Interview with Philip Mack – Owner and Chairman of Mainmark
Why did you found Mainmark and how has the business evolved over the years?
With an honours degree in building from the University of New South Wales and after many years spent working for tier one building companies in Australia,I founded Mainmark in 1983 as a building construction company to undertake my own residential developments.
The business did well until Prime Minister Keating’s “recession we had to have”.
In 1989, Mainmark morphed into an earthquake repair and remediation business, following the disastrous earthquake in Newcastle, New South Wales. We became local industry leaders and spent a great deal of focus reinforcing stonework in heritage buildings and churches.
Once the remediation work in Newcastle came to its natural conclusion, we ventured into new territory and began using our specialist grouting techniques elsewhere. One of our first projects was to reinforce the iconic brickwork arches of the Paddy’s Markets’ façade in Sydney. We also raised and re-levelled a floor with pressure cement grouting – which proved to be a catalyst for the future.
Since then, Mainmark has diversified and expanded to offer a range of specialised above and below ground engineering and remedial services. We have grown from a team of two to well over 200 employees, spread across several countries.
Uretek resin injection technology was a break-through for Mainmark. How did you find it?
During a quiet period for the business, I visited the library at the Cement and Concrete Association to read up on global innovation in ground engineering methods.
I came across a picture of Uretek resin injection being done in the UK and saw an opportunity immediately. Although there were plenty of sceptics, I knew it would be a winner because of the success we’d had using pressure cement grouting.
I travelled to Europe and the USA to see how Uretek was being used and, on the floor of my hotel room in America, drew up the first Uretek rig for Australian conditions. I had it built – bigger and better – in Texas and shipped to Sydney. This original rig is still in operation today and remains somewhat of a favourite amongst our teams.
We signed the agreement to distribute Uretek in November 1994 and began using it in 1995. For the first five years, we added one rig a year. We now have many rigs in operation across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
What are the essential elements of a successful ground engineering project?
At Mainmark, we believe in doing things carefully – measure twice, cut once! Our ethos is to do a great job the first time around, not least because lifting structures is unforgiving of incompetence and negligence.
Even ‘simple’ resin injection projects need thorough appraisal and planning to ensure the structure has been correctly understood and the right resin is injected in proper sequence and quantity.
Mainmark’s other solutions, such as JOG, are more complex and require an expert engineering team to implement stringent project management, backed by a strong technical understanding of geological structures and conditions.
What do you consider to be the highlights for Mainmark to date?
I’ve always enjoyed going to work and the early days certainly hold fond memories.
In the first few years of Uretek, we worked hard to find jobs and keep our heads above water. Instead of targeting a big annual turnover figure, we focussed on a weekly goal. We didn’t worry about the big picture, but made a point of filling up the jobs board every day. We satisfied clients because we delivered real value and great results, which was itself very rewarding from the start.
The approach worked and it was very satisfying to see the growth curve of the company. Turnover and profitability have increased every year for 20 years, as has the diversity of our services.
Can you tell us about the history behind the name, Mainmark?
The business name originates from the years I spent working on a construction site alongside an Indigenous community in the Northern Territory’s Gove Peninsula. There, I came into close contact with the locals, helping to run the local Boy Scout group. The Aboriginal word ‘manymak’ was used often. Its meaning varies, but generally it was translated to ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
We think of manymak/Mainmark as a fundamental part of our core values, as well as our business name.
What steps have you taken to create a culture of excellence at Mainmark?
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.
At the heart of it, Mainmark has a true family feel; in 25 years of operation, only a handful of employees have resigned from the business. Professional relationships have extended to real friendships, and that has created an honest, reliable, and hardworking environment.
I would like to think that we recognise employees for good work and innovation, with constructive feedback far outweighing stern reprimand. This has created a culture where our team doesn’t just come up with a good idea, they deliver on it and deliver well.
Who inspires you and why?
I don’t think I look out for human inspiration. The business opportunities have been inspiration enough and certainly, from a professional perspective, Monday mornings have always been more welcome than Friday nights. The world of grouting continues to be an exciting challenge.
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.