Niall Gaffney set up Niall Gaffney Heating & Plumbing as a sole trader in 1999 with his wife Deirdre and a single apprentice. 21 years later, the renamed Gaffney Mechanical is one of the industry’s best known and most respected mechanical contractors in Ireland’s north-east with a staff of 130, and growing.
P&H: What inspires you to go to work every day? NG: The people around me and the people I meet and interact with on a daily basis are what inspire me to continue to build and grow the business. I really enjoy what I do and am always looking ahead and trying to plan for the improvements within the business and so therefore I’m never bored! For example, I put down a lot of our success down to the standards in quality that we deliver on every project. I believe our reputation has been built on this centre stone – but I am always looking to find ways to improve on this by assessing and documenting our QA procedures and continuously trying to improve.
P&H: How do you keep your team motivated? NG: Lead by example. If I can create a work environment where a person feels valued and if they feel that their input to the business is important and appreciated then that motivates them. I believe an open door policy on both a personal and business level is key to staff moral and development. There’s no problem too big that can’t be rectified. Throughout the course of the year we also make sure to carry out team building exercises that allow for different staff within the business to mix and get to know and understand each other better and build relationships. Adventure activity days are great for this kind of thing in my experience. We also love to take a trip to the races, organise spontaneous nights and nice meals out and in general allow time for keeping up with each other’s lives outside of the busy workday.
P&H: What are your biggest challenges as leader of Gaffney Mechanical Ltd? NG: One of the biggest challenges that I see facing our business, and the construction industry in general, is the potential of a shortage in skilled workers going forward. The property crash meant that for a substantial period of time after 2008, few were signing up for careers in construction and this did leave a gap in experienced skilled workers when things turned around. I think it is critical for companies like us to really get on board with apprenticeship programmes. We need to plan for the future requirements of the business by careful mentoring and management in this area and to encourage continuous professional development opportunities to all of our staff. We need to encourage and help them to reach the highest possible standards in their chosen field. The wider education system also needs to continue to expand its offering in good engineering and technology courses around the construction industry in order to keep up with the environmental and digital transformation that’s happening within the industry.
P&H: What are the challenges facing the construction industry going forward, in your opinion? NG: The biggest challenge facing the construction industry is the reduction of the carbon footprint and the implementation of green strategies throughout project delivery.
P&H: If you could employ anybody from the worlds of business or sport, who would it be and why? NG: Willie Mullins. Willie has built his reputation in the horse racing industry to be the ‘go to’ trainer. He has worked tirelessly throughout the years to get to where he is now. I love his ambition and his commitment to what he does and he seems to have a great and loyal team around him, which has played a big part in his success. If employing Willie is not an option, I can still strive to be the ‘go to’ mechanical contractor and apply his values to Gaffney Mechanical – hard work and commitment to achieving excellence while still maintaining the family atmosphere and ethos.
P&H: What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business? NG: Build a strong and trusted team around you and work as a team to compliment others strengths and weaknesses. I was once told that it is important to remain humble and grounded and not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced society.
P&H: What have been your company’s highlights over the past years? NG: When we moved into our new premises in 2016 – it was a big step and a proud day for us all. Also, winning some big key contracts with companies who have now become longstanding partners in business, as this is what has allowed us to really step up and show what we’re made of. They keep coming back so that speaks for itself!
P&H: What’s next for Gaffney Mechanical Ltd? NG: We will continue to build strong relationships with clients and consultants. We will continue to research new products, technologies and innovations to facilitate the delivering of projects, allowing us to exceed client expectations in both quality and value.