Keeping Risk Out of Site
Mobile Fencing Inc. reduces liability and increases peace of mind for clients
For Bill Hogan, President of Mobile Fencing Inc., construction fences aren’t about keeping out thieves; they’re about keeping out lawyers. “A construction site can be a dangerous place. A fence keeps the outside world out and reduces your legal exposure by preventing the public from getting hurt.”
Bill says he’s seen some pretty egregious errors in judgment by the public. “Inside City Hall Plaza in Boston, I’ve seen people walking through areas with equipment, trucks and forklifts operating. We’ll put up the fence and tell them they can no longer walk through an area, and they look at you like you have three heads. I’ve seen people even try to take the fence apart while we’re putting it up.”
Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, Mobile Fencing provides temporary fencing for construction projects and events like concerts, parades and festivals. Two locations serve customers across New England. In the construction industry, Mobile Fencing works with general contractors and demolition specialists. With events, the company provides services for towns, colleges and private event planners.
On a Project Pace
With over 250 miles of fence, the company can provide fencing for any project size, Bill says. The team at Mobile Fencing often works on projects that can last well over a month. “We recently completed fencing for a fast-moving underground utility project along the Charles River in Boston. We’ve worked with this client before, and he knew we could meet his need,” he says.
Up to two crews worked 30 days over the course of a month and a half. “The project spanned 4 miles. We’d set up 2 miles of fencing at a time, moving the fence along as the project moved,” Bill explains. He notes that one crew of two employees can install 1,200 feet of aboveground fence panels a day. For this project, however, the client required an in-ground fencing system. “With this system, we have to drive the fence into the ground,” he says, adding that a crew can put up 600 to 700 feet of this type of fencing. Furthermore, the fence needed to be taller than a typical 6-foot panel. “This was a post-driven system that was 8 feet in height. It’s a little more cumbersome and requires more work to install,” Bill notes.
Adding to the challenges is working in Boston. “When you work in a congested city like Boston, it’s difficult getting trucks in and out of the city. Your crew needs to leave early, and you want them to get home at a decent hour since they have to do the same thing all over again the next day,” he says. “There were a lot of moving parts on this project. We did a great job, and the client was happy.”
Backbone of the Company
Bill is quick to note that Mobile Fencing’s employees are the best in the business. “Our employees are the backbone of this company. They care about what they do and the quality of their work,” he says. Bill notes that employees establish a good rapport with clients. “A lot of the guys run jobs with the same clients. Our clients get to know the crews and our office staff. It makes it easy to work with us.”
Projects are dispatched from two locations: the company’s headquarters in Providence and a second location in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Clients’ point of contact is General Manager Michaela Kane. “All our fencing orders go through Michaela. She works with customers to determine their needs and makes sure crews and material are dispatched in a timely manner,” Bill says. And if clients ever run into an issue, the lines of communication are open. “We are very upfront and honest with clients. If we can’t do something or a project has to be delayed, that honesty pays dividends. Clients understand.”
Bill cites an example of a presidential rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. “We got the call on Monday that there was going to be a rally on Friday. We had our crews and material scheduled to set up on Wednesday but received a call at 3 a.m. that they needed to delay installation until Thursday,” he says. Because the 7,000-foot project necessitated 50% of Mobile Fencing’s crews, Michaela got on the phone with Thursday’s clients, asking to rearrange installation for their projects. “We juggled a few projects but got it done.”
Timely Customer Response
Mobile Fencing has 10 crews that take on up to 1,200 projects a year. “We’re busy about 10 months out of the year,” Bill says. When clients call, they can be sure that the phone will be answered, he notes. “We are in the service business. It’s important that a person answers the phone.”
With many employees who have been with the company for years, customers receive knowledgeable information and answers to their questions, Bill says. “Our employees understand the fencing industry and will steer you in the right direction. If you have a problem or a tricky project, they’ll track down the appropriate person who can help you.”
Mobile Fencing’s Sales department gathers project details by phone, getting clients a cost estimate typically within an hour. “Clients don’t need to wait around for a project estimate. About 95% of estimates can be done entirely over the phone,” Bill says, adding that depending on the size of the project, Mobile Fencing can be on-site for pickup or delivery within three to seven days.
In Boston, Mobile Fencing was called on to provide both panel and pounded fencing for a renovation project that stretched out into the road. “This was an office renovation job. It was a tight area to get into with our truck, and it was one of those jobs where we were closing off the sidewalk and people were still trying to get through the fence,” Bill says. Where the job site stretched out into the road, the team had to install fencing on top of 3-foot concrete barriers. “These barriers were put in place to stop cars from driving through the construction site,” he notes.
“A construction site can be a dangerous place. A fence keeps the outside world out and reduces your legal exposure by preventing the public from getting hurt.” Bill Hogan, President, Mobile Fencing Inc.
Finding a Market Niche
Bill’s interest in the construction industry, and eventually fencing, was firmly established in his youth. Right out of high school, he began working for his father’s trucking company. “We’d haul brick, cement and lumber to construction sites all over New England, New York and New Jersey.” Those early years taught him the value of hard work—and helped him form an understanding that trucking was not for him. “With deregulation of the trucking industry, the rates were in the gutter. One bad day—like a truck breaking down—could take days of revenue to recover.”
Once drivers dropped off a load in New York or New Jersey, they found it hard to find a backhaul of supplies to take back to Providence. “There may be 30 trucks looking for a backhaul and only 10 to 15 that are needed. Customers would pay you very little for backhauls, so in the mid-1980s, we started hauling storage containers, which we’d rent out for use on construction sites.”
Bill explains that the use of ground-level storage containers stemmed from new OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations requiring tractor-trailers be equipped with a platform, stairs and removable rails. “These trailers were used for storage on a construction site. They’re 4 feet in the air and could be a safety hazard. When these new regulations came out, contractors began looking for storage containers that were ground level.”
With his father, Bill formed Mobile Storage Inc. in 1988. The two bought out another company in 1989, adding to their inventory, and began serving the construction industry in earnest. “The storage container industry was really growing. We provided containers to construction sites, retail stores and even homeowners,” he says. His brother, Ryan, who serves as Vice President, joined the company in 1995 after graduating from college.
A Natural Fit
As Mobile Storage grew, Bill looked for opportunities for expansion. Temporary fencing seemed like a natural fit. “Storage containers and fencing are two of the first things that go up on a job site,” he says. Bill and Ryan formed Mobile Fencing in 2001.
With a customer base already established through the storage business, getting work was easy. “When we first started, I’d order the fence as each new project came in. With our first job, the day the customer gave me the order was the day I ordered the fence,” he says.
Bill recalls that first customer. The site was Quonset Point Naval Air Station (N.A.S. Quonset), which was being redeveloped into Quonset Business Park. “My client was doing the demolition on about 10 buildings and needed fencing around the area.” One client led to the next. “Other contractors would see our fences out there and call us to fence their own sites. To this day, we have fences in Quonset.”
After dipping his toes in the water, Bill took the plunge in 2004, preordering fence supplies. “In 15 years, I can tell you that we’ve never run out of fence,” he notes.
In 2011, when Bill found out about a struggling fence company in Hooksett, he bought 50% of the business, establishing a secondary location for Mobile Fencing. “We provided financial support and materials for the company’s owner, which allowed us to expand our service area,” he says, noting, that when the owner retired in 2019, the Hooksett location changed its name to Mobile Fencing.
Bill’s dream is to have three company locations, each 100 miles apart. “I’d like to set up in Connecticut at some point,” he says. Whatever the location, Bill considers a project a success if he doesn’t hear from a customer. “The guy putting a building together has other things more pressing than the fence. Clients give us the project scope and schedule, and our job is to get the fence up on time and get it taken down in a timely fashion. We’re here to make customers’ jobs easier.”