Duke McCaffrey – Style & Substance
As I wait to meet the two founders of a relatively new consultancy in an impressive meeting room just off Merrion Square, I wonder to myself if the name Duke McCaffrey was thought up by some branding consultant – it is I have to admit to myself, a very cool name.
A minute later however the partners arrive and it is clear that they have experience and a great track record as well as a good company name – the ‘Duke’ and ‘McCaffrey’ in the firm’s name are Kevin Duke and Joe McCaffrey, two QS’s who between them have decades of experience in cost management and quantity surveying.
The breadth and depth of that experience is enviable – both partners have regular experience working on projects ranging in value from a few hundred thousand euro, to genuinely eye-watering multi-billion euro projects.
Over coffee, Kevin and Joe outline their motivations for starting out on their own after a long career working in large multi-national consultancies. While both had scaled the corporate ladder in previous roles and had substantial teams working underneath them, being able to offer clients access to their expertise is something that motivated them to strike out on their own.
“With us, you get who you see as well as seeing what you get”, Kevin says, “you get hands-on director led involvement. We will be at the first meeting, but we will also be there throughout the process. That was something which really motivated us because at the end of the day it is a relationship driven business”, he said.
The two knew one another, knew their individual talents and strengths and that they worked together well. After much discussion, they decided that the time was right for them to set up their own consultancy, with a business plan that Joe says, “mostly involved us scratching around for a few years and building the client base up slowly”.
At this, the two of them have a good laugh. There is good reason for the laughter, as the slow start they had envisioned is certainly not how things have materialised out over the past year, as Joe explains.
“We have been a lot busier than we planned and we have had great support from existing contacts in the industry. The amount of work we have had has been phenomenal. Over the past year we have done well in the fit out, hotel, student accommodation, retail and airport sectors, along with data centres and pharma”, he said.
The work is not all centred around new projects necessarily as they have also garnered a lot of work advising on projects and assets held by existing clients;
“One of our main clients Dalata Hotel Group – Ireland’s largest hotel operator, a company very much beholden to their shareholders. We can report independently for them and give them a level of comfort around their assets. Being able to focus on them as a client and do a good job has brought great satisfaction and led on to other projects as well”, Joe said.
Moving the Business Forward
While both Kevin & Joe have extensive experience in the quantity surveying and cost management, Kevin said both were keen to offer more than your average QS consultancy, and in Michael Nyland, they have brought an experienced project management expert on to the leadership team.
“The core of our business since we started has been based on the back of existing relationships and we have won a lot of cost management commissions since we started trading; but we have also started to win technical due diligence, fund monitoring and project management, and that is why we brought Michael Nyland on board. He has extensive experience and ability in that area, and cost management and consultancy very much go hand in hand”, he said.
Kevin believes that having the flexibility to go for different aspects of construction consultancy is important to the businesses flexibility and gives the young business plenty of opportunity to win commissions.
“We don’t pitch for all of the business we go after on the basis that we are going to win both – in some instances, we win a Cost Management commission, in another, it is the Project Management part of the business and in some instances clients request we provide both services. That flexibility is great and we know that the people we have working with us have a track record of producing great results”, he said.
“A major benefit of doing business with us is that we are coming in with a clean balance sheet – we aren’t carrying any legacy projects or burden of debts. While that is a massive benefit and one that many longer established companies may envy, Kevin Duke says that being a new entity has some drawbacks as well, though not enough to hold them back.
“As a new company, public sector work has been more of a challenge for us – while private sector companies are willing to work with smaller companies, the public-sector requirement for suppliers to be of a certain size and to have accounts for so many years makes breaking into that space more challenging. But we are flexible and as a result where we have worked on public sector projects we have partnered up with longer established companies”, he said.
While Duke and McCaffrey can’t take credit for the title of the company – they got lucky on that front – the stunning meeting rooms and the city centre office space they have chosen to set themselves in is a very definite tactical choice on their part. Along with the systems they use, Joe McCaffrey says the location is an investment in their future.
“Anything that we have harvested over the past year, we have reinvested into the business – we have spent a lot of money investing in IT, investing in the right people, and investing in the right location as well. Being readily available to service our client base, we had to have a city centre location”, he said.
“At the end of the day this is a relationship business and if we are going to meet people and be front of mind for people, we have to be around the area where our clients are based. Having that central location, and access to great meeting rooms like this are key for us to be able to meet clients and to make sure that we can service them to the best of our ability” Joe said.
Like all firms in the industry, Kevin Duke says that the major challenge they face now is not one that can be produced overnight – people. As he puts it, “a lot of the good people have left the country”, and it is up to both industry and government to get them back in a way that doesn’t inflate the marketplace.
“One of the major challenges for us right now is human resources – getting the right people and getting them at a cost that works for both the candidate, the business and at a price that the client will bear, is a major challenge. As a result, we have focused on getting the best people we know, because they are known to us to have proven track records”, he says.
He says that the firm is planning on slow measured growth, with the first round of hiring coming from people they know that they can rely on.
“We are going to grow substantially over the next few years, but that growth will be steady and measured. I see us as being a great place to join for young QS professionals – they will get great hands on experience, great mentoring and also a chance to be part of a young, dynamic firm that also happens to be backed with decades of experience in this industry”, Kevin says.
The young company is already taking their next step and Joe McCaffrey says that they have their sights set on diversifying risk and resources into foreign fields already.
“At the earliest opportunity we will be looking to move into projects in Europe, particularly on the data centre end of things and we are already looking into projects in the UK and Germany, so that is the next step for growth”, he said.
Given the speed with which they have reached their current point, Duke McCaffrey should be confident of their chances.
Key staff –
Michael Nyland has more than 20 years experience in the industry working on projects across Europe, with success delivering projects and commissions in both the public and private sector. His direct experience covers commercial office projects, education projects, data centres, manufacturing, infrastructure, technical due diligence and fund monitoring, to name a few.
With experience working with Michael over a number of years, when the opportunity came to bring Michael on board, Kevin Duke says he was clear that it was an opportunity the firm should not miss:
“We had worked with for years, so we knew how good he is at what he does! That gave us great reassurance that we were getting someone who could deliver for us, but most importantly for the client”, Kevin said.
The youngest member of a very experienced team, Ronan McGee has already developed a breadth of experience during a difficult time period for the industry. With over seven years experience in cost management for a major multi-national consultancy, he joined Duke McCaffrey as their Senior Cost Manager six months ago.
Joe McCaffrey says that having worked with Ronan over the years and been impressed with his work, he knew that Duke McCaffrey was hiring proven talent. “We are in a position of growth and anyone we take on has to be able to deliver great work for our clients. Ronan has impressed us in previous roles and here he will get great hands-on experience and mentoring new employees”, he said.
Key clients –
Despite only being in business for a year, Duke McCaffrey have developed an impressive client list. Along with a number of confidential clients, the firm is already working with:
Duke McCaffrey Consulting Limited,
32 Lower Leeson Street,