As Schiavello celebrates 50 years of creating, we take a closer look at its journey from humble joinery and partition business, to multi-disciplinary global success.
Half a century is a long time by anybody’s measure – in business, it’s a lifetime.
Founded in 1966 by Tony Schiavello and his younger brother Joe as a joinery and partition business, Schiavello has transformed into an innovative, multi-disciplined, diversified and trusted property partner. Its diverse capabilities include construction, property development, people and culture consultancy, manufacturing, products and furniture. Far from a jack-of-all-trades, Schiavello continues to master everything it applies itself to. For two brothers from southern Italy, this kind of commercial success was beyond imagination when they immigrated to Australia in the 1950s.
While a lot has changed over the past 50 years, the principles upon which the company was founded have stayed the same: innovation, quality, service excellence and an ‘anything is possible’ attitude. Remaining true to these values has encouraged significant organic growth, both locally and internationally. The company now directly employs over 1,200 people, with a presence across Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia and the Middle East, and an annual turnover of more than $550 million. A testament to its consistent growth, Schiavello has been recognised by the BRW as one of Australia’s top 100 privately owned companies for the past five years.
Today, Tony and Joe are still actively engaged in the business, with the help of the second and third generations of the family. Tony’s eldest son Peter is the current Managing Director. Peter has literally grown with the business, working in the company’s Melbourne factory on weekends and school holidays as a child. Joe’s son Christopher, Director of Schiavello Construction and International, has similar memories. Together they form a key part of Schiavello’s future. “I don’t think I will ever completely understand or appreciate what my father and uncle have achieved,” says Christopher, “to come to Australia with little-to-no knowledge of English and create this kind of opportunity is nothing short of inspirational. They taught us to take nothing for granted, treat everyone with respect and believe that anything is possible. Culturally, this is what is instilled within our business today.”
A far cry from the two man fit-out located in the garage of Tony’s modest Brunswick home, Schiavello now owns and operates 100,000 square metres of highly advanced local manufacturing facilities, and an award winning headquarters in Tullamarine, Victoria. These facilities are the largest and most integrated of their kind in the southern hemisphere. Schiavello offers a range of specialised services: engineering and tooling, metal, aluminium and wood processing, plastic injection moulding, electrical component production, powder coating, glass processing, upholstery, solid surface fabrication and assembly operations.
“As a company that values quality, innovation, safety, and customer service above all else, having access to these facilities is a great advantage,” says Christopher. “It means greater control over quality and risk management, and it allows us to provide clients with innovative and bespoke solutions, high volume runs, streamlined processes for delivery, and ultimately, increased certainty.” As a proud Australian company, 95 percent of Schiavello’s products are manufactured locally, including furniture, ceiling tiles, glass, and partitions. The majority of the materials are sourced from Australian-owned and grown suppliers, making Schiavello one of the biggest customers of companies such as Blue Scope Steel, Laminex, Capral Aluminium and Dulux.
Anyone who has worked with Schiavello will testify to its reputation for creating world-class environments. This extends across a variety of sectors and build types, from workplace and education, to hospitality, hotel and gaming, and even residential developments. No matter the type of project, the approach is always the same. “It’s about really taking the time to understand the client, what their needs are, and how we can provide a solution that works for them. This is not just about a single project, it’s about building a partnership based on mutual trust and respect,” says Christopher. “By engaging with our clients at the earliest possible stage, they not only get the benefit of our technical expertise, but we can give them greater certainty – from a cost, quality and time perspective. We pride ourselves on being more than just a builder; we’ve assembled a team of specialists to assist our clients on their journey.”
The penchant for technically challenging, high-end projects is evident in Schiavello’s vast body of work, including iconic projects such as the opulent six star Crown Towers hotel, Fujitsu’s 6 Star Green Star head office, the heritage listed Collingwood Football Club facility, and even the Commonwealth Parliament Offices.
Perhaps its brightest jewel to date, Schiavello is behind one of Australia’s finest multi-residential developments, Prima Tower. At 256 metres high, it’s one of Melbourne’s tallest buildings – a sleek 70-storey structure. It features a striking curved-glass façade that changes colour from bronze to gold depending on the time of day, reflecting the changing face of the world’s most livable city. Having purchased the land in 1984 when Southbank was still an industrial area, Tony Schiavello knew Southbank was going to be something bigger.
Fast forward thirty years, the six-star development is symbolic in many ways. “Our company motto has always been and always will be that ‘anything is possible’; Prima Tower is testament to how far we have come,” says Tony, Governing Director and Executive Chairman of the Schiavello Group. While prior forays in property development such as The Artist, Abode318, and Domain Lodge have proven successful for the company over the years, Prima Tower is by far the largest, and most significant venture Schiavello has completed to date.
With a reputation and portfolio of this calibre, it’s no wonder Schiavello has formed so many longstanding partnerships over the years. The relationship with Crown Resorts Limited – Australia’s largest gaming and entertainment group – is one such example. Having completed a number of successful projects together, their next joint venture will be the biggest by far. Whilst currently still in the planning phase, One Queensbridge will become the tallest building in Australia. At 90-storeys high, it will feature a new 6-star, 3888 room hotel and 708 luxury, high-end residences. The development will not only contribute to the city’s reputation as a world-class tourism destination, it will set a new standard for luxury apartment living in Australia.
With such a diverse service offering, Schiavello clearly challenges a number of industry norms. “I think a lot of people within the industry find it difficult to define us, but that’s the beauty of our business,” says Christopher. “We have a range of capabilities, and have learnt to be adaptable and responsive, always embracing new opportunities. My father and uncle always said, the worst thing you can do is sit still.” Despite its longevity within the industry, the organisation is proving that it can keep up with the times, investing in new technologies for smarter, more sustainable ways to do business. This allows the company to better forecast the future drivers, disrupters and trends impacting the property market.
One such initiative is Schiavello’s online, OFSC compliant quality, safety and environment management system. After identifying a gap in the market for a suitable platform, Schiavello partnered with an Australian developer to produce its own custom solution. This completely paperless system allows for project management plans to be generated specifically for each project, and made accessible to the entire team via desktop and mobile. The technology is an industry first and is redefining safety benchmarks.
The evolution of Schiavello into a multi-disciplinary company has clearly been a voyage of successes and lessons learnt, and one that Managing Director, Peter Schiavello is proud of: “We are honoured to share this journey with our clients, collaborators and employees. Our people and relationships are the foundation on which Schiavello is built, without whom there would be no past, present or future.”