Guaranteeing full service

When Uvuko Civils Maintenance and Construction calls itself a full-service general contractor it sure means full-service.

The South African company’s diverse range of services includes pre-construction, project administration and supervision, general contracting, new residential and commercial developments, civil engineering, mechanical and electrical, demolition contracting, facilities maintenance and remodeling, in-house design, underground utility installations, and the repair, maintenance and installation of new lifts.

Uvuko Civils has extensive experience in all types of construction projects. Whether small, mid-range or high-end, the company provides an emphasis on service, quality workmanship, conscientious field supervision, and efficient business practices at competitive prices. Despite all this experience, Uvuko Civils is always on the lookout for better methods of building and innovative solutions to complicated construction problems.

Origins & projects

The company was founded in 2002 and is wholly owned by its Managing Director Rachel Tladi, a determined woman with over 12 years experience in the civil and construction industry. As a qualified accountant she took her bookkeeping skills and started the business herself.

Tladi is the proud winner of the Govan Mbeki Best Women Builder of the Year 2008 Award, at both the provincial and national level, Provincial Govan Mbeki Women Contractor of the Year 2009, Regional Business Woman Achievers Award 2010—Entreprenuer Category, Top Women Awards 2010—Top Gender Empowered Company—Basic Industries, and a finalist at the World Entrepreneur Awards 2010. These awards have shown that the business of bricks and mortar is not purely a man’s domain.

Even back in 2006, Uvuko Civils was honoured with an award for best contractor of the year, and also received the best entrepreneur award from the government. “We were also nominated as best emerging business,” adds Tladi. “There was a lot of exposure that has taken place in the last few months so it is all about being a winner. We are getting a lot of calls.”

The award-winning company has many projects on the go. The Chief Mogale Sustainable Integrated Development Project is a construction of 453 subsidized housing in single- and double-storey units. There is the repair, maintenance and modernization of Limpopo Lifts underway, which aims for a November 2011 completion. Two more lifts’ projects include stair lifts in Johannesburg for paraplegics in various government buildings and another repair and maintenance lift project in the Northern Cape for the Department of Public Works.

Another ongoing project is the construction and interior décor in MTN stores across the country. And then there is the Mapetia Community Development, a multi-million rand project for the Department of Housing that involves the design of infrastructure for the entire precinct, upgrading of bulk link sewer, water and electricity, construction of perimeter fencing and landscaping, sports grounds and recreational facilities, and the construction of 500 units with related municipal infrastructure. This final project is aiming for completion in November 2012.

People are a priority

Even with all of these projects in progress, Ukuvo Civils is focused on expansion. Tladi says, “We are looking at growing the company and getting projects in more sites, from other parts of South Africa and other countries.”

Growth targets were put in place for the company when, at the end of 2008, its financial overhead went from one million to 16 million rand. One of these targets included bringing on more staff with the help of a mentoring program. “The main thing we are looking into is getting people who are prepared and [who we] can mentor and fund, with a little bit of equity from the company,” says Tladi.

The mentoring and funding ties into the company’s social responsibility in the township where its projects are based, in protecting the environment and preserving the limited resources of the planet, acting with integrity and adhering to highest ethical standards, ensuring a safe and healthy workplace, and uplifting the living standards of disadvantaged communities.

In December, for instance, Uvuko Civils bought presents for the local HIV-positive children. It concentrates its charitable efforts on training, skills-transfer initiatives and sponsoring social programs in schools, children’s homes, churches and many other institutions. The company also trains and empowers communities through sub-contracting, mentoring and skills transfer.

Speaking about the employees, Tladi says, “We have two people in health and safety and we have a project manager, with a part of it in construction, plus our technical guys, with a [master’s degree] in office administration, and an accountant. We have 45 employees right now, all covered with pensions. As the owner I ask staff to sign a mandate to go to school for a year so they can bring up their education and meet the company’s expectations.”

The company’s overhead was 34 million rand in 2009 and 45 million in 2010, so there has been a lot of growth. Projections for 2011 are 55 million rand. “The goal for the future is to empower women in construction,” says Tladi. “We can align people because we have the potential to grow bigger. Our competitive edge is good management and good policies.”

Uvuko Civils is currently in the process of branding itself, growing into a corporate company because that is the way, it believes, to change its image. But how will they accomplish this change? “With people buying into the company and having structures in place, with people outside the company coming in, raising expectations and doing this work together,” answers Tladi. “There is a lot of work in South Africa so it makes it more difficult to keep up, but we feel comfortable because of the cash we have in the business.”