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CICA Member Profile: McPhan Cranes and Transport

McPhans Cranes and Transport

With new cranes arriving, a planned expansion north, launching a traffic control business as well as having a training school in the wings, Central Coast business McPhan Cranes and Transport is certainly on the move. Founder Tony McPhan, his son Dré, daughter Lila and new recruit Mick (Phan) Sinderberry explain more. 

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Mick joined the McPhans at the end of last year and with 39 years of crane industry experience under his belt, he has worked for most of the major crane hire businesses in Sydney and Newcastle.

“I was with Wheeler Cranes and had many dealings with the McPhan family previous to and during my tenure. My wife and I moved to the Central Coast with an opportunity to have “buy in” into the McPhan’s vision for the future. 

“It’s a great opportunity, it’s a good family business with massive potential and I’m very happy with the move. I’m looking forward to consolidating and growing the family group as well as continuing to foster existing relationships with our allies,” said Mick.

“Like most people in the industry, I started out as a Dogman/Rigger originally and stuck with that for 12 years. Then I moved into the office as an allocator and then out on the road as a supervisor, looking at and quoting jobs. I’m back to doing that again with Tony and the team managing pre-inspections, site inspections, preparing jobs… that sort of work. Being back out on the road and seeing customers is what I love about the role,” said Mick.

Mick has experienced pretty much everything during his long and illustrious career, and he can see the value his experience will bring to the McPhan  business.

“There are three more cranes coming in the next few months, including a 150t Liebherr all terrain, a Franna MAC25 and an AT40, which is exciting. With Tony and Dré working on new directions, the company will continue to grow. Tony has introduced his family into the business, which is great and makes it even more exciting for me. Young Dré and Lila are excelling in their pivotal roles. I’ll be here for a few years and will help the company grow,” he said.

Dré joined the business after leaving high school and he is currently studying a double degree in Law and Commerce as well as working in the business full time. He is keen to take the business to the next level and sees Mick’s appointment as an important building block in this process.

“Coming out of high school you never really know what you want to do or where the world’s going to take you, but I am very thankful that I decided to join the family business, it feels like it was fated and meant to be,” said Dré.

McPhans Cranes and Transport
The McPhans are planning to add new cranes to the fleet with industry training high on the agenda.

“We have a young crew here, especially in the office, and we probably lacked a bit of experience and knowledge to fully navigate the crane industry. We are full of passion and ambition, but you do need someone who knows the ropes and has helped build businesses from the ground up. Mick is that guy and we have been interested in securing his services for a long time.

“Mick has worked with companies like Wheelers, Borger’s and Adairs so he knows his way around the crane industry. For young people like Lila and myself he has been absolutely awesome. In today’s world, compliance is the name of the game and having someone that really understands the back end of the cranes, the charts and lift plans, his experience has been next level, for the larger projects we are starting to work on,” he said.

“Originally, Mick’s role was to help with the allocation side of the business, but he’s come on board and taken on his own role, which is exactly what we wanted. He’s out there every day talking to customers, scoping the work, inspecting jobs, and he’s doing a really great job. With Mick we know things are getting done properly. 

“His arrival coincided with my sister Lila starting in the business and with her burst of energy paired with Mick’s experience, the dynamics at McPhan Cranes and Transport have increased tremendously,” said Dré.

Being a family business is an important motivator for Dré.

“We pride ourselves on being a family owned and run business. With my Dad, my Grandfather, Lil and myself have a business culture based on family values which to me is more important than money, growth or expansion. To come to work with a smile, face your challenges, enjoy the banter and leave at the end of the day feeling recharged rather than drained; to me that means you’ve already won in life,” said Dré.


Lila goes on to explain why she decided to join the family business.

“I finished my HSC on a Monday in November last year and from the Tuesday I started working in the business full time. Obviously, I’ve been brought up around cranes and I’ve always looked up to my Dad and Brother. Just seeing how hard and tirelessly they work for our customers and understanding how rewarding it is seeing the shed empty and knowing the cranes are out working is reward enough. It’s liberating and I’ve always wanted to have a role and contribute to the family legacy,” said Lila.

“I’m studying Project Management at University and as I study and complete the course I will transfer the learnings from the degree into the business and help manage projects with our cranes. That’s the end goal,” said Lila.

Dré provides some context around the move into traffic control and the move  north.

“Dad and I were brainstorming for a while about the opportunities with traffic control. With the changing business environment, compliance is the word of the day. 10 years ago, you could get away with having a lollipop stick and crane set up in the middle of the road, but you can’t do anymore,” he said. “Dad and I sat down on a Monday and decided we needed to offer our customers traffic as part of our service control. Literally within a week we had the company registered and signs ordered and now it’s going really well. It’s a service customers appreciate because they can make one phone call and we take care of the rest, including the craneage and traffic control. Dad and his partner Jelly, myself and Lila all have our tickets continuing the family’s commitment to the business,” he said.

Dré is excited regarding the arrival of the cranes.

“One of Dad’s superpowers is his ability to take risks and invest in the business. He’s seen Lila and myself join the business and he’s decided to lock himself in and order a 150t capacity crane, which will hopefully arrive during the first quarter of this year. That crane will open a whole new avenue of opportunities for us. We’ve also got a couple big Frannas coming to expand the fleets’ capabilities, enabling us to keep up with customer demand,” he said.

“Our plans for expansion are largely facilitated by the good relationships we have built with other crane companies in the industry. We’ve avoided stepping anyone’s toes, and we’ve focused on building relationships and helping out other companies,” he said. “We know there are companies in the Hunter Region looking for Frannas and bigger capacity cranes and we are happy to work in with them as a subcontractor. Our goal is to keep building the relationships, extend up there, enter a new market which will help with further growth in the business.

Tony explains that training has played a significant role for the business in the  past.

McPhans Cranes and Transport
Mick (Phan) Sinderberry, Dré, Lila and Tony McPhan.

“18 years ago, Dad started with an idea for a business primarily designed to upskill our existing staff, which is something we really prioritise here. We’ve put a lot of our dogmen through their Riggers course, and we’ve offered that as a way for them to progress in the  business. 

“We’ve never really been fixed on locking people into one position and that’s where they are going to stay. Anyone who comes to this sort of family environment is treated like family and any opportunity  they wish to pursue, whether it’s getting their open crane ticket or becoming a Rigger we offer and encourage that growth.

“The training school was another way to upskill staff, keep on top of compliance, inductions, all the necessary tickets but it morphed into its own business where other people were coming here to learn. 

“By offering those kinds of tickets, it brought a new talent pool to the yard, and we were exposed to more people wanting to get in the industry or existing people wanting to upskill. This enabled us to expand our staff, our dogmen, our operators by picking from a good talent pool. We see the new training school as having a similar impact on the business today,” said Tony.

“Dré and Lila have different styles, but they complement each other really well. Sure, they share my ideas, but they’ve adapted the methods and processes that I introduced and combined them with their own ideas and built on them. That was a major reason for getting Mick on board, too. My input is great, but they’re at the point, Dré especially, where he needs other experience to add to his ‘toolbox’. 

“Mick brings plenty of experience and he is prepared to share this with the team. He built his reputation with the Adair business which was well-known and highly regarded for the way they did  things. 

“I’d hope Mick is here into his retirement and then well beyond, because it gives him a chance to put that final stamp on this crew. He can pass on his knowledge, information and experience and I’m sure it will make him proud to see Dré and Lila continue on with the things he’s been able to share. That will be Mick’s legacy for this family business,” said Tony. 

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