Ten years ago, Joe and Sheree Conti decided to explore opportunities within the Brisbane crane hire sector. Today, Brisbane City Cranes is one the of fastest growing crane hire businesses in Queensland’s capital.
It started when Joe bought a 16t Kobelco.
“Back in 2010, I was running my own construction business and Sheree was working in a government position when we bought a 16t Kobelco for the business. We bought the crane to service my projects and to offer it to other builders that I knew in the construction industry,” he said.
“We secured experienced staff who were well known in the industry and through providing an efficient service the client base grew naturally over the first couple of years. We could see the benefit of expanding the fleet due to the limitations of one crane, however, we wanted to ensure that the next crane would continue to service existing clients as well as expand our client base. In 2014 we decided to seriously explore those opportunities and made the decision to purchase a Liebherr LTC.45.”
Joe and Sheree wanted to further develop relationships with clients who had continued to support the company in its infancy and Sheree decided to leave a well-established position as Manager for the Office for Women.
Sheree said, “as the first 12 months flew by the business grew from strength to strength, so I made a decision not to return to my government position.”
Soon after her resignation, they acquired a Terex Mac 25T Franna.
Joe continued working in a part-time capacity with Tier 1-2 construction companies, further embedding relationships with industry partners, which still creates opportunities for their crane business to this day.
Two years ago, the business purchased the Liebherr LTM 60. “That was a really exciting purchase as we were one of the first companies in Queensland to buy that crane. At that point we also decided to construct our depot,” said Joe.
With the construction of their depot and purchase of the LTM 60 in January 2017, Joe decided to join the business on a full-time capacity.
“There was a strong sense that we needed to change our client base from the traditional ‘brick and tile’ and expand to more general hire, lift and shift jobs and broaden our range of customers. It was something that we had to do, and we’ve done it successfully with the business constantly gaining momentum,” he said.
The depot for Brisbane City Cranes is in Northgate, with the advantage of being the closest crane company to the CBD. The fleet is mainly made up of Liebherrs with an LTM60, LTC 50, LTC 45 a GR160N Tadano City Crane and a 25T Terex Mac Franna.
“We have strong relationships with industry partners including Troy Hand, TRT, Bryce O’Brien, Liebherr and Anthony Grosser, Tadano. We believe this enables us to make informed decisions, which creates business opportunities and is critical for future growth.
Sheree and Joe also believe the Brisbane City Cranes team is a key to the success of the business.
“Sheree and I do not traditionally come from a crane background, so, it is critical that we invest in our people to ensure that the company continues to be known for its service, efficiency and its people,” said Joe.
“We value staff experience and strive to work as a team. We also have a strong belief in providing full-time employment opportunities, so customers continually get to work with the same crews and this strengthens relationships, creates consistency and ultimately our staff are more accountable for the cranes that they operate.”
According to Joe and Sheree, the choice of crane has also been a very important factor in the success of the business.
“It’s about knowing where the market is at, the opportunities that exist and maintaining key relationships,” said Joe.
Joe says Brisbane City Cranes joining CICA was important to the business.
“We joined CICA in 2015 and this has been a really valuable addition to what we have done with the business. CICA is a great body of people and we are learning a lot from them and information is key in this industry,” he said.
“CICA is strong in Queensland and it is leading the way. I’m now a board member and working on a few initiatives designed to help change the perception of the crane industry.
“The media is too keen to report when something goes wrong which then filters down to the general public. We are trying to change that perspective by engaging local communities, explaining the opportunities within the crane industry and what it does, not just in Queensland but throughout Australia,” he said.
One issue the industry will have to manage, is the ageing demographic of crane operators.
“For us, that’s big advantage of investing in full time operators and retaining them. They impart their knowledge to the younger members of the team. We do have a few senior operators in that have been with us now for some time. I can see this changing slightly over time with the younger employees progressing through the company to a point where opportunities will arise for them to take on more senior positions.”
Coming from a construction background, Joe understands the process.
“I was an apprentice, so I understand the value of being taught by the older guys and in time you find yourself teaching the young guys. I put through quite a few young carpenters in the construction business and we’re adopting that approach and model here.”
Working in and on the business has proved a good business philosophy for the Conti team.
“Sheree plays a major role in driving the business internally and I work externally, mainly on new business. We’ve been relatively successful in terms of growing the business and the fleet, with six cranes in five years, you don’t often see that type of growth especially from a fledgling company,” said Joe.
“As far as the future is concerned, in five years time we see ourselves with a fleet of between eight and ten cranes and we’ll continue to have a strong base close to the city. With the closing of two major crane companies, Hanchards and Metro Lift, there have been openings in the Brisbane market, so we’ve been working on new relationships to tap into that work.”
“One my strengths is approaching potential clients, especially the ‘cold calls’, knowing that the service we provide is exceptional, the cranes are reliable and efficient and operators are extremely competent.”
Sheree said, “I feel there is an exciting time ahead for us, as we continually push the boundaries within our existing fleet by sourcing new and exciting projects, increasing capacity of the fleet and providing a learning environment for all employees. It is an exciting prospect in future years to be able to potentially involve our two young sons in the business, should they be interested,” she said.