In a fascinating article on QP in late 2019, Insider Plus wrote: ‘From very humble beginnings, carrying out a supporting role to the Corinthia Group, QP has grown into a highly respected Company, possibly the largest of sorts in Malta and now working hard on establishing overseas offices, through establishing relationships and trust with owners that are looking for an experienced and talented team of individuals who have what it takes to design, engineer and manage a project from A to Z.’ I asked Reuben Xuereb, Chairman and CEO of QP, if this exciting journey has continued to mushroom?
Reuben gave me that charming smile. ‘Oh, what a journey it has been! Since then, COVID has brought challenges galore, but I am delighted that we managed to sail through it well. The fact that we are a multidisciplinary professional services firm allowed us to share resources across various disciplines. So, when our architects’ work slowed down, rather than making our colleagues redundant, we shifted them onto other work we continued to deliver. Such work included traffic modelling, amongst others.
Similarly, our Quantity Surveyors and Cost Managers could also work on feasibility modelling usually done by other disciplines. We fared pretty well through those difficult times. Although the business did take a little dip, we managed not only to continue to operate successfully but, more importantly, not make any of our colleagues redundant. We still performed well financially, achieving our targets.
Over the past two and a half years, QP has grown from strength to strength. Not only have we added new service lines, but we have also continued to grow in expertise and workforce. With the launch of QP Academy, we are now very well positioned to share knowledge internally through particular workshops held for our teams by qualified experts and colleagues. Meanwhile, we are going through a process for QP Academy to obtain certification, thus allowing QP to deliver sessions on key industry topics to third parties. These sessions will officially be recognised through accreditation.
I always believed that QP could only become one point of reference for any project if it could deliver the most comprehensive array of services in the built environment. In the past, we had instances where specific disciplines were subcontracted to specialised firms as we could not afford to have all the expert competencies internally. Today, through QP Assure, we can deliver such technical services with our in-house team. Such services include quality assurance and quality control regarding work and materials consumed on any project.
Another new service that we have recently launched is the QP Consult. Through QP Consult, we shall offer Health & Safety consultancy, Restoration and traffic modelling. These services will complement archaeological monitoring and consultancy and geomatics already provided by the discipline led by our cultural heritage team.
Our total office complement has now grown to 90 professionals delivering eight disciplines along with highly specialised services. We have relentlessly worked to develop QP internationally beyond Malta’s shores. This is not an easy task since several disciplines are jurisdiction centric. However, we have a lot to look forward to, as we are actively seeking appointments on several projects in the Middle East and Africa, some of which QP has already been selected to deliver.’
Reuben, your adrenaline is always bubbling. You are gifted with a creative and far-sighted vision. But that is not all; you are undaunted by the myriad of demands which crop up unexpectedly, which you have to face and solve fast every single day. This is indeed very arduous, but for a person like you who loves challenges, it must also be exhilarating. I am sure you have passed through many very particular experiences. Could you share some of these experiences with us?
As much as I struggle with remembering names, I tend to do well with identifying solutions to situations that crop up. And yes, adrenaline is definitely something that keeps me going. Managing a business or businesses requires patience and perseverance. Patience is not something I am extraordinarily gifted with, but perseverance abounds. In any situation, I would typically act logically. I break down the issue into smaller chunks and seek to tackle it one at a time. The words ‘not possible’ are alien to my DNA. I struggle with those who either cannot try to think of a solution when faced with an issue or tend to make a mountain out of a molehill.
More often than not, we do not have the luxury of time to think of options and solutions when faced with critical situations. Recently I had a client, a local authority, calling me to deploy people on a project when our office would be shut down for a few days in the summer. The shutdown was planned, but the deployment was not. ‘Not possible’ was not an answer since this would have caused severe repercussions. The creative part of me kicked in, and with a few options in mind, we managed to find a solution which included a combination of personal involvement and an incentive to the team players who accepted the challenge.
Throughout my 17 years with Corinthia, several situations needed quick thinking but, more importantly, correct action. From problems of contractors unable to deliver due to financial struggles to clients requesting impossible delivery timeframes, challenges have been the order of the day.
We recently delivered a project in eight months, from start to finish. Timeframes were beyond impossible, but our client gave us no option. During the final week, more people were on-site than the site could accommodate. This is a challenge in itself with projects of a particular scale. With contractors unable to deliver, we organised ourselves so rigidly that we had deliverables for every hour. Five hours before the first client checked in to the hotel, we still had workers finishing off the entrance lobby and installing public area ventilation. Beyond our timely delivery of the hotel, we even made alternative arrangements for the first clients to check in to another hotel in case things did not progress as planned. In our work, you cannot simply think about the immediate and the planned, but you always have to be ready for any eventuality. Ultimately, with our team solidly on site, myself included, we delivered the project on time, allowing our client to operate and receive his first guests.
Building an award-winning team is not easy, nor can it be done overnight. But if I put something into my head, it has to happen. When I look back at where QP started, our main strength was always in project management; hence the Company’s name, Quality Project Management. There were two options for how to grow the Company: acquire another design company with the competence and talent to deliver design or build up our own team. I chose the latter. The world was our playground, so we looked far and beyond. Probably, I did not give much thought to what I was asking potential recruits to do. I carried out several interviews and even requested some interviewees to deliver a project in sketch form. Some accepted, but others refused outright. But I knew that if we wanted to become the best, we had to engage the best.
So the search continued till I found a recruit working for a top design firm in LA. The designer showed interest, and whilst I was happy with how the interview process was progressing, I kept asking myself why would a talented designer working for a top US design firm want to move to a relatively young firm in Malta. Rather than keeping this nagging question to myself, I relayed it to the candidate, and the answer I got was, “Moving to a place like Malta and working for a firm like QP is what I am looking for.” On that note, I invited the candidate to visit a project we had in Europe and then to Malta.
That was three years ago. Ekaterina is now the Senior Creative Design Director at our office, and QP has since delivered several design projects.
Did I say award-winning earlier? Indeed, last May, we were selected out of 700+ design studios as one of the best design restaurant in hotels at the International Hospitality Design Awards in NY.
We seek further with a determination to achieve more.