Success Stories

Executive Risk Solutions: Emergency management - when danger is your business

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

A reliable mobile network can help Executive Risk Solutions save lives.

Scott Houston, a former Australian special forces (SAS) soldier with experience in Afghanistan, started Executive Risk Solutions (ERS) back in 2008 after a UK security company approached him to take on an emergency management and security contract. With its focus on providing security and mine rescue services to resource projects in remote areas, ERS is now a team of 110 spread across Perth, Port Hedland, Brisbane and Dubai.

“Our story transitioning from a start-up company to a $20 million a year company proves that with hard work and commitment anything is possible. My background in the SAS ensured I always approached every task with a ‘can-do’ attitude,” he says.

The business shifted into high gear in 2012 after it won a contract to supply services for the Roy Hill mine construction project in Western Australia’s Pilbara. Off the back of that, ERS picked up business with other mining sector giants including FMG, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

In 2015, ERS was named the Telstra Western Australian Medium Business and Telstra Australian Business of the Year, with judges particularly impressed at how the ERS team combined their specialised expertise in emergency management, response and rescue with a deep customer commitment.

“The spirit and diversity of the business has to be applauded,” says Will Irving, group general manager of Telstra Business.

“It rode the mining boom when the business began and it has continually focused on growth opportunities, leveraging its skills into large customers across a range of industries.” 

Scott Houston standing in a testing area talking to trainees fighting fires.

Calculated risk management

SAS soldiers are perceived as risk takers but Houston says that’s a myth. They actually plan missions meticulously and are extremely risk averse. And when it comes to calculating margins for error, few businesses need to be more circumspect than ERS. Terms such as “confined space rescue”, “hazardous spill” and “road crash rescue” are part of the daily vocabulary.Working as ERS staff do in remote and harsh environments, having dependable communication is essential.While large project sites usually use their own radio comms, the ERS team may be out of range on the road. This makes the extensive coverage of the Telstra Mobile Network a valuable resource for ERS mobiles, laptops and tablets.

 

Mobile coverage counts

Having mobile coverage is important to ERS. Houston explains: “We have the data dongles and we also still own two of the Telstra Yagi systems [antennae which boost the Telstra mobile and wireless broadband signal]. We had to put those in place to get data access into some of our remote locations.”

As well as radios, staff have ‘tough’ Telstra mobile phones and smartphones. “It’s one of the core things for us to ensure we do have lots of back-up for our communication, because if clients can’t contact us, there’s the potential for lives to be lost,” Houston explains.

ERS crew also carry satellite phones to use in mobile and radio black spots. However, Telstra’s mobile service is still incredibly useful in coverage areas.

“During cyclones and cloud cover, we find that our sat phones don’t work well. We find that the mobile phones work a lot better in cyclones, provided the towers are still up,” explains Houston.

According to Houston another feature of Telstra is “that they’re quick to respond to any outages.”

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Putting people first

Houston believes his people are at the core of his company’s success. “Our culture values people above all other things,” he explains.

“In a highly competitive market, we have focused on delivering a more professional service than our competitors. Our main competitive advantage comes from our selection of staff … Our investment in sending key personnel to the US for training each year has opened new doors for us in the oil and gas industry and port facilities.”

In 2014, ERS further bolstered its credentials with a slew of international ISO certifications in quality, environment, and health and safety, clearly showing clients the very high standards ERS sets itself.

But ERS is not only about the people; there’s also the equipment. “Our people have been equipped with the latest in innovative appliances,” notes Houston.

For example, the company’s rapid intervention vehicles have the latest compressed-air fire-fighting systems, which use very little water so are ideal for Western Australia’s dry conditions.

Meeting client expectations is the best thing you can do for your brand, Houston declares. If you’re dealing with contract managers, he says, “over-deliver” so they’re the ones getting the pat on the back from their seniors.

“We have two rules as a company that applies to guys on the ground all the way to senior managers – make it easy for the client and make the client look good.” 

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2015 Telstra Australian Business of the Year & 2015 Telstra Medium Business of the Year

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