Thrasos Thrasyvoulou is an internationally recognised leader within the field of Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP), creating solutions that reflect clients’ specific needs, never compromising to suit a standard approach. Striving to understand not only the precise needs of the client, but also expose any previous challenges or concerns, he is passionate about process improvement and understands that familiarity of these elements is at the heart of a well-informed design. As CEO and Managing Director of Specon, Thrasos is committed to quality workmanship and fast, friendly and effecient customer service, which he underlines here as he talks to Emirates Projects about his journey in one of the world’s most competitive industries.
Emirates Projects: Can you please tell us about your background; where were you educated and how your business life began?
Thrasos Thrasyvoulou: I studied at the University of Surrey in England, where I graduated with a First Class Honours Degree as a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I later completed a Master of Science in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning at the University of London, receiving a Mark of Distinction. In parallel, I did a three-year course in economics, finance of industry, industrial law and scientific management.
After two years of lecturing in Mechanical Engineering and HVAC at the Higher Technical Institute in Nicosia, I began my business journey in the 1980s, moving from Cyprus to the UAE, where I started with specialised MEP works in the construction market. Worth in excess of $2.5 billion, these initial landmark projects included hotels and residential buildings, office and commercial towers, sports complexes, and large-scale infrastructure developments / mega-projects, which took in important and prestigious developments such as airports, hospitals, military establishments and ports.
Among the areas of specialisation were high voltage turnkey projects (design & build) involving sub-station works, overhead lines, underground cabling, power and water distribution networks.
EP: Where does the name Specon come from & can you please give some details on the history and background of Specon? Where and by whom was it founded and what was the thinking behind it?
TT: The answer is deceptively simple: As the company’s founder I came up with this unique name for the simple reason that ‘SPE’ (Specialist) and ‘CON’ (Construction) describes perfectly what we do!
Back in 2005, the creation of the firm stemmed from a desire by Thrasyvoulou to set up a family-owned MEP business in the Middle East. With the volume of the MEP works in the region increased and a shortage of sizeable MEP contractors, Thrasyvoulou saw a gap in the availability of qualified and sizeable experienced MEP contractors to handle the increased volume of works in the area. Hence, the formation of Specon as a Specialist Construction MEP company.
Specon has many highly qualified engineers who have vast experience in this area, which is very important. I have been working in the region for over 30 years and have completed projects worth over $4.5 billion and most of my senior people have been here between 15 and 30 years – this is the main asset of the company.
This is where we differ from other companies that are coming into the region as newcomers with no (local) experience. In 2005, Specon was a new name, but we had many years’ experience in the region. Most of the people I had around me have been with me for over 20 years.
EP: What is your business philosophy, and how has this translated into Specon’s success in recent years?
TT: Our business philosophy is based on people and our core values.
Human resources is the biggest asset of the company. Selection of the suitable personnel and trusting the people I work with, knowing that they have the skills and experience to tackle the most complex of projects and deliver. It is paramount to ensure that knowledge passes from the senior personnel to the newcomers in a dynamic process through workshops and internal symposiums.
Our culture and values are captured in the Greek word ‘filotimo’. Filotimo is not easily translated but holds so much meaning and spirit. It signifies a love of honour, collective work spirit, pride and dignity, self-respect, getting it done no matter what, even patriotism (whether that is for your country or your company).
Our culture of ‘filotimo’ stems from our management and it’s passed down to our people to all facets of our operations through employee recognition and a motivation programme.
Our core values of Quality (love of workmanship, taking pride in our job); Integrity (love of ethos, the way we conduct business); Reliability (meet commitments, no matter what); Safety (love of human life); Excellence (love to do it better) are quintessential to our culture and deeply interwoven into the fabric of the company, defining the way we serve our clients, the way we nourish and develop our people, and the way we interact with the wider community.
It is with the above core values that sizeable and multi-disciplined projects of high value and quality have been successfully completed by Specon, such as Sorbonne University, Sheikh Zayed University, Khalifa Port & Industrial Zone (KPIZ), the New Al Mafraq Hospital, Doha City Center 3 Hotels (Rotana, Shangrila & Marweb), Habtoor City 3 Hotels, Daman Towers, The Grand Millennium Hotel at Business Bay to mention but a few.
In addition, the currently awarded most prestigious projects are the Royal Atlantis and the One Zaabeel Tower B by the esteemed client ICD/ITHRA.
Our vision and mission are to establish Specon as the leading diversified multi-national mechanical, electrical, plumbing, energy and power company in the Middle East and North Africa by delivering ‘construction excellence’. To be as a ‘total solution’ provider for all MEP works, including IT/ELV systems, external MEP infrastructure works (such us sewerage, potable and wastewater treatment), district cooling plants, medium/high voltage distribution, renewable energy generation (such as solar and wind power), conventional power generation and transmission, and MEP works for specialised rail/metro and oil and gas projects.
EP: Did you also receive more recognition during this period?
TT: Specon has received wide recognition, being one of the top multi-discipline MEP players in the market, No.1 and No. 2 positions repeatedly between the period of 2014 and 2017 by MEP Construction and your Emirates Project Magazine.
However, the best recognition is that of our clients in continuously selecting Specon for sizeable, fast-track, multi-discipline and challenging jobs based on our quality, capability, reliability and competitiveness. For example. the last two major prestigious projects that we have won from the esteemed client of ICD/ITHRA. We were selected for the prestigious Royal Atlantis project by ICD and a year afterwards the same client group awarded us another prestigious project, the One Zaabeel Tower B.
EP: Is one of the company’s ‘secrets’ employing an active engineering team and what gives Specon its competitive advantage in what is fiercely competitive marketplace?
TT: Certainly, Specon has a strong in-house engineering team with both very senior qualified engineering managers for the verification of the design and systems workability, and are experienced in execution. Such a qualified team is adding value in innovative and creative ideas that are required for the projects we undertake, including, but not limited to, value engineering for clients in meeting the required competitive budgets. Integration of systems as part of the total solution mission of the company is a competitive advantage to be addressed at the early stage of every project to ensure full coordination with all services and early procurement of first fix and long lead items to meet the challenging timescale of the projects.
EP: How do you ensure that all of your people feel part of a team?
TT: The people feel part of the team based on the clarity of targets the company expects from everyone and for the respective teams of meeting the targets. The dedication and the clarity of what the company expects from individuals through clearly defined roles and responsibilities and the ‘filotimo’ as defined earlier and ensures that the people feel empowered, responsible as a team enjoying the necessary respect and are participating in the company’s success. Welfare and social interaction of all employees are also enhanced by activities that we organise within the sphere of social events/team building, such as the MD’s cups for football, cricket and badminton.
EP: You also have business interests outside of Specon?
TT: I do, but always within the same field of expertise. I am the founder and CEO of several European-based companies that specialise in the delivery of MEP works, maintenance and distribution of electro-mechanical systems and the provision of energy audits and solutions.
EP: How important is sustainability to the company, and how do you ensure that the highest standards are maintained?
TT: Specon considers sustainability as paramount for its business continuity. Sustainability is focused on mainly Employees welfare, Environment, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and Society. An annual plan on sustainability is prepared focusing on employee’s welfare, Environment, HSE and Society.
- Despite the regular medical insurance, Specon conducts free medical camps for employees to ensure their wellbeing is intact
- Employees are engaged in sports activities
- An autonomous/independent Ethics committee has been established to capture and resolve any employee related issues.
- Employees concerns are highlighted through TBT and HSE committee meetings
Specon identifies opportunities to plant trees at project site locations in consultation with client/consultant and main contractor, for example our 2019-2020 Ghaf tree initiative. Certified for ISO 14001:2015, we ensure an aspect/impact study for each activity carried out. Initiatives have been taken to reduce use of plastics and paper.
- Providing stainless steel lunch boxes for all the employees in the organisation
- Permanent water bottles.
- Recycling and reuse of papers.
EP: How does the company ensure that it continues to uphold the highest international standards (ISO, etc.)?
TT: Specon is an ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 certified company. Specon is member of the British Safety Council (BSC) and won an international safety award from BSC for the years 2018 and 2019. At Specon, health, safety and the environment are considered as top priorities within all of our operations, and we have implemented an effective health, safety, and environmental management system, which comprises of work instructions, operational control procedures, engineering controls and administrative controls to achieve the desired HSE performance.
The management is committed to a policy of continual improvement, prevention of accidents/incidents, preventing any occupational ill health and protecting the environment in the performance of our services in the construction of electro-mechanical projects. This is clear from the company’s HSE statistics that show 0 LTIs recorded in the year 2018.
We have a zero tolerance policy on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE).
EP: Finally, we’ve spoken about your business philosophy, but what is your own private personal philosophy in life?
TT: The ‘filotimo’. A word that is unique to the Greek language and is best understood as one’s responsibility to one’s self as a human being, always acting in accordance with righteousness, honour, trust and respect.