Height for Hire: a family business to look up to

EY Entrepreneur of the Year award finalists: Height for Hire is a market leader in access machinery

Frances and Fergus McArdle of Height for Hire: “Success for us is about getting everyone home safe to their families”

Frances and Fergus McArdle of Height for Hire: “Success for us is about getting everyone home safe to their families”

 

Height for Hire has been in business for nearly 40 years. The family-owned company has more than 2,000 machines and operates from 20 locations across Ireland, the UK, Hungary and Slovakia.

The company is driven by a pioneering spirit that has helped it become a market leader with the widest range of cherry pickers in Ireland and the UK. The firm’s machines are used by a variety of sectors, including construction, facilities management, wind energy, telecommunications, utilities and film and television.

Height for Hire has played an integral role in the successful completion of high-profile projects such as the Olympic Games in London; the construction of The Kelpies in Scotland, the world’s largest equine sculpture; and the redevelopment of Landsdowne Road and Croke Park. It has also erected stages for bands such as U2 and worked on television shows including Game of Thrones.

“We are a 100 per cent family-owned business and very much identify with the principles of the German Mittlestand. The key to success for any business is working at it long enough to make it work, and that is what families do,” Fergus and Frances McArdle say.

“Height for Hire is not just an access hire company, but an access hire company with a heart. We’ve made it our business to bring safe working at height solutions to more people and places. We work together as a family to make this happen because we understand the importance of getting everyone home safe to theirs,” they add.

What prompted you to start up in business?
Harry, our dad, started out in the water-jetting business. On a particularly tough day in 1978 at a local industrial plant in Drogheda, he saw his first truck-mounted aerial platform working on some chimneys. He spent a couple of hours watching them go up and come back down again safely. That day he left with a sore neck and a new business idea.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Our greatest business achievement is that we have been able to expand in tough times. We grew from four locations to 20 in four countries during the recession. We did this by building training and operational systems that allowed us to upskill people and roll out new depots faster than anyone else.

What moment would you cite as the turning point for the company?
There wasn’t just one turning point, but a series of crises and opportunities. In our industry, the attitude towards safety and the increased price of labour have been the biggest accelerators for market development.

Describe your growth funding path:
We are a 100 per cent family-owned business and we will remain so for the foreseeable future. There were no angel investors in 1978!

Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
Ireland is back in business and continues to thrive, particularly in urban areas. Part of our business is dependent on construction, and we have seen an upturn over the last 12 months in line with growth in that sector.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Success for us is about getting everyone home safe to their families because we see ourselves as educators with regards to working at height safely. We now have customers who didn’t know what access machinery was three years ago. Continuing this trend is what future success looks like to us.