Meet Ken and Marion Diable – The Founders of Heightsafe
2019 marks the ten year anniversary of Work at Height and Fall Protection safety specialists, Heightsafe.
But where did it all begin? Who are the people behind this successful company? And how has the business evolved over the past decade? Founders, Ken and Marion discuss where it all started and key milestones along the way.
Before Heightsafe, what were you doing?
Ken: “I was a Rep for nine years and worked for a survey equipment hire company. Unfortunately, I was made redundant in 2008 and after a year of considering what my next move was going to be, I looked at the idea of setting up my own business specialising in products and systems for people working in high-risk environments.”
Marion: “My background was in digital marketing and website development. I spent ten years at a leading agency before joining Ken and the team in 2013. During this time, we were also bringing up our three children who now all hold key positions within our family business.”
Ken: “With Marion’s background, I was able to start the business with a fresh approach in what is considered quite a stale and antiquated industry.”
Where did the concept for Heightsafe come from?
Ken: “Being blunt, I set it up with a desire to cut the bullsh*t that ran through the veins of the industry.
“The sector had a number of key players which dominated the market and were very hostile towards any new businesses trying to enter it.
“This made us more determined and we spent time researching what our unique selling point should be, forming a clear direction for us to go in. By utilising our marketing and IT skills, we wanted to change people’s outlook on the work at height industry and be able to deliver transparency – something that was noticeably missing from the industry.”
When and where did Heightsafe start 10 years ago?
Ken: “The business was officially incorporated on 3 November 2009. Our first office was based in Hooton, Wirral and was a two-man office which was no bigger than 10 square foot.”
Who was Heightsafe’s first customer?
Marion: “Ken only had limited IT skills at the time of starting the business and worked mainly from traditional sales methods, such as the old Rolodex and maps. He wasn’t particularly interested in investing money into paid search adverts as the business was set up with no funding.”
Ken: “Eventually Marion convinced me to try out PPC (pay per click) and within two weeks we got our first enquiry! It was from a consultancy firm based in Exeter that was procuring a specialist contractor to work on a project at Torbay Hospital, to conduct compliance testing works.
“This meant I needed to travel down to Exeter and stay overnight which cost more than the job. The consultancy was surprised to find out that it was only me in the business at this stage as the website portrayed Heightsafe as a large national business – which was quite a compliment.
“However, they encouraged me to visit and said they’d ‘make it worth my while’. I’m glad I did as Heightsafe secured a £120,000 specialist installation project as a result. As this was the first significant job, the profit allowed us to move to bigger offices and bring in one of our sons, who had a sales background and was working for Marion at the time.”
Marion: “To this day, Torbay Hospital is one of Heightsafe’s most valued and longstanding clients.”
What are the key areas of business at Heightsafe?
Marion: “For any business owner, all areas are key! But some of our main unique selling points are the following:
- Fall Protection Systems
Layout Design, Supply, Installation, Maintenance, Compliance Testing and Training
- Façade & Roof Access Systems
Layout Design, Supply, Installation, Maintenance and Compliance Testing
- Lightning Protection Systems
Design, Supply, Installation, Maintenance and Compliance Testing
- Fabric Maintenance
High Level Exterior Cleaning, Repairs and Maintenance and Rope Access Services
How has Heightsafe grown over the past 10 years?
Ken: “Heightsafe has continued to evolve over the past decade through the shear hard work and dedication of family members and the staff. From travelling back and forth to London a couple of times a month, to long days in the office and hours on the phone – both have played a big part in our success.”
Marion: “We have also developed close relationships with professionals, accountants and banks which have been fantastic at giving advice, whilst plotting the business’ growth year on year.
“Heightsafe employ specially selected personnel who buy into our work ethic. We’ve been able to create a vibrant but family-based atmosphere for people to work in and ensure they are rewarded for going the extra mile and achieving their own personal goals.
“From all of this, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to diversify our offering and add new products, services and divisions that complement the core service and product range for our ever-growing nationwide client base.”
How many people are now part of the Heightsafe team?
Ken: “We now have 48 directly employed staff, together with a number of teams which we employ on a retained basis.”
What has been the proudest moment for the Heightsafe team?
Marion: “There have been many proud moments over the past ten years but a few which really stand out for us are:
- Winning Business of the Year at the Liverpool Echo Business Awards in 2013.
- Winning a competitive tender and securing a three-year contract with Whitbread PLC, providing certification and maintenance services across their nationwide portfolio, including Premier Inn.
- Being awarded Investors in People in 2018.”
Ken: “We hope there will be plenty more to come over the next 10 years!”
What has been the biggest challenge over the last decade?
Ken: “Being based in the North West, specifically Wirral, has been somewhat of a challenge. Whilst it is a great area, it is not easy for everyone to get to and so recruiting good quality personnel has been quite difficult on occasion.”
Marion: “I’d also say that a learning curve for us has been to selectively work with businesses who are risk aware, to ensure that Heightsafe doesn’t suffer from unregulated payment terms commonly associated with large contractors. It can be detrimental to small companies.”
What would you say has been the secret to your success?
Ken: “You have to have a passion for your own business and believe in it. Don’t rest on your laurels and ensure annual strategies are implemented and monitored.
“In addition, make sure you look after your team and have direct engagement with them, no matter their level. Also be sure to reward their loyalty and see that they progress in their own personal and professional aspirations.”
What is your vision for Heightsafe over the next 10 years?
Marion: “To remain the leaders in our specialism and bring more innovation to the industry.”
Ken: “To further develop our service, product and training offering.”
Marion: “Finally, I’d say to see everyone within Heightsafe’s team flourish in their professional and personal lives.”
To learn more about how Heightsafe can become Your Specialist Work at Height Partner, get in touch today.12th February 2019 12:55 pm
Categorised in: News