A job well done can be a job to come
Based in Newcastle, GB Electrical has been working hard since 1991. Their 20th anniversary will be marked this September. Darren Andrews, one of the founding directors of GB Electrical says that it is a bit scary when he thinks about how fast the time has flown for him and the three partners in the firm. At the time the three directors were working at another company, but they were not happy with the way things were going. “We decided to do our own thing,” explains Darren Andrews. “We started off as our own contracting company, the three of us came from slightly different areas of the business, Greg was more involved with general contracting electrical work, Mick was specialising in control work for Orica Explosives and I was more involved with automation, controls and the technical part of the business. We got together then and just started doing what we do, and built on each of our areas of expertise.” He says that within the first 12 months they expanded by adding 10 more employees to the group and steadily growing the business to presently employ over 60 persons. It may not seem like a large number of individuals for GB Electrical to do the projects they do, but they have actually been able to divide those employees up among six operational business units. “We were able to have a person take and manage a specific part of the business, we now have at least six specialised operations that all complement each other” says Darren. In these categories they provide sales and service for electrical breakdowns, maintenance, installations, special projects, hospitality and catering equipment, machinery repairs, automatic doors, lifts and access controls.
Darren says that in some ways their dealing with their growth, abilities and expertise has been some of the harder aspects to manage within the company. “We have had to find strategies and seek assistance in order to manage what we are doing in a very structured way,” says Darren. GB Electrical has created business unit managers to oversee the various aspects of the day to day operations. “It is just something you have to do when you have a company that does as much as we do,” he says. Once they get this system working to perfection, he says, they can seriously look at enlarging the company once again. “Keeping a handle of our growth can be a task in itself, there is an immense amount of opportunities out there for what we do, and I have said in the past I can see us easily expanding to 100 people – but right now we are looking at stabilising a bit and making sure we are ready.”
Parts of the whole
Darren says that one of the keys to their success has been to never underestimate their abilities. “We might get a client that comes to us looking for us to install an automatic door, and we up sell our abilities, and the next thing we know we are doing all their electrical work,” he says. He says that having one division on site has often led them to a secondary job on the same project. The fact that they have a multi-talented pool to pull from when an opportunity arises, means that they are seen by their clients as a proactive, solution based company – this is not a bad reputation to have in their industry. “Each business unit has been able to sell the other business areas, and key clients, like some of the big clubs that we have as clients really like that we can do everything.”
Although they are not an engineering company they are able to supply their clients with solutions in the automation and system building part of industrial control. “We can get all those system working and designing for them systems that integrate with what they have and what they need. I think one of our strengths is that we do this at a very fair price,” says Darren. Their main client in this area is Orica Mining Services, where they build the control systems for their explosive vehicles. “They have been with us for the entire 20 years that we have been going. So they have been one of our core clients right from the beginning,” he says.
Their electrical contracting arm supplies GB Electrical a large portion of their key clients and long term relationships. “We are often recommended, and have become one of Ausgrids’s key suppliers,” he says that work with them has often led to them being recommended to other jobs, such as with the West Group and Westfield. With this they are able to take on key relationships with major shopping centres and hospitals. “Our ability to service those clients, and the reason we have been successful in those areas is our ability to quickly respond to their needs. In the case of breakdowns, you can get just awful weather in Newcastle like it is now – and we can get breakdowns where we can take people off one job and make sure they can get people out of emergencies,” says Darren. It is through their ability to respond, even in the middle of the night that has built up their reputation and relationships.
GB Electrical’s industrial machine section has focused on the maintenance and repair of welding machinery, and heavy industrial machine assets. “We are an authorised service provider for most of the manufactures that supply industrial machinery,” says Darren. “Again, it is an import area for us, and again, it allows us to get work in other areas.” As a highly specialised aspect of the business, he says they take great lengths in making sure that the people they have are also highly skilled and have all the training they need to tackle the tough jobs. “We have recently put on a new unit manager for this area, and I see us being able to take this aspect of the business a little farther than it is now,” he says. Darren says they have maintained the same operational size in this area, and judging by how busy it always is, he knows there is room to grow.
“One of the biggest and most active business units we have right now is the building services aspect,” says Darren. “We look after all of Newcastle’s university campuses, we started with two people on site, grown to ten, and this year we have 20 people on site just doing the general maintenance at the university.” Here they are able to do all the electrical maintenance work, and installation work.
“We started to do lifts ourselves after we originally had subcontracted the work out of Sydney. We at first were only doing maintenance, but now in the last five to seven years have really realised the potential the market has in the disabled access market,” says Darren. “This is the reason that we sell lifts, we also do a small amount of commercial lifts at this time, and we will be looking to expand a bit more in to commercial lifts in the near future, from installing them to selling them. We still do a lot of maintenance work for companies in Sydney and Queensland.” Darren says that many of these companies will seek them out, and reports that many of GB Electrical’s clients are management companies that look after even larger corporations. This opens large doors for them when they are introduced to a new project.
“Sometimes one thing leads to another and we end up doing a lot of things,” says Darren. “In the next five years we are looking forward to becoming a very well managed company that is able to expand in each of its business units, this will take a little of the pressure of us as directors,” Darren laughs. “I think this means that we will be able to take a bit of a step back and let the company manage itself. We had set up a plan to where we wanted to be in two years, two years ago, and we made all those goals. So the next thing is to set our goals for the next, and then the next.”