Key links in the chain
Luke Herbert started his own business because he felt service levels in engineering firms could be improved. He speaks with Jonathan Jackson about the importance of customer service in conjunction with the rise of Linkforce Engineering.
Luke Herbert grew up in Northwest Australia on cattle stations. There is a tone in his voice that tells you he has the confidence of a cattleman. That same confidence is evident when he speaks about engineering, mining and running a business.
Luke started his career working in engineering fabrication, found his way into the mining sector and worked his way up the ranks as a tradesman before entering into planning and maintenance of mine sites.
“It was quite frustrating that no matter what I did from the planning and maintenance side to try and support the contractor, there was little support for the client in return,” Luke says.”
Luke’s burning ambition to start his own company had been a long time coming. The fact he felt he could improve the service being offered was the catalyst for his start-up.
I had looked at setting up my own business quite a few times over the years, but there was always a reason why it wasn’t quite right: finances, experience and timing all contributed to the delay in setting up the business.”
However in 2007 the time was right. He had the experience, the financial support and the desire to improve current practices. It was a difficult process but as Luke says, anything that is worth doing is usually difficult to do.
A month and a half after setting up the business, intense planning followed and Linkforce Engineering won its first job. The job was a success and the workflow continued to grow and gain momentum.
“We just continued on from there,” Luke says. “We started with 10 people six years ago and that has quickly grown to around 800 people who all know the importance of providing the customer with a high level of service. You do your very best for them and offer suggestions and improvement ideas. They may not take your advice, but they understand that you are there to help their success. If you conduct business at the highest end, you build a good reputation. All companies should remember that while it takes 10 years to build a good reputation, it only takes 10 minutes to destroy one.”
While the mining industry is extremely large, it is also quite insular and word spreads quickly about a business and the quality of work for which they are measured, particularly by their previous performances.
That is how Linkforce Engineering started. They did a good job, built a reputation and moved forward rapidly by always making sure that their last job was their best.
A key part of the success for Linkforce Engineering is honesty and integrity.
“People need to believe what you say and you need to deliver on your promises. There are so many people in the industry that promise the world but don’t produce, so it all comes back to the way you conduct yourself and your business. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. And do it well.”
Like any business there are challenges, particularly with something as large as Linkforce. The team doesn’t shy away from the difficulties. Controlling hundreds of people throws up significant issues.
“We mobilise large numbers of skilled personnel and equipment around the country to execute the works for our clients. To be successful, recruitment, training and support of our personnel is critical. Everyone needs to be given the right tools to succeed and if they succeed then the team succeeds.”
Also with significant growth day-today business becomes challenging, but Luke brings this back to the strength of the team.
“You need to have a lot of good people and systems to ensure that the company’s expectations are achieved,” he says.
“To lead people and be a good manager you need to ensure you are firm but fair and treat people the way you want to be treated.
“You have to have compassion, but you can’t be a soft heart. You have to have discipline and structure so people understand what the expectations are of them.”
In a business such as Linkforce
If people believe what you say and you’re upfront with them that holds a lot of weight.’