In 1973, a young Pat Gallagher, encouraged and supported by his good friend Pat Burke, purchased his first digger. Fast forward fifty years and it is incredible to see where the journey has taken them and resulted in the creation of one of the largest and most recognizable family-run businesses in Kent. Pat is still heavily involved in the business today. Paul Andrews caught up with him to find out more.
Pat was born in 1949 in Ballinamore in Ireland to hardworking parents who in October 1966 took the brave decision to move the family to Aylesford in Kent in pursuit of greater employment opportunities.
As Pat explains, “I tried my hand at several professions before starting work for Pat Burke and little did I know at that time what an influence it would have on my life. It was Pat who loaned me the first £2,200 to buy my first digger and he was the one that told me to go it alone as ‘there was enough work for everyone. So that’s what I did. I started out on my own and Gallagher’s was born. I may not have been the best digger driver in Kent but I got by and it was the start of a journey that has been truly special.”
The journey had begun and shortly after Pat founded the business his wife Mary joined him to manage the accounts and transform the business into a family business. Between 1976 and 1980 Pat and Mary had four children; Richard, Lyndsey, Nicola and Stephen, all of whom are very proud of the business that their parents built. Richard, Lyndsey and Stephen all work in the business today.
In 1988, Pat purchased Hermitage Farm with the belief that there was stone underneath the ground to quarry. He was proved right and the business expanded with the creation of Gallagher Aggregates in 1990. The aggregates side of the business has gone from strength to strength and has become a leading supplier of aggregate and concrete materials across the South East of England.
From humble beginnings, the Gallagher Group has developed into a business with a turnover in excess of £150 million and employs over 500 local people, some of them who are second of third generation members of the same family to work for the business. This is a family business that is fully embedded in the local community and appreciates the responsibilities which come with being such a major employer locally too.
As Pat explains, “Back in 1973 all I wanted to do was to build a successful business and provide opportunity for my family."
"It was always my aim to offer an unrivalled service to clients, something that is integral to what we do and how we operate today, but none of this would be possible without the people that make the Gallagher Group what it is."
"Right from the start, we have been fortunate to employ some of the very best people in the sectors in which we operate and source many of them from the surrounding areas too.”
2023 sees the Gallagher Group celebrate 50 years in business, a significant milestone for any business. As Pat continues, “The journey of our business hasn’t always been smooth and I look back to the 1980’s and 1990’s when it felt like we were in survival mode most day and sometimes were even beyond our limits, on various fronts."
"Thinking back to those times reminds me of our incredible team spirit and the dogged determination of our people that got us through. It was our people that supported me and encouraged me to battle through and continue to build the business, based on relationships, strong family values and embedded attributes such as trust.”
Pat ran the business during a period where company values were rarely discussed, let alone written down or published and words like trust, integrity and honesty were not banded around as freely as they are today. “Trust was essential at times,” continues Pat, it was the currency that we survived on. Those that trusted me knew that they would get my absolute all to repay that trust, knowing that we would do everything to honour our commitments, and those that I trusted very rarely let me or the company down.”
“We all just knew instinctively what was required, we pulled in the same direction, working together to go the extra mile without hesitation or being asked. We had fun, enjoyed the business and as we Irish would say, we’d have plenty of craic and there wasn’t much time for politics.”
Like many families in business, Gallaghers has had to evolve over time. Times have changed and so have regulations, reporting, compliance and the way that businesses are run too.
As Pat continues, “Our jobs are now more complex, fast-paced and intensive, but personally we are better equipped, more supported and we have risen to the challenges we face. We have come a long way but where we have come form is history and whilst it is important as it has shaped who we re today, it is important not to become complacent, lose focus on what is required or lose what makes us different to our competitors.”
Gallaghers continues to evolve and has always had an eye on the future, taking meaningful steps forward at crucial times, seeking advice as required and building from the foundations that were created all those years ago. Times change and businesses need to adapt and evolve, something that has been front and foremost for the team at Gallaghers as the business has grown. Values were discussed and written down, shared company wide and embedded into the culture.
Gallaghers are proud of their values:
We are customer focused
We go the extra mile with customers, be friendly, listen and focus on their needs and requirements.
We are passionate and confident
We Insist on quality with a great attention to detail and take pride in our work.
We work as a team
We support and respect each other at all times. Work together without ego or arrogance or game playing. Get involved, trust, encourage, share success and have fun.
We are a business of character
We act quickly with energy and enthusiasm whilst being responsible, accountable and honest.
We are solution driven
When there’s a problem we find solutions through innovation, determination and positivity.
We listen and are eager to learn
We strive to be the best with no cynicism. We challenge and value contributions being open to new ideas whilst encouraging innovation.
“We have undergone significant transition in recent years,” continues Pat. “I am truly encouraged by all of the changes and know that the company is in good hands."
"We have a committed, energetic and agile leadership team, including our next generation with Stephen and Lyndsey stepping up with key roles in driving the next chapter of the Gallagher journey, and a team that will steer the ship for many years to come.”
The succession process left no stone unturned with values being defined, roles clarified and purposed defined and shared.
Moving from generation to generation and managing a succession process is not always an easy process to undertake but honest and open conversations help the process. For Gallaghers, this was a major turning point, as it is for many when the business is passing from an entrepreneurial founder who has developed the business from the start, to an entrepreneurial next generation.
As Pat continues, “The transition to the next generation has been stretching for all concerned but we all recognised that it was necessary for the continuity and continued success of the Gallagher Group."
"We worked together over a number of years and have developed a robust yet straightforward succession plan which started with a blank sheet of paper and evolved into a plan that works for us and means that we continue to employ the best, recognise everyone’s contribution and provide ample opportunities for growth, development and success.”
“As part of the process the next generation sat down together to explore all the options available which resulted in Richard managing the farm and estate which is very much his passion, Nicola continuing her profession as a teach of business and essentially acting as a family Non-Executive Director to the business and Lyndsey and Stephen are now on the Board, driving the business forward. I am delighted with the way that the process evolved and it is great to see all of them happy, doing what they want to do, in roles that are suited to their skills and where they add real value to the business too,” adds Pat.
Succession planning does not happen overnight and one of the keys to a successful transition is time, and for Gallaghers, their investment in the process and work undertaken over a period of eight to ten year has come to fruition.
Lyndsey and Stephen echo the words of Pat too, adding: “The four of us found our why, what we wanted and we actually prepared and delivered a presentation to the board to explain our position and thoughts for the future. We pleasantly surprised them and have given them reassurance for the future, reinforcing the values and purpose that are embedded into the business and delivering our commitment to the board and the business too.”
Lyndsey and Stephen are well aware of the journey that this business has been on and witnessed first-hand the hard work and commitment that Pat and Mary put into making it work. They saw the hard work, the tough times and the entrepreneurial spirit, underpinned with strong family values. It is these values that are embedded into the culture of the business and values that the next generation are totally bought into as well.
Both of them worked outside of the business for many years before taking roles within it, experience that stood them both in good stead for the roles that they took on. Since joining, both have flourished, taking on more responsibilities and demonstrating their abilities, working hard and delivering results for all to see.
“We know that we are committed and everyone else can see that too,” continues Lyndsey.
“We are a family business and proud to be one and appreciate all of the responsibility that comes with being one of the largest family firms in the region too. We see ourselves as guardians for the future and not just for the next generation of Gallaghers but our people and their next generations too.”
Family values. Purpose defined. Engaged next generation. These are all pillars on which the business will embark and build in the next stage of the journey. Fifty years is a fabulous milestone but the business has places to go, plans to fulfil and a journey that undoubtedly will continue for many years to come.
Pat is delighted with the outcome, and excited for the next chapter. “It is fantastic to see the next generation taking the lead but never in my wildest dreams when I set out with champagne expectations and a lager budget did I expect the business to become what it already has. I am proud of what has already been achieved and delighted that it has passed to the next generation and really excited about the future and the plans that are in place. Whilst proud of our history, I am excited about the future too."
"Over the years we created a rough diamond and that has certainly been polished over the years and turned into something truly special.”
Gallaghers is a great business and 2023 is a year of celebration. There is plenty to celebrate and plans are in place to make 2023 a golden year for the business, the stakeholders, the staff and their families and the broader community too.
Today, Gallaghers strive to be the best at everything they do and provide all their collective skills, products and services in a personal, friendly and professional way. With a solution-driven approach and a positive attitude, their aim remains to exceed client expectations whenever possible.
The work ethic and values underpinned the approach that Pat and Mary took to creating a business, values that remain true to the business with the work ethic, honesty and integrity throughout the organisation defining the every essence of Gallaghers today.
Gallaghers is unequivocally a family business which resonates and celebrates being a family business at their heart but driven to be commercially successful and to be sustainable for generations to come.