Life imitates art for this multi award-winning Australian developer.
Stephen a’Beckett is the founder and CEO of Balfour Group. With creative inspiration from some of the most unlikely sources, he’s beautifying Australian cities and raising the bar for luxury and sustainable developments. He recently shared with the Top 100 Magazine the story of his company, their goals and achievements, and what’s in their future.
What is Balfour Group and what are its core values?
We are a Melbourne, Australia-based real estate development company that specializes in high-quality, design-focused, multi-unit residential and commercial development projects. We have a longstanding commitment to corporate, social, and environmental responsibilities, which is demonstrated by the emphasis we place on delivering high-quality design outcomes, adopting technical innovation, and incorporating environmentally sustainable design solutions to all of our projects. It’s important to me that my generation builds a better world for their children than the one we’ve inherited. It’s become more challenging, but there are always opportunities to improve and enhance the built form environment we develop in.
What are your primary responsibilities?
As founder and CEO, I am responsible for identifying development opportunities and unlocking their value. I drive the initial vision for the design with the architects, then put together an outstanding project team to assist me. I love guiding the sales and marketing process, and you’ll always find me on site when we are building. There’s not a lot that I’m not involved with.
What do you think has led to Balfour Group’s success?
Many things. We’re heavily design and sustainability focused, but I attribute much of our long-term success to delivering on our promises to purchasers. We take great pride in meeting as many people as possible that purchase or lease a Balfour Group property. At an executive level, this personal accessibility is often lacking, and I believe it sets us apart from our competitors. It sounds cliché, but understanding our customers’ needs and wants, then designing and constructing beautiful, sustainable buildings for them has been pivotal to our success. That attention to detail translates into commercial success, which allows us to re-invest in, and create, more award-winning projects.
Can you tell us about some recent awards?
Our 2021 project in Armadale, one of Melbourne's most prestigious suburbs, recently won the Housing Industry Association - Australian Apartment of the Year 2022, immediately following the HIA award for Best Apartment in Victoria. In 2020, Balfour Group won an inaugural award from Property Guru Asia Property Awards for the Best Boutique Property Developer - Australia. The third Property Guru Asia Property Awards (Australia) marked the first presentation of the prestigious Best Boutique Developer title.
The independent judges said, “Balfour Group’s impeccably designed and forward-thinking projects provide a glimpse into the future of residential development in Australia. Their residences impress with glamorous interiors, generous spaces and top-of-the-line health, wellness and automation features, raising the bar high in luxury and sustainable development.” Our One Adams St. South Yarra boutique apartment project won the prestigious Best Apartment Development in Victoria in the same awards. We don’t do it for the accolades, but it’s fantastic for the team to receive recognition for their hard work and ongoing commitment to our core values.
What were your early career influences?
I started my career as an architect and worked for some of Melbourne’s leading practices. The principals of those firms became great mentors to me and graciously exposed me to the development process, which inspired my interest in property development. While studying for my master’s in business (property), I worked with several of Australia's leading private real estate developers, and it ignited a passion in me that transcended pure architecture. The owners of these companies imparted invaluable advice and direction on what was required to deliver projects that responded to market demands, enhanced their surroundings, and were financially successful.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I get inspired traveling the world, reading a lot, and researching new trends. Design inspiration doesn’t necessarily come from other buildings; it may be details in a fabric print, a work of art, in automotive design, or a piece of furniture. Nature is always a great source of inspiration too. I look at things through a design lens first, then determine how I can bring my vision for the property to life without compromising the feasibility or financial success of the project. This juxtaposition is a finely balanced challenge, which I think we have mastered, given how profitable and well-received our projects have been.
What’s the property market like in Melbourne, Australia?
The Melbourne property industry is, undoubtedly, one of the most sophisticated and competitive in the world. Every participant is forced to “lift their game” on every successive project they undertake. You can see this clearly when looking at how Melbourne has evolved in the last 30 years. Every sector has been forced to improve its product offering, which is a fantastic outcome for the broader community, and is a major reason why Melbourne has been voted the most livable city in the world seven years in a row in recent times.
What’s on the horizon for Balfour Group?
I am very keen to build on our current project pipeline and extend our reach interstate. The Balfour Group has a 22-year record of proven commercial success across all types of property development, so I really want to leverage that IP at scale. We are on the lookout for some amazing capital partners who share our values and are interested in growing with us and pushing the boundaries on multiple large-scale developments opportunities.
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