Managing Director, CEA Project Logistics
Born: Wisbech, UK
Time in Pattaya: 22 years
On 7 February 1992, Kevin Fisher landed in Thailand to begin a job as plant manager at Sri Racha Harbour. On his desk at his previous job in Pakistan was a 'dear John' letter, as he called it, telling them he'd left for the Land of Smiles and, while his job occasionally took him away again, he kept returning. Now, he's here for life.
His company – Crane Equipment Asia (known as CEA) Projects – provides solutions to problems in heavy lifting, heavy cargo transport and heavy equipment storage and handling. If it's heavy and industrial, they've got a hand in it. They are also known around Pattaya for their philanthropy, sponsoring numerous charity events including those of the Pattaya Soul Club and TFI Events. They were even generous enough to provide the Pattaya Trader and Pattaya 105fm offices with a generator to keep the station on air during scheduled power-cuts in the area.
The man at the top of it all has built CEA Projects from its foundation to the point where it has over 250 employees, and offices around the world. While he gives a lot of credit to the extremely capable people he works with, he is also unashamedly hard-working.
How did you get started in the project logistics industry?
“I started off as a heavy crane and diesel fitter – time-served, full City & Guilds, went to college, blah, blah, blah. Worked in workshops in the UK then moved overseas where I got up into the position of running the workshops and the men and equipment in them. I was 27 at that point and, since then, I've always been the boss; always moving on and up. I've only ever had two job interviews in my life. The first was my very first job and then, later on in life, I was looking for something else. I went for the interview and it didn't really suit me.
“I've worked in Ghana, Gambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan and all over here. That's nearly everywhere, isn't it? I've never been to the Americas or the Middle East. I've been offered numerous jobs there, but never fancied it.
“In the early days, I was looking for the money. That was the drive. Like all of us, we're chasing the quid. Obviously, as you get older, things sort of change. I got to a point where I was busting my arse for other people and getting no reward, so CEA was formed and, basically, here we are today.”
What did it take to build the company from its humble begins to where it is now?
“Hard work and sleepless nights. It's even the same today, with all my managers in place. We talk everything to death. I don't over-manage any of my men but, if there's a big decision to be made, we're all around the table and we'll go through it and through it until we're really happy and the box has been ticked.
“For example, every two weeks my manager in Myanmar comes back. We really want a download with him. Sunday is a great time for that because the phones are a bit quieter, the pressure is off a little and we can have a real brain-storming session.
“It's purely hard work and putting the hours in and don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of graft.”
Kevin gave a lot of credit to CEA Operations Director Andy Hall, who founded the company with him.
“In the early days, basically the only thing we didn't do was sleep together! We were in each other's pockets to build the company. We're very happy with where we are, as a result. We've got this on the go, Myanmar is really up and running now, a small operation in Singapore and a little set-up in England. All the bases are covered.”
What do you think the population of Pattaya might be, and what proportion of that is expatriates?
“I reckon there are three million people in Pattaya and I reckon 18 per cent of that is expats. Right now, there's a couple of big projects on which brings a lot of expats in and there's a lot here on a retirement visa. If you weigh it all up, though, there really aren't that many.”
What are your plans for the future, both for your company and you?
Kevin kept the company's future plans close to his chest, for obvious reasons, but did say that they are looking to expand across Asia. While CEA is currently amongst the top five projects logistics companies in Thailand, they want to move on to being in the top five across Asia.
“For CEA, me and the boys, it's been a ride. We're on that roller-coaster and we love it. We all have our other problems with home life and the women in our lives moaning and groaning about how we're always working and don't get home on time and we've got to go away all the time. It all makes the money, though.
“We run the company as a family unit. We socialise together, some of the guys' kids go to the same schools, we get together for a barbecue or a beer. There's always a bit of work talk because it's what we've all got in common. It's nice, though, and it keeps everyone informed.”
When asked if he ever planned to retire back to the UK, he answered with a blunt: “No. I'll die here. These boys won't let me retire! When I'm finished, I'll be in the box with my boots on!
“The plan for the future is for Andy to take over as MD in a few years and I'll move up to the CEO role to give me a bit more free time. I don't know, something like that - sounds like a good idea today but it'll probably change tomorrow.
“A lot of people have talked to me about my exit strategy and, at the moment, I really don't have one. I just want to keep building the company. I've got the visions of where I want to be and how I want to get there. With the support of all my team, I'm very happy with that.”