Growing up I always worked in the business during school and college holidays. I was surprised that having completed my degree in Business Studies, my father suggested that I should start my career by getting employment outside the family company. After two years on the Enterprise-Rent-a-Car graduate programme I became their youngest ever branch manager.
Suitably introduced in business I then succeeded in securing a position for ROBUS in Australia. This was a great opportunity. The distance might prevent family disputes which are the dread of any family company. Four years in Australia and I am pleased to report that with great support both locally and from home base, we brought ROBUS from an unknown brand to one of the top five LED suppliers in that country.
I loved Australia but was delighted to get an opportunity, that arose in Ireland, to work across new products and European sales teams that were being developed in ROBUS. In this new position, starting in 2016, I was able to get involved in every aspect of ROBUS. Working on new products, research and development, quality control and Irish, UK and European sales divisions helped prepare me for my appointment as CEO in 2020.
What special issues does working for a successful family owned company bring?
ROBUS has an excellent culture, created and developed over many years by my father. It is critical that this unique identity within the company is maintained. I take this very seriously. We are completing several internal workshops, with an external consultant, towards that end. This involves working with the company’s teams to discuss and validate our culture to ensure we deliver on our values across all company activity.
This has proven extremely important in the current crisis, bringing our values to the forefront. In a matter of days our IT team had the majority of our staff working remotely. Our technical team arranged online training and webinars for our internal and external customers.
Taking responsibility for the future of such a successful company must be daunting. Where do you see the opportunities for ROBUS?
Our values are ambition, fast pace, accountability (always do what you say you will do), customer focus and empowerment. Our value proposition is focussed on TRUST. Trust Robus to be easy to deal with, trust Robus to supply high quality products and trust Robus for market led innovation. We can achieve this only if we attract good staff and support our employees to fulfil their true potential. While respecting the historic success of the company we must address the future while taking current conditions into consideration.
We must adjust for the current pandemic and plan for the possibility of a serious financial crisis in its wake. Stepping into the role as CEO, at this time, will be a challenge. We have to be very clear on our key objectives in the immediate future.
- Prioritise the health and safety of our teams, their families and as far as possible, all stakeholders of the company.
- Protect the jobs and livelihood of our staff by ensuring the integrity and performance of the business. Build a strategy for the current conditions that will place us ready for full recovery when normality returns to the market.
Do you identify issues in the Lighting Industry that you need to address?
Education around regulation and promotion of technical understanding of current lighting products is essential. Issues that we identify are:
LED panels that do not bear a TPa or a TPb rating are incorrectly installed in commercial applications.
Some manufacturers provide misleading data, quoting ‘chip lumens’ rather than ‘delivered Lumens’ and give incorrect information about UGR ratings.
As an industry we need to stand up and remove this unacceptable practice which in some circumstances is putting lives at risk.
We recommend and offer a lighting design that will confirm the correct ratings required for a project to be delivered to the end-user.
Price depreciation has been a major issue in the industry. In 2012 we were selling an LED downlight in Australia for $70 and in 2016 the price is $10! The requirement to sell seven times as much product for the same return has caused every stakeholder in the supply chain a massive financial headache.
We believe the future opportunities in lighting lie in IoT developments. In the residential space we have delivered through our ROBUS Connect Platform. In the commercial arena we have two major product ranges, ‘Humanitas’ and ‘Linx’. Although these systems are extremely advanced, our view is that this will be the norm for every commercial property in the future. The million dollar question is ‘how quickly will the market embrace this new technology?’
OK, we know about switching the lights on and off, but how does Mick G Slein switch off ?
I’ve recently got married and we are getting settled into our new home in Raheny. I love to BBQ, a little skill I brought with me from Australia. I started racing karts when I was 10 and have now returned to the sport. I was fortunate enough to compete in the world championships in Le Mans over the last two years.
“It’s not about becoming a great businessman, It’s about building a great company”
Development of ROBUS is never far from mind. We take a key lesson from Jim Collins’ best selling book ‘Good to Great’ (Collins Business 2001) in which the concept of having the right people on the bus, sitting in the right positions, is critical in order to drive the bus to the ultimate destination. We have a superb senior management structure, supported by excellent employee teams, all driving in the direction of becoming our customers’ most trusted LED brand.