Sarkis Nassif arrived in Australia in 1987 with big ambitions to start a new life. Within two days, he had work on construction sites, saving his $60/day pay cheque for his first home deposit within just 12 months.
Over the next three decades, he built one of Australia’s most successful private-owned development companies. He has created a legacy for his family as well as for future generations living, working and staying in one of Holdmark’s many residential, commercial and retail precincts.
It takes courage as a new migrant to put every dollar and every working hour into an opportunity. But that relentless drive paid off from Sarkis’ very first project, a 20-unit block in Concord West. Since then, his business has evolved to work with over 2,000 people across the industry.
Sarkis is still the first to arrive in the office and the last to leave – he is just as driven and ambitious as the day he bought that first site in Concord West. And he also channels the proceeds of this hard work into causes and communities close to his heart. That includes founding the John Paul Foundation, in honour of his son, which disburses funds to family and children’s charities, local communities, disaster relief and vital medical equipment. More recently, he donated $10million to the Parramatta Powerhouse.
In 2007, Sarkis diversified his land acquisition into pastoral land in the Central Tablelands at Mt David. His farm, which continues to expand, keeps him close to his roots, and enables a new focus on conservation projects. In 2019 Holdmark committed $1million to fund drought relief through Rural Aid, Soil for Life and Future Directions International.
Sarkis also serves on the Bank of Sydney Board and the Bank of Beirut Board, and in 2017 was recognised as the Urban Taskforce Property Person of the Year.
Meet our founder
Tell us about a typical day at Holdmark for you? What’s the highlight, and what’s the last thing on your to do list?
Every day is different, but I am usually up and running from around 7am, making calls and getting my day in order. From there, the day could involve problem solving, site meetings, a lunch with a strategic partner – or managing the day to day corporate responsibilities. In any given day, a positive outcome that pushes the project in the right direction – like a development approval – is a definite highlight. And while I generally try to wrap up by 6ish, the to do list never seems to end!
What do you love most about your role in the business today?
Seeing where we started and where we are now. I love that I can still focus on motivating others in the team to realise our shared ambitions, and am still part of every step of the project process. From the initial idea when I see a site’s potential, to the absolute end.
What inspires you?
I get so many ideas when I travel, seeing ways to adapt the great attributes of global cities to Australia’s way of living. But I also relish time to think and reflect, and that’s where spending time on our farm at Mt David grounds me. It’s also a place where I can make memories with the people I love, my family and friends. And I am inspired by opportunities to give back to our communities through our philanthropy, I feel privileged to be in a position to do this.
How do you sustain your energy and passion for the business – what is your secret?
Doing something you love is the key. We work hard, and we see great results. That’s its own reward – being able to drive around Sydney and see communities we built 20 years ago still thriving today.
I also can’t imagine my life without the business – Holdmark is my home, a big part of my world. Perhaps that drive to continually push boundaries to do and be better has also come from experiencing hardship in my youth. I know every small act of kindness makes a difference, and I want to make sure I can relieve that pressure from others around the world.
What makes you most proud, looking back over the last 30+ years?
Seeing how much our cities have changes for the better over the years, in both big and small ways. You don’t ever realise the impact of this until you look back.