Séamus McKeague became a part owner of Creagh Concrete with three of his brothers in 1986
Séamus McKeague joined Creagh Concrete in 1982 and became a part owner of the business with three of his brothers in 1986, when the company had a turnover of circa £1 million per year. By 2007, turnover had grown to £55 million, and the company was one of the largest precast manufacturers in the UK and Ireland.
In 2008, Creagh had to downsize to survive. Employee numbers were reduced from 530 to 240, and Creagh changed its profile from being a product supplier to a contracting company. Creagh subsequently put a successful strategy in place that grew the company’s market share in the UK market from under 10 per cent during 2007 to greater than 30 per cent in 2012. There are now 550 direct employees of Creagh Concrete and 250 sub-contractors.
Creagh Concrete’s core business is the design and installation of precast floors and structural precast for commercial, industrial, residential, custodial and public authorities.
The company was established in 1974 to manufacture concrete blocks at Creagh, Toomebridge, Co Antrim.
McKeague is also a co-founder of the Timoney Leadership Institute, which provides an advanced leadership programme in partnership with San Telmo from Spain to business leaders throughout Ireland.
How did you secure your first investment?
We secured our sand and gravel print in Draperstown, Co Derry, in 1993 to allow us to supply our manufacturing facilities in Toomebridge. This was owned by a family in Draperstown and we bought the quarry but retained the employees in order to help the company with succession. We paid an initial deposit and the remainder of the balance was paid off throughout the next year in instalments. Thereafter, we used HP to finance the upgrade of equipment.
What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
In 1999, we launched a new precast concrete flooring product (HomeSPAN) for use in the residential market in Ireland in both ground and upper floors. Some £2 million was invested in a new factory in Toomebridge. At the time, there was no proven market for this type of floor but it proved to be the correct business decision as within two years we were manufacturing and supplying 250,000sq m of HomeSPAN flooring with a sales turnover of £6m.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
In 2008 the company was in peril of going out of business due to the downturn in the economy and also a contracting job in England that performed badly. At this time it was necessary to radically downsize our cost base. Our employee numbers were reduced from 530 to 240, our capital spend was suspended and debt recovery was priority.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Every month brings new achievements and new goals, so our latest achievement is the completion of the Manchester Metropolitan University project, worth £6.3 million.
Are there any imminent milestones for the company on the 12-month roadmap ahead?
The first aim is to improve profitability. We will re-establish our business in Ireland and grow market share by developing our new product Spantherm. Having commenced manufacturing Spantherm at our Toomebridge facility, we will expand production to include Edinburgh and Nottingham to achieve a target of £5 million sales in 2013/2014. We also plan to develop our renewable energy business. We will erect three wind turbines at our quarry in Draperstown and build an Anaerobic Digester at our Ardboe factory.