Established as a Limited company in 2003 by Ian Rooks, with Paul Smith, Neil Henry and John Anson joining quickly after, it is one of the North East’s leading full-mechanical, air conditioning, climate change and temperature control specialists.
Based in Boldon, with satellite offices in Cumbria and a manufacturing hub in Seaham, it employs 120 and works with many of the best businesses and organisations in the North East and beyond.
How did your partnership come about?
Neil, John and I worked together at a previous business, so we were lucky enough to carry on our relationship and great team work in our new adventure with Ian.
Ian left the business quite early on and returned to his roots as an air conditioning sole trader, however, we could not have started this journey without his umbrella of knowledge, experience and support which is something we will always be very grateful for.
John retired as director in 2013, which was a big loss but he stayed to assist the company for a number of years as a consultant before taking full retirement to enjoy more time with his family.
A lot can change in twenty years and I find myself looking back on the early days with great pride as our drive and enthusiasm was electric and the stratospheric growth was amazing to be part of and witness.
The hardest ship to sail is a partnership but at every turn Paul and I have complemented each other and that is because we both have very different work styles. Paul is laser-focussed on the bigger picture and I am very detail orientated and like to dot the I’s and cross the t’s, which means we balance each other out and deliver for our clients every time.
How has the business grown in twenty years?
Apart from the obvious growth in terms of opening satellite offices in Cumbria, head count and turnover, we’ve grown in a number of ways, constantly pivoting to meet the needs of our client base.
We still have many of our original clients and work with a number of high-profile businesses and universities, offering both installation and maintenance services.
We really wouldn’t be the business we are today without our highly-trained and dedicated engineers and the clients that keep coming back for our services. Neil and I are grateful to each and every one of them.
The company initially offered air-conditioning services but has become known for its full-mechanical, air conditioning, climate change and temperature control expertise. In fact, the business has expanded so vastly that air conditioning, whilst still a well utilised part of our services, is no longer our bread and butter.
We offer a full-circle service to ensure that we make everything simple for our clients and they know we are a one-stop shop for all their needs in this area of industry.
What is your biggest business achievement?
I am extremely proud of the three of us for developing the business and growing it to the success it is today. It gives me great satisfaction that HLA has brought so many jobs to the North East and championed apprentices, of which we currently have eight training with us.
I often say the hardest part of growing a business is the thought of the challenge. Taking action is actually the easier part but being brave enough to put yourself on the line financially and the initial stress of it, is tough.
I am most passionate about offering young people the opportunity of a long and successful career. Many of the people we have trained are still with us years later and some have gone on to establish their own businesses. I’m in contact with two that moved to Australia and both have become very successful business owners. To have played a role in shaping their lives is something I am truly proud of.
We also support a number of charities including Grace House, Sunderland Veterans in Crisis, local foodbanks and we continue to install a number of defibrillators across the region for Red Skye Foundation.
On the sporting front, we were delighted, in 2022, to become a founder member and title sponsor of the newly formed South Shields FC business club.
What are the business opportunities moving forward?
A rolling stone gathers no moss and we will continue to pivot our offering to meet our clients’ needs. To do this we will not blindly push for growth but strategically do so, when it benefits the business, our employees and clients. Growth is always important but stability and a steady ship are needed first and foremost in order to achieve it.
As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, Covid revealed a high number of businesses that have approached our sector in the wrong way. Those businesses that address the skills gap shortage, which is a massive issue, and adopts a best employer/apprentice approach, will succeed most in the next twenty years.