Construction quality a priority for Cork-based entrepreneur

EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist Eoin Leonard of i3PT Certification

Even though Eoin Leonard lives in Cork city, much of his week is spent between Dublin and London.

Having been raised around the construction industry, Leonard founded i3PT Certification almost seven years ago to certify the highest standards of quality and compliance on construction projects. Using a combination of software and a multidisciplinary technical review, quality assurance and site inspections services, i3PT aims to bring about higher-quality construction in Ireland.

With the company now employing more than 35 professionals, its clients include some of the world's largest companies, such as Facebook.

Leonard holds a raft of qualifications in design and project management as well as a master of business administration (MBA) degree from University College Cork.


What light-bulb moment prompted you to start up in business?

I was raised around building sites and construction projects. My father was a builder and he instilled in us a great respect for workmanship and quality. I spent some time managing projects during the mid-2000s in Ireland and I noticed during “the boom” that there were fewer and fewer qualified tradespeople on sites. I was becoming disillusioned and considered changing career at one point. This began to set alarm bells ringing for me and I decided to try to come up with a solution to the culture which was delivering so many defective buildings. This sparked a rather lengthy journey to where we are today. Incidentally, my father now works with us as part of our site inspection team.

What was your back-to-the-wall moment and how did you overcome it?

Our back to the wall moment came in 2013; we had invested a great amount of time and development into one very large multinational client in Ireland, only to find that the project was shelved at the last minute. We had engaged on an enormous project, recruited staff, signed letters of intent, non-disclosure agreements and everything was looking good. It was devastating and potentially quite damaging to the firm. The response was initially one of panic and dread, but we quickly harnessed the energy and redoubled our efforts to replace the lost client. It really bonded us as a group.

What were the best and worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

The best advice I received was from my father-in-law. He told me that the people who really succeed in business are the ones who work hard “every single day”. It was a trait that I recognised in my own father and I think that I try to live up to it.

The worst piece of advice that I received was: “Don’t tell anyone about your idea, or they’ll try to steal it.” If you keep it to yourself, you may miss out on vital early feedback and advice which can prevent you from losing a great deal of money and time.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We have had a presence in London for over two years and it accounts for approximately 15 per cent of our business. International expansion is a huge part of our future plans. Ireland is very lucky to benefit from fantastic foreign direct investment and i3PT has managed to amass an incredible blue-chip client base. We have invested in showing our clients what we can do in this market and we have had success in following them into other markets.

Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector?

Absolutely. The increase in construction activity has had a huge impact on our business. Our clients are also more willing to invest in quality, which is what we are all about. Everything we do is about better buildings and improved culture, which is something that is high on the agenda of property professionals today.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business