Tom Brady is the first to admit that creating his business was almost what you could call an accident. Irish-born Tom, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Economics, and a background working as a quantity surveyor in Ireland and the UK, ended up in Australia as a backpacker on holidays.
“Just to have a year out after being in college, to cut loose, escape the rat-race,” he recalls. But when he got here, he decided he liked the lifestyle. “I liked the straightforward, simple way of life. It wasn’t as stressful as it was back in the UK, and it wasn’t as hostile an environment commercially to work in.”
62 | theceomagazine.com Tom picked up odd jobs around Sydney, one of which involved operating a backhoe. “I thought, ‘It can’t be that hard. Why don’t I buy a backhoe myself?’” he says. “And gradually, one backhoe became two. That kicked off a plant hire business followed by some contract work. That’s about 28 years ago, and the journey continues.”
The business started out of a shed and then just gradually grew over the years. “I worked around the clock, seven days a week, every day of the year. I’d go to the sites first thing in the morning, end up back in the office in the evening doing the paperwork until midnight. And then do it all over again the next day,” Tom shares.
Today, there are more than 100 plant items, over 120 staff members, and Brefni has completed more than 750 projects in everything from earthworks, demolition and concrete structures to remediation, pavements, rail, and infrastructure construction. “In the early days, what drove me was probably the need to succeed, or the fear of failure,” Tom admits. “But when you come over here and start something, and put your name on it, you do everything you can to make it succeed.”
You can win jobs and you can buy equipment, but you need people who are all running the same race.
But Tom is quick to point out that without the right employees and the right culture, there’s no way Brefni would have flourished. “It’s nothing without the people,” he enthuses. “You can win jobs and you can buy equipment, but you need people who are all running the same race. I’m a firm believer in the power of teamwork. It’s about getting the people who join our business invested in the culture we’ve developed, and being proud of what they deliver.”
It’s also important to form long-term, stable relationships with supply partners. “All our relationships are built on trust and probity,” Tom explains.
“Some of our suppliers go right back to when we started. We’ve all been on a journey together. It’s about knowing that once a project’s finished, we’ll go on to work with them again for the next one.”
As it continues to expand, evolve and mature, Tom ensures that Brefni never loses sight of its core principles. “Our motto is Smarter Sharper,” he says. “Smarter means our employees and partners set us apart. We invest in people, skills and knowledge to develop a passionate workforce drawn from all parts of society. We’re at our best when we share ideas, build connections and work as a team.”
By ‘Sharper’, Tom reveals that Brefni creates value for its customers and drives continuous improvement. “We’re innovative, thoughtful and agile, continuously challenging our ways of working to improve health and safety and productivity,” he explains.
“We challenge ourselves to always have a positive impact, find solutions, and stand up and be counted when it matters.” Tom has built Brefni’s industry reputation around three pillars: trust (“We deliver on our promises and we’re accountable for our decisions,” he says); safety (“It’s our licence to operate – we are unrelenting and uncompromising in our commitment to safety,” he insists); and sustainability (“We want to enhance our impact on the environment and ensure our choices are sustainable,” he adds).
Not one to rest on his laurels, Tom is adamant that he will continue striving for excellence each and every day. “My dad always said, ‘You’re only as good as your last match,’ and I apply that mantra to work,” he explains.
“You can do a great job this week, but if you do a bad one the next week, that’s what people remember. It takes years to build a reputation, but in no time at all, you could lose it. So when clients engage us, they know that they’re going to get something that’s going to be for the long-term. We’re about partnering, and working collaboratively with our clients.”
Tom believes that, ultimately, his blood may have had something to do with why he fell into running his own company all those years ago. “My dad’s family, and there’s 11 of them, have all forged their own destinies,” he points out. “I like to try and do stuff to prove to myself that I can actually do it. And once you’ve started, then to me, there’s no looking back. It’s about building something that will outlast me.”
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