Michael Kljaic

Written on the 2 December 2009

Michael Kljaic

Michael Kljaic
MKM
Construction

Age: 37
Business Est: 1997
Number of staff: 100
Growth: Static
Turnover: $38.5m

MKM has secured the $1 million contract to complete civil works on the new Gold Coast hospital near Griffith University and its key residential projects in Warwick and Redbank have realised sales totaling more than $20 million.

AS managing director Michael Kljaic hunts for fresh opportunities in regional centres, it has been with some trepidation given the jolt the industry has taken in the last 12 months. Despite all the distractions and the toppling of some of the city’s more colourful developers, the 37-year-old has emerged stronger and with a bullet proof business model.

“Everything we had took a hit, our overheads are huge, it has was pretty scary there for a while and we had contracts worth $20-$30 million that had just fallen over,” concedes Kljaic.

“I just kept thinking ‘what do we need to do’ to get out of this and we were looking for anything to keep us going. I couldn’t sit around and wait, I had to make things happen and we did.”

He certainly did. Not content to wait for conditions to improve, the former Serbian national who once earned his pocket money washing buses at Surfside Buslines, expanded his company and bought four new trucks and two excavators as projects around him were mothballed and receivership raised its ugly head among some of his competitors.

“We actually did more with less,” affirms Kljaic.
“I’m a different man, it’s (GFC) made me a bit wiser and more conscientious when making decisions. When times are good, you hire staff to take new roles you never knew existed because pressure is building on existing staff. This year I was able to do more with less.

“We had to change the structure of the business. For the last 10 years we had been going straight up in growth, but I was funding big new sites as others sold. I was shifting investment from one to the next, which is fine for a while, but then I had enough of it. I hadn’t seen a dollar for so long, so I changed strategy and decided to scale back and reduce debt.

“Years ago I didn’t like the loans or bank debt and I owned everything. Then as credit became easy to come by, we went down that path to expand. Now I want to go back and simplify it, because if the bank owns it, it’s not really yours.”

Positive thinking and a ‘never say die’ attitude has stood the MKM boss atop the podium in the Gold Coast Business News Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for 2009.

“Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s not all rosy and get on with it and concentrate on tomorrow. I don’t believe in booms. If I didn’t go and buy a lot of property, I would have been in a position to make more money,” he says.

The construction parvenu is respected in his industry, not just as a maverick go-getter, but as a gentleman.

Despite having to play hard, he also gives back to his local Serbian community in buckets. When he offered to renovate the community church at Arundel, a call to a few contractors ensured the three-month job was delivered free of charge.

“I told them this is what I was doing and that I was doing it for free and companies like Southport Stone and Satchell Glass gave up their free time and materials to help out, which is good for the church and the community,” he says.

MKM has sold out its residential project in the $70 million St George Springs at Warwick west of Brisbane and expects final sales on its $24 million Redbank Plains gated residential estate by Christmas.


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