All about heart, and hard work

BACK IN THE GAME: Israel Whitley returns to Gisborne to launch a Gisborne branch of his Auckland Labour Hire construction company. Picture by Paul Rickard
STARRING ROLE: Israel Whitley in action back in 2015, helping Forrest Hill Milford United win the Northern League Division 1 title. Picture supplied
WINNING SMILE: Israel Whitley shows off sporting silverware before having to retire. Picture supplied

Former Lytton High School football star Israel Whitley talks to The Gisborne Herald’s Andrew Ashton on overcoming the health issues that forced him to give up his dream, and how he made it big in a new career.

After two suspected heart attacks, then a diagnosed heart condition at just 21 years of age, Israel Whitley had to give up his dream of playing professionally in Auckland — and then came the heartache of the death of his father.

However, just three years later the 24-year-old is running a successful labour supply business, employing more than 90 people across the country and setting up a new branch back in Gisborne — and it’s all about heart and hard work.

Israel said there was only one real way to deal with and then overcome the challenges life throws up — and that was sheer hard work.

“We started off our contract last week, so things are picking up in terms of labour supply and job opportunities.

“I used to play football but then left Gisborne to go and play football in Auckland at a high school up here. That was the journey but that dream came to a halt when I had a couple of suspected heart attacks and had to retire. So at 21, in Auckland I was like ‘alright, I need to start making money somewhere else’.”

A builder by trade after high school, he started up Auckland Labour Hire.

An environment of respect, appreciation

“I didn’t want to get back on the tools and so I thought if I could make this work it would be a happy life.

“I incorporated ALH in 2016 and we have 96 people working across New Zealand today. We are in Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Gisborne.

“It was a lot of hard work. I just don’t think there is any substitute for hard work really. If you put the hours in, you are going to get the results. I’m a big believer in the mantra the harder you work, the luckier you get. So, I worked hard and with a little bit of luck, ended up selling a bit of the company to some investors in 2018, which gave us a lot more financial resources in order to grow and get to where we are now. Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Mr Whitley also pointed to the recent awarding of big Gisborne construction contacts to well-known firms like Watts and Hughes, and McMillan and Lockwood as “pretty exciting” developments for Gisborne.

“I think the reason why I’m getting phone calls or opportunities here in Gisborne is a perfect example to show that the market is starting to pick up in Gisborne, which is pretty exciting for me.”

While there were still issues with Gisborne’s skilled labour pool, its labour pool was certainly big enough and good enough to help foster commercial building growth.

“We’ll probably start tendering for some jobs as a main contractor, as opposed to the labour supplier a bit later on down the track.

“We have a pool of employees and when we speak to the main contractor we say this is what we have facilitated previously on other jobs, those are what we currently have available and this is what we think we should do. The big thing for us — probably the sole biggest and pivotal point of our growth as a company over the last two and a half years, is the environment we really prioritise.

“We make sure people feel appreciated, that they know what I look like, what the guys and the girls in the office look like and that’s just been a massive feat and probably what has allowed us to go on and get these opportunities in Gisborne and Tauranga.”

Coming back to Gisborne also allowed him more chances to see his family here as well as grow the company.

“If there are people keen to get involved, we have the capacity to grow and have a chance to upskill the local community.

That’s a big part of it to be honest, I think it’s cool to go back home and see how we can potentially give back to a city that gave me a lot.”

In a recent Ted talk, Mr Whitley after receiving help to overcome the death of his father in Gisborne, also revealed the importance of suicide awareness and depression, and the importance of removing the stigma about getting help.

“The reasoning for me doing that was as a young person in business, in one of the oldest trades, I was trying to do things a bit differently.

“I lost my dad to suicide and that was a big motivator in the way we went about dealing with our employees and how we wanted to treat people and what we wanted to achieve in making an environment where everyone felt respected and appreciated.

“That’s our approach and I think being personable and connected to every one of our staff is definitely the biggest contributing factor to where we are today.”

Former Lytton High School football star Israel Whitley talks to The Gisborne Herald’s Andrew Ashton on overcoming the health issues that forced him to give up his dream, and how he made it big in a new career.

After two suspected heart attacks, then a diagnosed heart condition at just 21 years of age, Israel Whitley had to give up his dream of playing professionally in Auckland — and then came the heartache of the death of his father.

However, just three years later the 24-year-old is running a successful labour supply business, employing more than 90 people across the country and setting up a new branch back in Gisborne — and it’s all about heart and hard work.

Israel said there was only one real way to deal with and then overcome the challenges life throws up — and that was sheer hard work.

“We started off our contract last week, so things are picking up in terms of labour supply and job opportunities.

“I used to play football but then left Gisborne to go and play football in Auckland at a high school up here. That was the journey but that dream came to a halt when I had a couple of suspected heart attacks and had to retire. So at 21, in Auckland I was like ‘alright, I need to start making money somewhere else’.”

A builder by trade after high school, he started up Auckland Labour Hire.

An environment of respect, appreciation

“I didn’t want to get back on the tools and so I thought if I could make this work it would be a happy life.

“I incorporated ALH in 2016 and we have 96 people working across New Zealand today. We are in Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Gisborne.

“It was a lot of hard work. I just don’t think there is any substitute for hard work really. If you put the hours in, you are going to get the results. I’m a big believer in the mantra the harder you work, the luckier you get. So, I worked hard and with a little bit of luck, ended up selling a bit of the company to some investors in 2018, which gave us a lot more financial resources in order to grow and get to where we are now. Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Mr Whitley also pointed to the recent awarding of big Gisborne construction contacts to well-known firms like Watts and Hughes, and McMillan and Lockwood as “pretty exciting” developments for Gisborne.

“I think the reason why I’m getting phone calls or opportunities here in Gisborne is a perfect example to show that the market is starting to pick up in Gisborne, which is pretty exciting for me.”

While there were still issues with Gisborne’s skilled labour pool, its labour pool was certainly big enough and good enough to help foster commercial building growth.

“We’ll probably start tendering for some jobs as a main contractor, as opposed to the labour supplier a bit later on down the track.

“We have a pool of employees and when we speak to the main contractor we say this is what we have facilitated previously on other jobs, those are what we currently have available and this is what we think we should do. The big thing for us — probably the sole biggest and pivotal point of our growth as a company over the last two and a half years, is the environment we really prioritise.

“We make sure people feel appreciated, that they know what I look like, what the guys and the girls in the office look like and that’s just been a massive feat and probably what has allowed us to go on and get these opportunities in Gisborne and Tauranga.”

Coming back to Gisborne also allowed him more chances to see his family here as well as grow the company.

“If there are people keen to get involved, we have the capacity to grow and have a chance to upskill the local community.

That’s a big part of it to be honest, I think it’s cool to go back home and see how we can potentially give back to a city that gave me a lot.”

In a recent Ted talk, Mr Whitley after receiving help to overcome the death of his father in Gisborne, also revealed the importance of suicide awareness and depression, and the importance of removing the stigma about getting help.

“The reasoning for me doing that was as a young person in business, in one of the oldest trades, I was trying to do things a bit differently.

“I lost my dad to suicide and that was a big motivator in the way we went about dealing with our employees and how we wanted to treat people and what we wanted to achieve in making an environment where everyone felt respected and appreciated.

“That’s our approach and I think being personable and connected to every one of our staff is definitely the biggest contributing factor to where we are today.”

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