of our house, to a dingy office above a dry cleaner, to a global enterprise employing hundreds. He saw Mainmark as an extension of his family. In truth, I never really thought he’d ever retire. A builder by trade, he wasn’t ever going to stop until the job was done.”
Outside of work, success to Philip was about helping others and enjoying the company of the people in his life. He was adventurous and extremely well travelled, completing the Kokoda track with son Ian, as well as reaching the South Pole, coming within 10 degrees of the North Pole, and exploring just about everywhere in between. He loved to laugh and made friends wherever he went. Typically, those friends also became business partners and colleagues.
Philip maintained a watchful eye over key projects, especially the Christchurch Art Gallery remediation. The Art Gallery suffered significant damage to its foundations during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, causing the 33,000-tonne building to sink.
Mainmark worked closely with the remediation project’s engineering team to successfully re-support and re-level the 6,500 square metre foundations in just 52 days. Philip was immensely proud of the outcome, for which Mainmark received the International Project of the Year Award at the 2016 Ground Engineering Awards.
The best way to understand the true connection Philip Mack had with the company he built, is perhaps through his own words: “I have loved every moment at Mainmark and have been incredibly lucky to find my niche. Even more so to find others of the same ilk to share the experience with me.”
On behalf of the Mack family, including Philip’s wife Meaw Mack, and all Mainmark staff, we look forward to honouring and building on this tremendous legacy.
Paul Hickman is Mainmark’s Chief Executive Officer. He joined the business in 2005 and has more than 30 years’ experience in the construction industry. In his spare time, he’s a car enthusiast, music lover and supporter of women’s and human rights initiatives.