Building a better future

By Drum Digital
12 August 2010

His late father owned a small construction company in Port Elizabeth and his four brothers all worked in the family business. But back in the roaring ’80s a younger Reginald Fillis, better known as Reggie to family and friends, had other ideas.

He dreamed of being a teacher and enrolled at a teacher training college. It was short-lived, however, and Reggie dropped out when political boycotts and violence erupted. He later started a taxi business and although the money was good, the taxi industry was fraught with uncertainty and violence.

“There was just too much trouble in the taxi business,” Reggie (45) says. “The planned BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) system threatened our business and taxi operators were at war with each other over routes and ranks.”

Reggie feared his life would be cut short; he was also concerned for his wife Natasha, and sons Duane (17), Lee-Roy (15), Ruwayne (12) and Romay (10). So he decided to go into construction, sold his taxis and invested the money in his new company, Fillis Construction, which he runs from his home in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth.

He knew a lot about construction, but Reggie soon realised it wasn’t enough to build a successful business. He lacked business acumen, and didn’t understand the pricing system in the industry or how to manage projects.

The first three years were difficult, pushing Reggie almost to the brink of bankruptcy. His wife became the sole breadwinner while he tried to build a successful business. But he only got small building jobs and the people he worked for often underpaid him. Some didn’t pay him at all.

“There are loads of horror stories going around about crooked builders who run away with a client’s money without finishing the job. I don’t do that. My motto is that my job is my advertisement. I do my job to the best of my ability so that the person I work for is happy to recommend me. I believe there’s only one way to do a job and that’s the right way.”

Desperate to save his failing business, Reggie took on work for much less than his competitors just “It was tough and I got fed-up with working so hard and getting nothing in return. I almost lost everything. I was on the verge of giving up when I got a contract with a big construction company, called Ho Hup in January this year.”

Business started to pick up and for the first time since he started his company almost five years ago, Reggie made a profit and was finally able to pay himself a salary.

Read the full article in DRUM of 19 August 2010

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