In October 2014 Mark Dayman took part in a three-member panel discussion at an event celebrating South Australia’s largest companies.
Fyfe, the consultancy he had headed for more than a decade, had just been named as one the state’s top earners with revenue of $75 million that financial year.
But less than two months later, Fyfe was in survival mode courtesy of a crash in commodity prices.
“We started to get really concerned in late November 2014 when it became apparent that the oil price movement was not a slight correction, it was a fundamental change,” Mr Dayman said.
Fyfe’s troubles were exacerbated by a slowdown in development activity, particularly in its home state of SA.
Coal seam gas projects in Queensland had also slowed to a crawl, Mr Dayman said.
“There were certainly some very tough times but we avoided a real crisis by taking action,” he said.
“It got close (to the edge). Put it this way, if we didn’t act we would’ve been in trouble.”
Fyfe operates in the energy, resources, infrastructure and property sectors, with services ranging from surveying to engineering, environmental and town planning.
As work dried up, Fyfe was faced with little option but to restructure, reduce its workforce and find efficiencies.
“This meant we had to let a number of good staff go, significantly review salaries across the company and reduce our work hours for a period,” Mr Dayman said.
Fyfe’s current workforce of 200 employees, including 100 in SA, and turnover of about $30 million are both less than half of their peak, yet Mr Dayman is confident about the company’s future.
“After all the pain, Fyfe is experiencing some very positive signs,” he said.
“What is really good about this period is that we are very balanced.”
Mr Dayman said Fyfe was capitalising on a sustained upswing in tenders nationwide, as well as a resurgent resources sector.
“We now have a very tight business with an accurate handle on the market when it comes to tendering, and we are strongly focusing on service delivery,” he said.
“As a result, we are winning a significant amount of work from tendering in what is a very competitive field.”
Fyfe will this year post a profit after two years of significant losses. An increased profit is forecast for 2018, Mr Dayman said.
“As far as the economy in SA that affects us, we’re quite positive about it,” he said.
“The past two years have been very painful. However, we have learned a lot and we are a much wiser company now.
“We are far better positioned to take advantage of any turnaround in the economy than in the past.”