At Hamilton Blake we look after clients in a wide range of verticals, especially those in manufacturing, architecture, and engineering. One of these is Energy Business Catalyst (EBC), an engineering consultancy, set up in 2015 by long-time engineering manager Patrick Phelan. As we’ve been proud partners of this growing business from the start, we thought we’d share the EBC story with you, so here goes…
With over 35 years in the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors, in 2015 Phelan decided to become his own boss and get into consultancy. Hamilton Blake provided a small business accounting system and then, when it became apparent that EBC’s clients were struggling to understand their own costs, Hamilton Blake provided tailored accounting support to each of them.
He recalls the challenge of starting the new venture: “Giving up the regular salaried income that I’d had for 35 years, starting with no income… getting out there looking for clients … I didn’t know how successful it would be and whether there would be continuity of work”. These are challenges that many new businesses on our books face.
Clients did appear though, and soon EBC were supervising the sale of offshore wind turbine installation and repair specialists, Rotos 360. The founder’s experience at Norwich-based offshore engineering firm Aquaterra Energy was a good fit; and with Rotos 360 located in coastal Grimsby it was like a homecoming for the new consultant, who in a previous role had overseen major offshore sites in Hartlepool and, notably, Thailand (for Littleport-based JDR Cable Systems).
The successful Rotos 360 sale led to an expansion of the EBC umbrella. Knowing that he could confidently oversee the sale of one company, Phelan reached out to some former colleagues to pool their resources and EBC Enterprises was formed. Via this holding company, the team of consultants would go on to acquire and develop several SMEs within the manufacturing and offshore wind sectors.
One such company is Pegasus Welfare Solutions (PWS). While we marvel at the rows of wind turbines lined up along our shores, we are unlikely to wonder about the sanitary situation for the crews that maintain them, but it is a going concern. Until PWS brought their ultra-sturdy weather-proof portaloo to the market, the toilet options on a wind turbine platform were… primitive. In the punishing offshore environment, a standard portaloo risks leaking, or even tipping over completely in the wind. Use of Pegasus’ toilet tech means less human waste entering the sea, but there is also a side-benefit – potential for increased diversity in offshore engineering personnel. A lack of private toilet space has been a barrier to the recruitment of female technicians and, with the wind energy sector now employing over 7,200 full-time employees in the UK, PWS should help widen the talent pool that feeds into these important jobs. It is clear from talking to Phelan that such altruistic side-notes are a source of pride for the experienced engineer.
“There were no other companies advising the directors on how to go about selling their business,” Phelan remarks. “Often founders of businesses founded them in their 30s and then they’re in their 50s or 60s and want to retire and sell their business. EBC have the contacts at a senior level in the larger companies who may be interested in buying. We provide the ‘catalyst’ to bring the parties together and bring the best deal… prepare the company so it’s showing itself in its best light, ensuring there are no surprises along the way that could derail completion of the deal. Hamilton Blake are also part of that process, of course.”
“It was obvious that we all as consultants missed the cut-and-thrust of running a manufacturing company. By acquiring companies between us and selling them on, we get to scratch that itch while remaining an independent enterprise.”
As the EBC roster grows and develops, Phelan faces increasingly varied workweeks. “In one day, I could be advising on providing paramedics to offshore wind farms, to subsea cable repair technology, to robotics for wind turbine inspection.”
Hamilton Blake’s own Conor Murray has witnessed the expansion first-hand, handling much of the accounting work associated with EBC’s various projects: “I first became involved with EBC in the March of 2019. At this point, the accounting system in place consisted of a couple of spreadsheets. Since then, we have implemented Xero giving both Patrick and me real time access to key financial information. During EBC’s expansion, both through the addition of new clients and acquisition of new companies, we have continued to provide support with monthly bookkeeping, management accounting and annual statutory requirements. We have always been on hand to provide the relevant information when required. It really is rewarding to be involved with a client from the outset and to assist them achieve their growth ambitions.”
As EBC continues to expand its project base, Hamilton Blake will be there all the way.
If you’re an existing client and would like to feature in our Client Focus series, email us and we’ll see what we can do.