C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features

A changing of the Liebherr guard

Tom Curran, Liebherr’s Sales Manager Mobile and Crawler Cranes New Zealand retires in August with Andrew Cameron replacing the industry stalwart. Tom started his career with Liebherr 20 years ago.

Earthmoving Equipment Division as the Warranty Manager, moved to Service Manager and then Sales Manager. In 2011 I moved into the role of Sales Manager for Mobile and Crawler Crane Division where I’ve been ever since,” said Tom.

He discusses the changes he has seen during his time with Liebherr’s crane division.

“From an organisational point of view, there have been massive changes. The levels of service and support have been dramatically improved as have our facilities and the numbers of staff. In turn, this had led to the number of machines sold doubling on average each year.

“The increase in Liebherr’s share of the market in New Zealand has also been quite dramatic. When I first started, we probably had no more than nine machines working in the North Island and now we have 170 plus, that’s pretty phenomenal growth. If you look at the class of machines that we’re in, we would currently have between 80 per cent to 90 per cent market share,” said Tom.

He goes on to talk about why Liebherr has experienced so much growth and how his team has managed to maintain these levels of growth for an extended period.

“First of all, New Zealand customers appreciate quality, there’s no doubt about that, they are looking for good, reliable machines. Liebherr is the number one product for a very good reason, it is reliable and performs well. Product has been available, and we’ve been prepared to fully support the market,” he said.

“We are carrying stock machines in Australia/New Zealand which means product is available, and we’ve put the service and support infrastructure in place locally with mobile technicians in both islands and parts personnel servicing the growing numbers of machines. As we’ve increased the number of new machines, customers have self-imported used machines knowing we have the required service and parts support locally,” said Tom.

“The industry’s recognition of Liebherr’s commitment to parts support and service has been a big plus for us. I believe we do go the extra mile in parts and service support, there’s no doubt about it. The industry has recognised this and supported us because of it.

“Ultimately, the machines have performed as have the Liebherr people supporting them. We have great Service Technicians and parts personnel within Liebherr New Zealand and the factory works very hard, supporting us with technical information and if there’s ever a significant issue, as an organisation we are very quick to get on top of it and sort things out,” he said.

Tom discusses the culture at Liebherr and how individuals develop their skills and progress through the organisation.

“A key element of Liebherr’s culture is the development our own people. We recognise their capabilities and give them every opportunity to progress and build a career here at Liebherr. From any level or from any position you can progress, if you want to take on the training and the hard work, there’s no ceiling. It doesn’t matter, male or female, it’s open for everybody. It’s a very positive culture for individuals who are serious about their work,” said Tom.

Andrew Esquilant, Liebherr’s General Manager Mobile Cranes has played a significant role in Tom’s career.

“Andrew is a major reason for the success of Liebherr Mobile Cranes in both Australia and New Zealand. We really couldn’t have succeeded as we have without his attitude and the fresh air he leaves in front of you to go and play the game how you want to.

“He’s a humble leader and that’s what I admire about the leadership culture at Liebherr. It starts at the top and Andrew gives everybody full rein and works as hard as anybody else. He’s always available and that’s been a big part of our success over the years. He’s always there and he talks to everybody, and he’s always available 24/7 which is probably too much. We don’t want to burn him out too early,” said Tom.

Tom has immediate plans for his retirement and he won’t be sitting around and relaxing.

“My wife Helen and I are currently building another house. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do when it’s finished, live in it or sell it. We also have a bit of land development tied to that, so that’s the immediate project. I like working, so I’ll be doing something,” he said.

Over the years, Tom has made a lot of friends, in both the New Zealand and Australian markets. He explains how he feels about saying sayonara to them.

“I’ve made lifelong friends over the years, and I’m going to really miss them and I’m sure I’ll see a few on my travels. What an industry, really. You find a place in the crane industry and that’s quite special and difficult to put into words,” he said.

Tom is confident Liebherr has the right succession plan with Andrew Cameron taking over the reins.

“With Andrew I decided to take Elon Musk’s advice, “When you want to get replaced, find someone smarter than you,” and that’s pretty much the case with Andrew. He’s very sharp and he’s well liked by the customers. He’s a terrific technician, and commercially sound, hardworking and helpful. I know he’ll be a big success,” said Tom.

Andrew has been with Liebherr for nine years and started as a Service Technician.

“I worked mostly out of Christchurch as a mechanic, and I was traveling all around the country getting to know customers and learn about the Liebherr business. Being the only Service Technician I was travelling everywhere, now there are four of us based around New Zealand.

“Obviously with Tom retiring I was offered the opportunity to step up into sales which I see as a different challenge and opportunity within the Liebherr business. I’ll be responsible for selling mobile cranes and crawler cranes over 300 tonne capacity,” said Andrew.

Tom Curran (left) with the Liebherr team at the CICA National Conference and Exhibition in Perth 2023.
Image: Liebherr

Andrew’s technical understanding of cranes will help in the sales role.

“Knowing the cranes inside and out and getting to know the customers over the last nine years and having to earn their trust will also be a massive help. The business is definitely growing, it’s a different beast to when I started with new customers popping up around the country,” he said.

Andrew has worked with Tom for some time and explains how he has been prepared to share his knowledge and experience and mentor those around him.

“Tom has been brilliant, he comes from a similar background to me having worked in the service side of the business before moving into sales. He’s since taken the Liebherr crane business in New Zealand to the next level. Our customers only have good things to say about Tom, they love him and have great respect for him.

“Liebherr and Tom have done such a good job that my approach doesn’t need to change a great deal. I’ll definitely bring a new lease of life and a new energy to the role.

“My technical knowledge will be a big help in terms of walking customers through the purchasing process, being able to discuss the different configurations including counterweight and boom configurations will help customers make the right decisions on which crane will best suit their purpose.

“We’ve always had great support from everyone in the Australian operation. The team in the factory provide great support from the ground up and nothing is ever a problem.

“Tom has done a great job for the New Zealand crane industry and deserves the respect he has from everyone. He’s going to be a sore loss to the company, but we have the team in place to pick up the slack and hopefully we will catch up with him every now and then. The Liebherr organisation and everyone in the New Zealand crane industry wish Tom the very best for his well deserved retirement,” said Andrew.

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