Mike Kavanagh: A Game-Changing Global Citizen of the Construction World

Mike Kavanagh: A Game-Changing Global Citizen of the Construction World

Mike Kavanagh , COO

Mike Kavanagh


"Life is all about taking on new challenges and expanding our horizons," Mike Kavanagh lives by this philosophy and his journey is the epitome of it. Mike’s journey in the construction industry began in the bustling metropolis of New York City in the 1980s. As a young professional working for Structure Tone, one of the leading construction companies in the city, he quickly realized his passion for the industry and was determined to climb the ranks. With hard work, determination, and a keen eye for detail, Mike rose through the company's ranks, eventually becoming the head of purchasing. His journey didn't stop there, and Mike continued to take on bigger challenges and expand his horizons, working across different cities in the US and eventually relocating to London, and working out of the firm's offices in Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, and Milan as Regional Development Director.

It was during this time that the company recognized the potential in the Asia- Pacific region, especially in Hong Kong, and decided to partner with a local group led by Nobuo Shigemitsu to form S & Techs, specializing in industrial manufacturing and interior fit-out and refurbishment. Since relocating to Hong Kong in 2010, Mike has grown the business in Hong Kong and other parts of the APAC Region alongside his business partner, Nobuo Shigemitsu. Join CEO Insights Asia as we dive into Mike's inspiring journey in the construction industry.

How has been your path to success and what is your success mantra?

What's helped me out so far in my professional journey has been a combination of factors. First and foremost, my education as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor has provided me with a solid foundation and broad understanding of the construction industry. I always recommend this as a serious option for anyone looking to enter the field. Secondly, hard work has been essential. I was fortunate enough to join a growing company early in my career, which provided me with numerous opportunities for growth and development. I didn't have to constantly move to seek out new opportunities because the company was expanding rapidly.

Another crucial factor has been the people I surround myself with. Throughout my career, I've placed a strong emphasis on building a team of talented and knowledgeable professionals. I've also adopted an attitude of never turning down an opportunity, particularly if it involves working with a client with multiple locations globally. Furthermore, I've always approached my work with an entrepreneurial mindset, even when I was an employee. I've always felt that it's my company, and I'm constantly thinking about how I can contribute to its growth and development. And, very importantly I have always had the philosophy that Client satisfaction is paramount.

Take us through your professional journey and the impactful lessons you have gained throughout.

As a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, I started my career in the fit-out and refurbishment sector back in the 1980s in New York City, working for a large construction company called Structure Tone. Over time, I progressed from working in estimating to becoming the head of purchasing for the company in New York, and eventually, I moved into management roles, leading the company's office in Washington, DC for six years. During my time there, I worked extensively in the surrounding region, including Baltimore, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and of course, Washington DC itself.

As the company began expanding in Europe, they asked me to relocate to London to become the commercial director of the London office. From there, I became the regional development director, working with our offices across Europe, including Paris, Milan, Madrid, Frankfurt, and Dublin. This was a significant milestone for me, as I gained valuable experience working in multiple countries and across different cultures.

Mike has a proven track record of building successful businesses from scratch and positioning them as market leaders

Around that time, we started to receive inquiries about projects in Hong Kong, which ultimately led to the opening of our office there 23 years ago. Due to my involvement in Asia, I became a director on the board of the company and assisted with its growth in the region. In 2010, I made the big decision to relocate to Hong Kong and have been there ever since.

Since then, my business partner and I have taken over ownership of the company, focusing on two separate spheres of the business. One is the industrial manufacturing sector, which involves designing and constructing manufacturing facilities in mainland China.

The other is the  interior fit-out and refurbishment arm of the business, which encompasses the whole APAC region. We now have multiple offices around the region, and I head up this division of the business. Throughout my journey, I've learned many impactful lessons, including the importance of adapting to different cultures, the value of taking risks and making big leaps, and the necessity of being open to new opportunities. I believe these lessons have been critical to my success, and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow as a professional.

Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the guidelines or methodologies you follow to lead your team?

I strongly believe in showing respect toward my employees and providing them with a positive work environment and benefits. Secondly, collaboration and setting clear, measurable goals are essential to ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives. I make sure that my employees have SMART goals that are reviewed every six months and tied into our overall business plan for the year. Furthermore, I have always felt that micromanaging people is counterproductive. Instead, I believe in giving employees the freedom to make their own decisions and take ownership of their work. I educate rather than dictate, guiding them through the initial steps and then allowing them to learn from their experiences. This approach fosters a culture of trust and empowerment, which in turn leads to greater productivity and job satisfaction.

Going forward, what are the changes in market behavior that you anticipate?

We have a very positive outlook on the Hong Kong market, as we see great opportunities there. Despite some setbacks in recent years, we've managed to branch out into other sectors like luxury residential and mission-critical sectors. This diversification has allowed us to position ourselves strategically to take advantage of the GBA initiative, which we believe will offer great potential in servicing the entire area. With over 100 million people, it's a major mega market that we're uniquely positioned to service with offices strategically in place in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Foshan.

Moreover, we've identified various opportunities in Southeast Asia, which we believe will be key drivers of growth in the coming years. To that end, we've been focusing on developing our Singapore office and expanding into other locations in the region. The mission-critical sector has been garnering a lot of press attention, and we see it as a significant growth area in Asia.

What’s your message to young leaders?

Adopting an attitude of ownership can help you develop a sense of responsibility and a deeper understanding of management. Furthermore, do not hesitate to seek out senior management in the company for mentoring and guidance. Building strong relationships is another key factor in the growth of any business. This can help expand your company's reach and develop new business opportunities, both locally and internationally. Going the extra mile for your clients is another crucial element. It's also important to gain diverse experience across different parts of the business to gain a broad understanding of how the business works and help you develop a diverse set of skills. Finally, continue to learn and educate yourself. Investing in your personal development will help you stay ahead of the curve and advance your career.

Mike Kavanagh, Chief Operating Officer, S & Techs

As A Hands-On Professional, Mike Is Dedicated To Working Closely With Clients And Consultants To Ensure That S & Techs Has The Necessary Resources And Expertise To Deliver Exceptional Service. His Extensive Experience Working With Multinational Clients Globally Enables Him To Understand Their Unique Requirements, Making Him A Trusted Partner In The Asia Region.

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