24/02/2011 - 00:00

Gravity lifts Purcell into elite company

24/02/2011 - 00:00


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Tim Purcell has a long-standing fascination with heavy machinery.

Gravity lifts Purcell into  elite company

CRANES were always a part of Tim Purcell’s childhood.

It’s a relationship that began at an early age, when his father bought his first crane almost 40 years ago.

“I would often jump on the crane and sit there with the dog. During school holidays in high school, I would clean cranes and get a dollar a day,” Mr Purcell said.

Born and raised in Port Hedland, Mr Purcell, 39, is the owner and managing director of Gravity Crane Services, a crane, transport and rigging company that supplies its services in the Pilbara.

At 22, he started work at his father’s business, Purcell Crane Hire, and remained there for more than seven years.

However, Mr Purcell said managing Purcell Crane Hire wasn’t without its challenges so, in need of some time out, he embarked on a backpacking journey that changed his life.

“The journey I had at my dad’s business was what I perceived I should be doing for my parents. During the trip, I realised that I needed to explore and to live my life for myself,” he said.

Mr Purcell returned from the trip feeling invigorated, but with the family business having been sold while he was abroad, he knew he needed to take a fresh approach.

“I didn’t like the idea of working for someone, so my choices were to buy my own crane or work for another crane company,” he said.

Mr Purcell founded Gravity Crane Services in Perth in 2003 and began working as a crane owner and operator.

After getting a loan for his first crane, he felt that the Pilbara was the place to grow his fledgling business.

“The broad wave of the resources boom started in 2003. I felt the market growing and driving my own crane, I realised I could have several cranes. I was in the right place, at the right time, and in the right industry,” Mr Purcell said.

After borrowing $1.2 million in 2006 for a large crane, he secured work with a multi-national dredging company’s operations for FMG and BHP.

“Every six or eight months I bought a crane and the market was supporting it. I just bought as many cranes as I could and I was never scared of debt because I backed myself to keep building up the business,” Mr Purcell told WA Business News.

Gravity now operates in three divisional sectors – dry hire (cranes only), wet hire (cranes and operators) and the provision of contract services.

The company’s expertise and equipment are engaged on some of Western Australia’s largest construction projects, including Chevron’s $43 billion Gorgon Gas project on Barrow Island.

Mr Purcell said Gravity had become a highly competitive, medium-sized crane company and one of the largest dry hire crane companies in the WA market.

“It’s due to our ability to make quick, brave decisions to purchase and supply new cranes,” he said. “These new machines vastly reduce the time and cost of the quarantine process and have won Gravity several contracts over our larger ‘boardroom’ type competitors.”

With a staff of 28, he decided to employ a general manager to help run the business.

“I was passionately attached to the Gravity story, probably guilty of being obsessive to some degree. Putting on a general manager has given me time to stand back and have a break. I have a well balanced life now; I’m managing people as opposed to managing equipment,” said Mr Purcell, who moved to Perth three months ago.

He appreciates having more free time to reflect on his achievements and life lessons learned.

“You need to follow your own path and choose for you, know your limits and ask questions and learn from people whenever you can,” Mr Purcell said.

He said that he would like to motivate young people to follow their own desired paths in life.

“I want to share my story with other people, particularly young people. I did some pretty alternative stuff compared to the standard ‘suited-up’ businessman (in the early years) and it took me eight to 10 years of scratching around to follow my own path.

“I would like to use that to motivate them.”



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