Since its inception in 1994, O’Keeffe Electrical has earned a solid reputation as one of Cork’s most respected and dependable electrical contractors. We travelled to Ballincollig, on the outskirts of Cork city, and had a chat with proprietor Tim O’Keeffe about the premium services provided by his exceptional, RECI-award-winning operation.
Working predominantly in the commercial sector and synonymous with delivering high-quality solutions across a wide range of projects, including schools, offices and large student accommodation, O’Keeffe Electrical has grown at a steady pace since its formation almost a quarter of a century ago.
Originally based in Ovens, the business has been providing unrivalled electrical contracting solutions from new premises at Link Road, Ballincollig since 2009.
Founder / proprietor Tim O’Keeffe brings four decades of experience to the business, having begun his career with Service Electrical in 1978. Despite the challenges thrown up by the severe, livelihood-threatening economic downturn that followed the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, O’Keeffe Electrical has gone from strength to strength over the years, providing outstanding solutions and service levels, which have in turn resulted in a healthy volume of repeat business and positive referrals from a Who’s Who of clients and main contractors in the construction sector throughout County Cork and sometimes further afield.
“I have absolutely no regrets,” Tim confirms, reflecting on the progress the business has made to date. “We employ 15 people at present and I’m very happy to be able to say that. We’re sticking with Cork mostly at the moment and I’d expect that the vast majority of our work will remain in County Cork for the foreseeable future.”
Tim has worked for the City Council at Hollyhill Library, where Cumnor Construction was main contractor and also for Cork County Council on the old Motor Tax Office at County Hall (main contractor, C-Field Construction).
During the recession, three large school contracts proved vital in keeping O’Keeffe Electrical ticking over, namely Cobh National School with Stewarts of Galway, Ashton School & Sports Hall with Duggan’s of Tipperary, and Carrigaline School and Sports Hall for main contractor Mythen, Wexford.
Another recent prestigious, high-profile contract delivered was celebrity chef Rachel Allen’s well-appointed new restaurant on Washington Street in Cork city, while O’Keeffe Electrical are currently fitting out a new office space in Dublin Port for Voxpro, the trailblazing company founded by rich-listed Cork entrepreneurs Dan and Linda Kiely (man contractor: O’Shea’s. Cork).
Members of Safe Electric – the statutory regulatory scheme for electrical contractors operated by the Register of Electrical Contractors of Ireland (RECI) – O’Keeffe Electrical has an immaculate track record for compliance and safety, and was honoured with a national RECI Award in 2009. Tim says customer service has been instrumental in the success of his market-leading commercial / industrial electrical contracting business to date:
“You have to keep serving the customers you have already – and don’t forget them when you become busier,” the Corkman notes. “You have to be available and make sure you have men available to look after your customer base at all times. Even when you take on bigger projects, you need to continue to look after the smaller guys. We have always kept our smaller customers happy whilst taking on the big new jobs as well.
“We keep a large customer base and we treat them all equally. You keep building up your customer base and you keep looking after them all. We have customers who have been with us since 1994 and I can safely say that wouldn’t be the case if we didn’t look after them.
“We started off doing shopping centres, apartments and student accommodation. High-bay warehousing came in during the mid-90s and we did a lot of work in the warehousing & logistics sector up until around ’06.”
When the recession hit, the three aforementioned schools projects in Cobh, Ballintemple and Carrigaline offered a precious lifeline. “Those three jobs got us through the lean years from 2011 until 2013,” Tim recalls. “They were substantial new-builds and we did all the electrical work – fire alarms, intruder alarms, duct cabling, CCTV systems, rainwater harvesting systems, energy efficient lighting, the main distribution boards and all general power services.”
As the future now looks bright for Cork city and county, OKE are ready and willing to provide the electrical contracting services required to enable ongoing progress and development within the county. They have built up a reliable and competent workforce and their experienced team of electricians are capable of rising to the challenges that lie ahead.
“It can be a struggle at times to keep 15 men in work but we’ve kept it going for more than 20 years already and we’ll definitely keep it going for another 20 at least,” says Tim, who is ably assisted in the day-to-day running of the family business by his wife Catherine, who looks after accounts and invoicing, and daughter Aisling. “We’ve built up a strong team since ’94 and they are all in-house trained. The core staff members are here 10-15 years and we have four vans on the road. We’re going to keep providing quality service to all of our clients and hopefully that will keep us busy going forward.”
Tim identifies three ways in which the electrical contracting sector can be improved: “nominated” contracts to ensure electrical engineers have control over standards and payment certs; the abolition of “retention” on all contracts; and RCD / RCBO protection on all domestic circuits (“Protection at source is the fool-proof method to ensure safety on all circuits”).
As for the best ways to run a successful business, he adds: “First of all, build a trustworthy team to ensure the client of honesty and reliability. Good suppliers are also vital, including other trades, i.e. CCTV and intruder alarm suppliers, data installation suppliers, etc. You have to look after all customers, get paid on time and make sure that you pay your suppliers and Revenue on time.”
Of course, electrical contracting is now much more stringently regulated than when Tim first got involved 40 years ago and he welcomes this development: “Regulations have come in big time, which is for the better as it has raised standards. Safe Electric have raised the bar and the standards of safety and electrical installations have been raised. They will probably improve even further, too, and this is no harm.
“All our staff have Safe Pass training, MWP training for scissor lifts and service booms, Working At Height training, ladder training, etc. – they are full time doing courses and training,” the driving force behind O’Keeffe Electrical concludes.
“The Safe Electric Road Shows are a big help in promoting safe electric and the new chairman has stated that he will work together with contactors rather than talking to us like a teacher, which is refreshing to hear. I’m looking forward to working with him as anything that results in a safer environment for contractors, clients and the general public is a step forward.”
Link Road, Ballincollig,
Tel: 021 4874506
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, March 2018, Vol 4 No 3