George Alexander Mullan, SIS Group
SIS has constructed sports surfaces for some of the most prestigious sporting events worldwide including the World Cup finals
George Mullan is the founder and owner of SIS Group, a manufacturing and sports construction company with offices in Europe, Asia and Africa.
He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and has an MBA from the University of Bradford in the UK. He is also a private investor in start-up companies in Ireland and the UK covering such areas as information technology, drinks and LED lighting.
SIS was founded in Amsterdam in 1999, and Mullan purchased the company in 2001 while based in the Netherlands. At that time, the company turnover was €200,000 with a staff of three.
Today, SIS employs more than 200 people and has a projected turnover for 2014 of €34.3 million. It has offices in Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Angola.
It has constructed sports surfaces for some of the most prestigious sporting events worldwide including the World Cup finals, the African Cup of Nations, the European Championships, the Champions League and rugby’s Heineken Cup. The company’s client list includes world-renowned soccer teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus.
The company is the largest supplier of synthetic grass pitches in Ireland, having supplied synthetic pitches to more than 50 venues in Ireland both North and South.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it? When we acquired our factory in the UK, we supplied our largest customer with a product that failed in over 40 of their pitches. I overcame it by making a personal commitment to remove and install all 40 pitches without damaging his business. It cost SIS £450,000 and today, seven years later, we still have the same client.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company? SIS won the contract to build 14 pitches for the African Nations Cup in Angola, the second largest football tournament in the world.
After 27 years of civil war, little infrastructure and shortages in materials required by SIS, it was an enormous challenge. We had to develop new designs, new construction methods and build self-sufficient teams in four locations in a country twice the size of France. It opened our minds to new ways of working and, today, SIS has a very successful business, employing over 100 people in Angola. What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Persistence – the business plan you write is a guide book not a bible. In the marketplace, it is war and if you do not have the persistence to fight again and again, you will lose. Entrepreneurs like to believe they are the experts and know the marketplace. Listen to your employees and your customers, they actually have the information you need to make the right decisions.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage? We view a customer as someone that we can do business with over and over again and who has to be respected at all times.
Our competitors are multinationals who have layers of management and cannot make decisions quickly. Our employees are empowered to make decisions and are given the responsibility to take decisions.
SIS has a reputation for delivering innovative solutions, whether it is removing and installing a new stadium pitch in 17 hours so Ajax can play three hours later, or building a grass pitch on top of a synthetic pitch for the European Women’s Championships last year in Sweden. We are risk-takers.