The Latest Headlines from Tricel IE

News Desk IE

June 24, 2016

Entrepreneur of the year Finalist – Irish Times Interview

mike stackTricel was founded in Killarney by Anne and Con Stack in 1973. It is a global provider of high-performance solutions for the water, environmental, construction and materials industries. Educated at St Brendan’s College in Killarney and Athlone IT, their son Mike Stack joined the business in 1987 straight from college. Starting out in production, he became engineering manager in 1997, ultimately becoming managing director in 2004. Mike’s three brothers also work in the business, and his sister is a shareholder.

Tricel consists of seven trading companies across Ireland, the UK and France with the main manufacturing hub and group headquarters based in Killarney. The group established its first base in the UK in 1993 and in France in 2011. From 2010 to 2013, the group saw growth of 57 per cent, with an extra 75 jobs created.

The company now employs 90 people in Killarney and 245 in total. The company is a leading manufacturer and supplier of wastewater treatment plants, septic tanks, pumping stations and rainwater harvesting tanks. Customers include government agencies, multinational manufacturing companies, mechanical engineers, plumbers, hardware stores, sole traders and DIY enthusiasts.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it? The collapse of the Irish building trade combined with a large reduction in UK construction, as well as the fact that sterling weakened against the euro by almost 40 per cent created a perfect storm for us. This was shortly followed by the financial crisis worldwide. We repositioned the company by increasing our investment in R&D and marketing with the aim of selling our product in new markets outside of Ireland and the UK, principally in mainland Europe.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company? We made the decision to enter the environmental market with a domestic waste water treatment system. As the success of this product became apparent in Ireland, we made the decision to manufacture it in modular form which would allow it to be transported overseas at a competitive cost. This eventually led to the decision to assemble the product in our Gloucester factory to service the UK market and to open a purpose-built assembly factory in France to service the French market.

What are the biggest challenges you face now? We are based on an island and have a small home market so our growth must come from overseas. To do this, we have to compete against companies operating in their domestic markets. Not only is there increased carriage costs, but there are also the language and cultural barriers that have to be overcome when entering a new market. By following the business principles that made us successful up to now, we believe we can overcome the challenges we face in the future.

What is your biggest business achievement to date? In 2007, we exported 5 per cent of our turnover and were highly dependent on the Irish construction market. By 2013, our exports had increased to 70 per cent of our turnover. This was accomplished by upscaling our R&D and sales and marketing departments during the downturn. During this period, we also completed a multimillion euro investment in our manufacturing capabilities in Killarney. Through our investment in people and innovation, we have created a path for our next generation of products.

What tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today? Trust your instincts, believe in yourself and surround yourself with talented people who will keep you focused.