After 50 years of property development and project management in Australia, Pomeroy Pacific has well and truly asserted itself as a respected market leader. Mark Pomeroy leads the still-family-operated business as its CEO and while his last name might imply that he was always destined for the job, his life choices have always been entirely his own to make.
“I never felt like I was being groomed into the family business,” Mark reflected during a recent conversation with Development Ready’s Rob Langton.
“My mother passed away when I was just 10 years old and as a result, I was always a very independent person. My dad raised us by himself, and had to work hard to provide for the family, but he never forced a ‘property-driven’ upbringing upon us.”
This early exposure to self-reliance and independence is something that Mark regards as incredibly important to the development of his character. In essence, it helped establish the framework for the person that he is today.
Struggling, as most adolescents do, with which career path to take, Mark emerged from high school replete with strong grades and little direction. He eventually found himself in a law degree at Monash University’s because, in his own jesting words, ‘what bad could come of it?’.
“Law taught me how to think. Perhaps that sounds like a basic statement but it really did teach me to have a very critical assessment of matters. Unlike other subjects that are based in rigid facts like ‘1 + 1 = 2’, law is about looking at a scenario and understanding the risks, understanding the opportunities, understanding interpretation and working out ways to frame arguments in favour of a conclusion.
“My degree gave me, in my opinion, the best grounding for property. With the right mentors and experience, you can have exposure to the right property related concepts, but developing an ability to think critically is a lot more difficult to do. Being able to see things that other can’t is a huge advantage in this industry.”
With the degree completed, Mark stepped into KPMG for just over 12-months before deciding to join the family business. He started as an assistant development manager at Pomeroy Pacific and quickly realised that property expertise doesn’t just flow in one’s veins, one has to experience it.
“My father was very accommodating and afforded me many opportunities to grow during my formative years at the company. He didn’t just say ‘you’re an assistant development manager, do your role’, he invited me to every single meeting and event – and I went to everything. I was exposed to banks, clients and partners that other people in similar roles weren’t able to have access to. It was a blessing to be a fly on the wall and it rapidly accelerated my understanding and capability.
Mark seized every opportunity presented to him for the next three years and attests that all he would do while the meetings were in progress, was take notes. He began scheduling in regular 4:30pm meetings with his father, where they would spend anywhere from 30mins to an hour and half going over all of his questions and all the written down points that he had not understood. Better than just responding with what the answer was to Mark’s never-ending questions, Dug (Mark’s father and Executive Chairman) explained the why.
Without his father as a mentor, Mark attests he would be ten years junior to his current capability. Now in his own leadership position, Mark is determined to emulate some of the passion and leadership qualities that he reveres in Dug, while aiming to continuously improve himself and the company.
Five Strong Decades
Pomeroy Pacific has operated for 50 years and across that time there have been a lot of different business units and lots of different offerings. Today, three core units stand as pillars within the company.
Mark joined the team in 2005 and though still relatively junior at the time, was with the business through the struggles of the 2008 GFC. This current COVID-19 period, however, is proving to be an even more challenging time. While discussing the current situation and its future with Rob Langton, Mark makes a point to mention that he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about the doom and gloom. In fact, it seems that Mark is excited for the opportunities that lie ahead.
“The last three months have been the hardest time for the business, possibly ever, but certainly in my 15 years. We know that the full impact has not been felt today, and we are aware of what is likely to be coming.
“We’re a really close-knit team so the confinement has made it really challenging to support everyone who is working remotely in the same way as I would like. That being said, we’re adapting and we’re readying ourselves for what’s coming. You can’t change yesterday. You can influence tomorrow.”
Pomeroy Pacific’s next project is in Cranbourne in Victoria, which will be kicking things off next month. Aimed at the affordable end of the market, Mark purchased the site in November 2019, before any news of the impending COVID-19 situation. However, if he was presented with the same site today, Mark attests he would still buy it.
“I think that the affordable end of the market, by which I mean at-or-below the median house price in suburban areas, is going to remain very strong.
“Buyers exist in a pyramid. How many people can afford to live in a $10 million apartment? Not many. As a result of the recent virus impact, I think that many people are going to come down from their pre-COVID pyramid tier. The $800,000 bracket will start to reassess their debt capabilities and houses around $500,000 are going to become a lot more enticing.
“Our new Cranbourne project is aimed at this downward shuffle. Someone looking in Cranbourne who might have had a budget of $550,000 for a house and land package is going to see a three-bedroom, two-car townhouse for $450,000 – and they’re going to ask themselves, do I need to expose myself to that extra debt?”
Mark’s very aware that the current market is not ‘business as usual’. He’s also aware that things might never go back to the way things were, and if they do it might take some time. But where some see despair, Mark sees opportunity.
“It doesn’t matter what state the market is in there is always opportunity. It just depends on how you can manage the risk and understand it.
“I don’t believe that there is going to be a widespread market collapse. But there will be pain and there will be some projects that won’t be able to get off the ground – in some instances that might be a good outcome.
“For strategic players, it’s much easier to make money in a bad market. When things get tough and more challenging, the risk assessment process is no longer just about cost and revenue; it’s finance, and the market more broadly, and finding investors.
“The challenges that developers face are much more heightened now than they have ever been. For a company like Pacific Pomeroy, I lick my lips. I know that we are positioned to find ways to buy sites, find value and we know how to manage the downside.”
To hear more about Mark Pomeroy’s critical analysis and market insight be sure to watch the latest interview with Robert Langton below.