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YellowTree blossoming in Phnom Penh

 The YellowTree team (left to right): projects manager Phan Vibol, technical manager Pheng Kimsour and general manager Bernie Durkin.
The YellowTree team (left to right): projects manager Phan Vibol, technical manager Pheng Kimsour and general manager Bernie Durkin. Heng Chivoan

YellowTree blossoming in Phnom Penh

The head of local design and fit-out company YellowTree Interior thinks Phnom Penh is poised to see a boom in office rentals, as more and more international companies open up operations in the capital.

Bernie Durkin, YellowTree’s General Manager, said he’s optimistic about Phnom Penh’s office market, despite the recent increase in competition.

“It seems now that every other shop on Street 163 is a decoration shop, but in reality we know that there are probably about four or five other players in Phnom Penh that work at the top level, and they are our real competitors,” Durkin said.

YellowTree’s clients include FTB Bank, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vattanac Properties, Qatar Airways, Coca-Cola, KPMG and Marks & Spencer.

Durkin said he and his team specialise mostly in corporate work. “We do offices mainly, also banks, some retail and we’ve dabbled in F&B,” he said. “We don’t do domestic – as ordinarily the scale isn’t big enough.”

Although there is quite a bit of office space coming online in the coming year, Durkin said he thinks demand for office space will remain steady into the future, especially for mid-sized organisations.

“Before, people were quite happy to be working out of villas and townhouses. At the moment, people say ‘oh, you can go to Vattanac Capital, Phnom Penh Tower, Canadia Tower, and very soon Aeon Mall’, however, not everyone can afford those rentals.”

Demand from bigger players for high-end interior design is poised to increase in the short-term, Durkin said.

“Vattanac Capital and Aeon Mall in particular, and also Hongkong Land, are going to be bringing in some big names, and they’ll expect only the highest standards from contractors.”

YellowTree, which has been operating in Cambodia for some 12 years now has a staff of 20, Durkin said they recruit only those willing to give their all to the job.

“Additionally, we utilise only the best sub-contractors that we’ve worked with for more than a decade,” he added. “We think we have one of the best outfits for gypsum work and probably the best carpenter in Phnom Penh, both integral parts of the fit-out business.”

Durkin puts the company’s success down to his team giving the clients exactly what they want.

“I’ve got a good team. Coming from a military background I find that having energetic and bright people is essential. As long as I have that, I’m quite happy. To me it’s mainly about quick response and reaction time – that’s why we are successful. Our work ethic is that all aspects of our work must be done in a timely manner, with no excuses, and we stand firm on that principle. If you don’t give the client what they want, they will simply go to another contractor.”

Durkin views Cambodia’s future with optimism and is especially impressed with the local talent pool’s drive and skills.

“It’s my own personal opinion that if the political situation remains reasonably stable, perhaps in 20 or 30 years, Cambodia could overtake Thailand,” he said.

“When I worked in Thailand, I had to learn to speak Thai to communicate with most of my staff. In Cambodia, there isn’t the same need to speak Khmer as the people here are more motivated and I think that gives this country a distinct advantage.

Khmers in the main show a greater willingness to progress and learn, which bodes well for the future.”

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