Experience is the keyAnyone involved in the construction industry will tell you that experience is a commodity that is invaluable as a reputation that be built on providing a quality service over many years.
For this month’s edition of Building Ireland, we profile a Cork based builder whose experience in the building trade goes back decades and includes a number of recessions, booms and other economic issues.
Kilworth native Michael Lyons started out his career as a carpenter before becoming a foreman. Then in 1986, with the knowledge he had gained over the years, he decided to set up his own business.
For those who can’t remember back that far or who weren’t even born, the 1980s were a bleak time in Ireland. Emigration was at possibly its highest since the 1960s as thousands left these shores for pastures new in place like the U.K and the U.S.A.
So, for anyone to start up a business during this period, they would be considered crazy right? Well, 33 years after doing just that, Michael M Lyons Building Contractor Araglen Ltd is still operating to this day.
So we caught up with Michael to ask the simple question, what is the secret to his success? Modestly, he replied: “I suppose I got lucky in many ways. I did have a good bit of experience in the trade before I decided to go out on my own.
“Emigration was never something that I considered, even though there were thousands leaving the country at the time. I got a few small jobs starting off and then they brought in the home improvement grants and that’s when we really got going I suppose.”
“We carried out a lot of one-off housing projects and then we got a small housing scheme in Kilworth. From there, we just always seemed to have work. I’ve always look to produce quality work and we have earned a reputation for that,” added Michael whose wife Mary is also a director of the company.
Over the years, Michael has developed a great working relationship with many of the sub contractors that he uses, most of which have been involved in projects that date back a number of years.
“Most of the subbies that we use would be working for us for a long time now. They know what I expect on a job and I know the work they can do. We would employ five direct, but we would have 50 people with us through sub-contracting work.”
Michael has experienced many highs and lows during his 33 years in business. He believes that never getting too big has stood to him over the years.
“We never stretched ourselves too much as in we have never taken on jobs that we felt were beyond us. We have kept things tight and that has certainly stood to us. During the last recession, we had to scale back a bit and to be honest, we were barely ticking over, but we managed to come through it and we are busy once again.”
There is no doubt that the building trade is reaching new levels once again, but there is always a fear that a repeat of the late 2000s may occur again, but Michael feels that it is different this time around.
“I think it will sustain itself this time. During the Celtic Tiger, everyone wanted to be involved. There were guys that hadn’t an interest in the construction industry beforehand who were now either buying up land to develop or getting involved in some way and I did say at the time, it wouldn’t last and unfortunately I was right.
“A lot of companies went out of business and it was a tough time for everyone, but I think we all learned something from the recession and it is a different situation this time around.”
Michael M Lyons Building Contractor Araglen Ltd are currently involved in a number of projects including a social housing scheme in Fermoy where 52 houses are being constructed. This development is for Cork County Council, a local authority that Michael has a long standing relationship with down through the years.
“We would have done a lot of work for Cork County Council down through the years, but there was a period there that we wouldn’t have done as much, but it seems to have come full circle now.”
Many of you may feel that the company name of Michael M Lyons Building Contractor Ltd is familiar to you and so it could be if you are a fan of RTE’s ‘Room to Improve’.
The Cork based building contractor were the main contractors on a project that was featured on the show, which saw the team work with renowned architect Dermot Bannon to produce a home for a Fermoy based couple.
“It was a great experience for us to be involved in the show. There was a good rapport between the client and all the parties involved and we were delighted to be awarded the tender. Thankfully, it all worked out very well.”
These days, as Michael puts it, he is ‘semi-retired’ with the day to day running of the business left to his son Michael Jnr who is managing director.
Looking back on his long career, Michael has seen many changes in the industry and he admits that most have been for the benefit of the building trade.
“I think one of the biggest changes has been in health and safety. Not just the regulations that have been put in place, but people’s attitudes towards it. I remember the days when it would be frowned on to wear a hard hat, now workers are far more conscious of the health and safety issues, which is only a good thing. At the end of the day, we all want to go home safe and sound.”
Michael M Lyons Building Contractor Araglen Ltd
Ph: 087 2576123
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, November 2019, Vol 5 No 10