The son of Greek migrants is raising the bar on a mission to reshape the future of Canberra
According to The Business Review Weekly’s (BRW) Young Rich List for 2016, Greek Australian businessman Nick Georgalis is among the nation’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs, ranking at number 17 with assets worth an astonishing $144 million dollars.
Although this is the third time the entrepreneur has been featured on the prestigious list, what really stands out is that the 40-year-old businessman has managed to double his assets in just 12 months, climbing from 36th place to number 17, reaching a new milestone with a $72 million increase in his asset value.
The founder and managing director of Canberra-based construction giant Geocon is also the highest-achieving Greek Australian and the driving force behind some of the most exciting and ground-breaking residential, commercial and retail projects within the ACT.
Born and raised in Canberra, the son of Greek migrants from the area around Kalambaka, in the municipality of Trikala in Thessaly, started his career as a real estate agent and remains passionate about the construction and building industry.
In an exclusive interview with Neos Kosmos, Georgalis talks about his journey towards success, his future plans and his dream in creating a progressive and vibrant future for Canberra.
How does it feel to be included in the BRW Young Rich List for 2016?
It is always rewarding to be recognised for hard work but this accomplishment represents the enormous network of support that has been created through Geocon and how our projects are contributing to the growth of Canberra in the years to follow.
How would you describe Geocon today?
Geocon is Canberra’s powerhouse integrated property enterprise with capabilities across development, construction, hospitality management and investment. Our hallmark is architecturally stunning buildings that deliver a new standard of contemporary living. We set the benchmark for high-rise residential and hotel accommodation in Canberra, and we continue to raise the bar.
Founded on a strong entrepreneurial culture, we believe in continually breaking new ground. From our earliest days in construction, to the formation of Geocon a decade ago, we are passionate about our city and building its future. We deliver a level of amenity and quality inclusions that is unparalleled in Canberra and we are leaders in sustainability, client service, project execution and pricing. At Geocon, exceptional is the norm.
When did you start your business and to what would you attribute the secret of your success?
I started this business in 2007 with a turnover of $5 million and five people working in my business. Today we have 220 people and a turnover of $200 – $250 million per annum. We are the developer, the builder and the hoteliers and don’t rely on contracting out any of those components of what we do. As I always say, I am quite fortunate that the best in the business want to work for Geocon and be part of our story.
Tell us a little more about your new project and any other new projects coming up.
The Wayfarer project in Belconnen that we are currently working on is, at 27 stories, the tallest tower in Canberra, with 331 apartments and a value of $145 million. This project is close to sold out and completing in December this year.
We currently have three projects under construction − Wayfarer in Belconnen with 331 apartments, Southport in Tuggeranong with 360 apartments and Infinity in Gungahlin with 424 apartments, totalling more than 1,100 apartments under construction. All these projects are the tallest towers in each area. There is a pipeline of 2,000 apartments and hotels rooms on top of what is currently under construction, with a value in excess of $1 billion dollars that will be delivered over the next few years in Canberra.
The most exciting project is our Section 200 project in the Belconnen town centre, with 1,300 apartments, hotel, retail, commercial and car park that will be released next year. Again, we will be pushing the height limit in Canberra on this project and hoping to commence construction mid-2017.
How hard was it to get to where you are at today and which elements make your business so successful ten years later?
We are still a very young business. We are only ten years old and it hasn’t been easy to get to where we are today, nor will it be easy to keep delivering the ambitious projects we are currently delivering and have in the pipeline.
I have always been quite fortunate in attracting the best talent across all sectors of industry to work with me. Having hard working and committed people working alongside me makes the journey much easier.
How many people do you have working with you at the moment?
Geocon and Abode Hotels currently have 220 direct employees, and by 2020 we are anticipating to have about 450 direct employees. At any one time we have over 1,000 people working across our projects as contractors on top of this.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs taking their first steps in business today?
The most valuable thing a business has is its people. You will find that most businesses are not factories that rely on machinery to deliver their product but need people to do this. So, keep investing in your people and look after them. Surround yourself with good, hard-working, committed people who share your vision.
How connected are you with Greece and your heritage and cultural identity?
My mother and father are both immigrants to Australia and moved here in the ’70s when they were both young. They started a family here and brought with them the strong culture that all Greeks inherit and share with their families, so we always stay quite close and connected to Greek culture and its origins. My children have all been to Greece recently and I was able to share with them the experiences I also had when I was a young boy.