Fourteen hour days are becoming the norm for the 2015 winner of the Belfast Telegraph’s Young Businessperson of the Year. At the age of 36, Gareth Loye runs Belfast telecoms and electrical infrastructure firm M&M Contractors — a business set up by his father around 30 years ago.
Back then, it was just 10 staff turning over £1.6m a year. Now, since taking over at the helm six years ago, Gareth has turned it into a £14m business with 120 staff.
The Co Armagh man splits his time between running a multi-million pound business, and spending time with his wife Laura and young daughter Sofia (2).
M&M, based in Belfast, offers telecommunication and electrical infrastructures in civil engineering and construction projects.
And just this year it also took on part of the construction firm Mascott’s business, after it entered administration.
He says he can grow both businesses to a combined turnover of £30m in the next year, and grow his workforce to 220 employees.
“M&M Contractors is a utility service company, and specialises in telecoms and electrics,” he said.
“Where we have got to today, it’s been a big success... we have broken into the market, and are now going into new markets.”
Among the big deals the company has been involved with is Project Express, which is the fastest-ever data connection between North America and Europe.
The company also counts big names such as SSE Airtricity and Virgin Media among its customers.
Around 10% of M&M’s business is in Northern Ireland, with a further 20% in the Republic, 60% in Great Britain and 10% elsewhere in Europe.
“If you miss the boat with NIE tenders, you are out for four years, so you have to look elsewhere,” Gareth said.
M&M now has three regional offices outside Belfast, including Bristol, Glasgow and Dublin.
“I’m originally from Markethill in Armagh, and now live in Belfast. I took over as chief executive of M&M six years ago.”
Gareth went to school at St Brigid’s and St Patrick’s Grammar, before studying construction engineering and management at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus.
He’s the only boy in a family of five, with four sisters who have each gone into teaching and law.
“My dad is in the business and the other half of the company.
“My father (Noel) was a sole trader when I joined. It was him and 10 guys.
“When I was young, I was 12 when my dad took me to Belfast, and dropped me on to one of the sites. I learned everything from the ground up.”
He began working for the
family firm part-time to help fund his time at university. “I then studied to give myself some kind of academic background, and then used that when I came out (of university).”
And just this year, several months after looking at buying Belfast building firm Mascott, it went into administration.
Gareth then seized on the opportunity, buying up assets and equipment left behind by the firm.
“It came about as a strategy from M&M... we had been looking at buying the company.
“We had gone to them four or five months earlier, as an acquisition. We looked at it and decided it wasn’t the right time, for obvious reasons.”
He said the business is now “running well” and turning over £1m a month.
“It would be stronger than last year. We have £6.2m of work won, and are delivering.
“It’s good and I’m happy. People have been very supportive for Mascott, and rallied around it. People like seeing a company coming back. It’s a well-known name in the industry.
“We are now under the same building. Mascott is in the bottom floor, and M&M in the top. We have already tendered for joint ventures between the companies, to grow new business.”
Mascott became one of the most recognisable names in construction in Northern Ireland, carrying out major work including the building of the MAC Theatre in the Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.
Meanwhile, Gareth’s day begins at 5am, before he hits the gym and lands at his desk for 7am. And he’s unlikely to prised away from it until late evening.
And when he’s not looking after his two-year-old, Gareth spends his time running. He’s already taken part in six marathons, and is planning another four.
Gareth also formerly competed in mixed martial arts, with his last fight around six years ago. And he’s optimistic about the future of the construction sector here, despite some big names in the industry posting losses in the last year.
“Our turnover will hit £30m...it’s coming on strong,” he said.
“There are a number of contractors who will suffer, who will under price work.
“I understand the market was incredibly tight, (companies) trying to win and secure business. They had to do what they could do.
“They ventured into new markets and they didn’t pay off. But they are great companies who are doing great things.
“I believe the market is becoming strong.”
Aside from walking away with his Belfast Telegraph Business Awards title, he’s now also in the running for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
He’s fighting it out against other top business leaders, including Co Antrim Kainos boss Brendan Mooney and designer James Leckey.
Speaking about Brexit, he said: “It’s like everything... it is what it is. We have no control, and have to deal with it.
“I’m all about how to make it work for us. We operate in Europe and Republic, and have to reshape our business to deal with it.
“Personally, I wouldn’t want to see a border between the north and the south, but we will see how it develops.”