In the executive chair with: Bernard Dwyer, Founder, PHD Group

by | Oct 14, 2021

Bernard Dwyer began his career in construction as a labourer at the age of 17 in London. But the allure and physicality of scaffolding soon took over and he started scaffold company PHD in 1984 with just £460 in pocket.

Following a housing recession he was obliged to sell the firm in December 1992, but after an earnout went on to set up a branch in UAE in 1995. Two years later, work commenced on the Atlantis Bahamas before a return to the UK and European markets in 2003.

The company has continued to grow into a €50m plus scaffolding and mechanical access business, with branches today in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, the Bahamas and Ireland where recent works include several blue chip data centres and pharmaceutical projects.

Best advice you’ve been given?

Stick to what you know and less is more. In short, concentrate effort on where you can
get most traction.

What project are you most excited by?

Several. Our current stand-out projects are protected by NDAs – but my favourite is Big Ben. Being an Irish access company and getting the opportunity to design and deliver one of the most iconic heritage sites in the world is amazing. Additionally, we are currently working on a very challenging project which is Ireland’s, if not Europe’s, biggest private project. I never dreamt this could happen back in 1974 on the evening that I boarded the boat to Holyhead bound for London.

Bernard Dwyer

How do you approach long-term planning and strategy?

One needs to keep tuned into current affairs and market trends, be nimble and prepared to embrace change.

What industry trends are you noticing right now?

Offsite and modular construction. We are keeping an eye on 3D printing and robotics as production, delivery trends and people’s outlooks are changing pace.

What digital tools or technology are you embracing?

We are actively developing BIM capability and our IT department is working on inhouse apps to collate and disperse information in real time.

Who’s impressing you most in the industry?

Ray O’Rourke – for his pioneering attitude! He’s a leader who’s not afraid of new markets and who doesn’t give up.

What did you learn from your biggest mistake?

Several, and I endeavour to learn from them. Business wise my biggest mistake was in my early years when looking at our management accounts I confused the profit number for available cash – when in fact it was manifest in steel and plant (which you cannot easily or quickly exchange for goods and services, unlike a bank balance). Lesson to be learned ‘cash is king’ and keep a reserve as things
can change fast … recent examples being Covid and bank crashes.

Who’s your role model?

Elon Musk. He dreams the big dreams and then goes out and does something to make them happen.

Best book or podcast?

The Explainer podcast and I’ve just started to re-read Ghost Wars – about Afghanistan 1980 to September 10, 2001.

What’s your passion when you’re not at work?

Cars and driving them, in a safe fast environment.

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