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.

Business First - - PROFILE -

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.’

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