Squire Energy 15th Anniversary Interview with Mark Halsey
This month, Squire Energy celebrated its 15th anniversary. Since its brief beginnings as a gas consultancy company in 2003, the organisation has grown into the well-respected and renowned gas infrastructure business it is today, accumulating numerous awards and accolades along the way.
In recognition of this momentous occasion, we’ve interviewed one of its founding members, Director, Mark Halsey, to find out more about Squire Energy’s past, present and future.
Q: How did Squire Energy come about? What inspired you and your fellow founders to create the company?
A: We all wanted to be part of a utility company that puts customers first, as this seemed to be lacking elsewhere in the industry. The only option was to start a company ourselves and to grow it, with this ethos influencing and directing everything we do.
Q: What is Squire Energy’s company ethos?
A: Our raison d’être is our customers. We’re driven by a determination to excel and to provide a service which cannot be beaten. By placing ourselves in their shoes, we always put our customers first; we strive to anticipate and solve potential issues before they arise, meet their timescales and deliver what they want – within safety boundaries, of course! Our aim to make the process as smooth as possible, by obtaining various supporting network information, permissions, approvals and licences behind the scenes, always with a personal and friendly approach.
We aim to provide existing expertise, as well as developing new methods of doing things and innovative approaches to problem solving. We want to provide the kind of service to our customers that we would expect ourselves, and from the feedback and repeat business we receive, we believe we’re getting things right.
Q: What were your ambitions for Squire Energy in 2003, and have you met – or even surpassed those ambitions?
A: In 2003, our ambitions were to try to establish a successful business and although rather grand, to be the best and a company which would deliver everything. We were confident in our own abilities – but when we first started out, our challenge was to prove ourselves to our customers. As we’ve continued along our journey, we’ve realised we could excel by delivering the best within our expertise – not in everything, just what we are experienced in. Since then, we have continued to grow and increase our service offering to our customers.
We originally planned to specialise in complex gas consultancy projects, but then quickly realised that the solutions we proposed needed someone to deliver them! There simply weren’t the delivery options out there at that time – particularly those with the specialist capability, as the industry was somewhat stagnant and its future had become uncertain.
We moved away from consultancy services to focus on construction works, the design and delivery of new gas infrastructure and connections related services, and more complex customer projects. In the early days, we did tentatively look at some rather odd opportunities (in hindsight), but very quickly re-focused on what we really excelled at – working with our clients and customers, delivering fit for purpose, carefully-considered proposals and constructing new gas offtakes and associated services.
Q: What was Squire Energy’s very first contract?
A: Our very first contract was with Heathrow T5, although it was of the consultancy variety, which is a direction we didn’t pursue. Our first gas connection contract was the construction and delivery of a new 180mm diameter gas connection to The Willis Building, a 28-storey commercial skyscraper development on Lime Street, in the City of London. We delivered this project for Mace and we are delighted to have continued our professional working relationship with Mace ever since, with Squire Energy collaborating closely with Mace’s development team to deliver numerous successful projects over the years.
Q: What were some significant challenges that Squire Energy has experienced, and how did it successfully overcome them?
A: Squire Energy has experienced competitors making unrealistic delivery promises to customers to win business. We never have and never will operate that way. Transparency, honesty and diligence dictate our way of working, meaning that our quotes and our approach are intended to win our customer’s trust, not just their business. By taking the time to talk through the in-depth issues surrounding gas capacity, availability and programme limitations, we demonstrate that we do a lot of due diligence and planning works ‘up front’, all designed to give clients confidence in our solutions.
Truthfully, every project we undertake has some element of a challenge to it; from negotiating with the relevant gas transporter, local authority, TfL etc., to the actual practicalities of carrying out the works and collaborating with other utility providers, whilst always being mindful of both the local environment and residents. Our commitment to always providing exceptional service has led to us recently being awarded the City of London Considerate Contractors Gold Award in the Streetworks Scheme for 2018, an achievement that no other non-statutory infrastructure utility company has ever achieved. We are extremely proud as a company to have attained this accolade and grateful to the City of London for recognising what we aim to achieve, at all times.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories of the past 15 years?
A: Watching the company grow. From our relatively humble beginnings at the inception of the company under the five original directors, we now have dedicated teams for every step of the process of installing new gas infrastructure. We’ve built a reliable network of teams, all working together to ensure the smooth and efficient delivery of projects nationwide. It’s fair to say the first 15 years of Squire Energy includes many fond memories and accolades, but another standout memory is created every time we get excellent feedback from our customers about how they are treated by our staff and the challenges the team have overcome to deliver projects, as well as when our customers demonstrate our efficacy through their actions, and reward us with repeat business and new opportunities.
Q: What are Squire Energy’s most notable accomplishments over the years?
A: Building a team of professional, caring people to carry on the Squire Energy ethos of customer care and gaining the trust of our clients to deliver their projects on time and on budget. In 15 years, Squire Energy has accumulated many notable accolades, awards and accreditations including registration to the Lloyds gas industry registration scheme (GIRS). We’ve become an approved meter asset manager (MAM) and Gas Safe Registered (GSR) company, as well as achieving numerous other registrations and accreditations.
From our 100th gas connection to our 2000th, we’re proud of every project, but a highlight has to be being awarded the gas infrastructure and metering works to London’s iconic, ‘The Shard’. I’m sure that as we develop further and expand our customer base and reputation, there will be many more accomplishments that the whole team at Squire Energy can be justly pleased.
Q: What do you believe to be Squire Energy’s greatest strengths?
A: Undoubtedly it’s our people; they are fantastic, and all our strengths come from them. We have a team of experienced, focused and driven individuals, all with the sole aim of doing everything possible to exceed our customers’ expectations. The team here at Squire Energy include many people from diverse backgrounds, all with a firm belief in delivery, in what we propose, doing it on time and on budget.
We’re a personable bunch, with a human face, a sense of humour and an understanding, and everyone always gives their best to simply make thing happen. Everyone that is employed by Squire Energy has a ‘can-do’ attitude and they will always look for solutions to potential issues, and it’s this working ethic that has enabled us to build our reputation.
Q: What’s the best bit of leadership/business advice you’ve been given?
A: One of my old managers once said, “Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader; they set out to make a difference.” This can be applied to Squire Energy as a whole; our approach, of focusing on our customers’ needs and requirements, has set us apart from our competition, and is one of the key factors to our successful growth. Anything is possible; all problems can be overcome with persistence and innovation.
Q: How do you think the gas industry has evolved in the last 15 years?
A: The UK’s gas industry is among the world’s most regulated and constantly changing, and is comprised of many stakeholders. In the last 15 years, the gas industry has seen many new entrants and modifications, but the greatest change has probably been the sale of 61% of the National Grid’s regional networks to a consortium, followed by rebranding. Where the industry was once a monopoly, there are now options and choice, although market forces have come in to play and those options have inevitably reduced with mergers and acquisition, market competition, and sell-offs over recent years. The industry has evolved considerably, although not always organically, often driven by Govt. legislation rather than by the market.
There has also been a heightened focus on health and safety. In 2009, the Gas Safe Register (GSR) was established, which has resulted in more registered gas engineers, required standards for training and accreditations, as well tougher penalties for health and safety offences. As firm advocates of the highest of safety standards, we warmly welcome these changes. The GIRS scheme also enabled Squire Energy to prove its professionalism, engineering expertise and knowledge, in the design, implementation, construction and completion of numerous complex gas construction projects.
Q: What’s in store for Squire Energy in the next 15 years?
A: There are challenges ahead, with the need for research and development in the industry, as visionary thinking regarding gas networks in the future gain momentum. This might mean a move to renewables, hydrogen or perhaps heat pumps – we’ll have to wait and see, but natural gas will operate in parallel to such new innovations and will be around for some time to come.
Wherever natural gas comes from, Squire Energy will be at the forefront, continuing to offer our expert connection and metering services to our clients and continuing to grow our portfolio of repeat business through customer satisfaction. We’ll continue to look at new opportunities for growth, whilst always maintaining our high standards with in-house training for all staff, both current and new. Our turnover has multiplied almost 10-fold since our incorporation – that would be a challenging target to aim for in the next 15 years! – although Squire Energy is definitely planning for a prosperous future.
Q: Describe Squire Energy in 15 words or less.
A: Professional, innovative, creative, knowledgeable, experienced, reliable, trustworthy, enthusiastic, pragmatic, persistent, focused, driven, open.
Q: Any amusing stories?
A: A customer contacted us with the issue that their new gas meter – not installed by Squire Energy, we hasten to add – had racked up several millions of units of gas, instead of the expected couple of hundred units. We were asked to investigate and upon inspection, the meter was found to be revolving backwards as the manufacturer had mistakenly fitted the “flow arrows” the wrong way around! We fixed the problem swiftly and smoothly by re-gearing the meter, with a supply interruption of no more than 30 mins, as well as reconcile actual gas consumption really used. The customer was extremely happy!
We’ve many more stories, some amusing, some just odd, all amassed over the years we’ve been about, and more so from our team with longer years’ service to the industry. Stories, anecdotes and tales more suitable to a social event, where they’re often re-lived and re-told, again and again!