‘I have made plenty of mistakes – and still do – but no regrets’

Inside Track: Mike Treanor, managing director, Mullan Lighting

Mike Treanor, director of design and operations, at Mullan Lighting.

Mike Treanor, director of design and operations, at Mullan Lighting.

 

Mullan Lighting is a designer and manufacturer of bespoke lighting for the commercial, hospitality, retail and residential sectors. The company employs 60 people in its manufacturing facility in north Monaghan and sells in more than 55 countries worldwide.

What sets your business apart from the competition?
We control the entire manufacturing process where other businesses often outsource some or all processes to other countries. This enables us to offer shorter lead times. Our sales team always strives to answer 90 per cent of emails within one hour and all emails by close of business each day.

Our location in Monaghan is an advantage too. We have access to couriers both north and south of the Border and can deliver into the UK (a market that accounts for about 20 per cent of turnover) very quickly and at less cost.

We’re within 90 minutes of both Belfast and Dublin airports which means that we’re quite accessible when customers come to visit us from abroad.

We manufacture inside an old shoe mill in the heritage village of Mullan. Our customers appreciate this scenic location when they visit. We often take visitors to sample the local food and drink in Glaslough or Monaghan town which is fast becoming known as a food destination.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Always adopt a customer-centric approach. We try to make the business work for our customers rather getting them to conform to how our business works. The key to our success so far is that we have listened to our customers.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I have made plenty of mistakes – and still do – but no regrets. In my experience, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not being proactive in business and taking risks.

One thing that we did learn quickly early on was that dealing with intermediaries and third parties on large bespoke projects can be challenging. Where possible, we always try to work directly with the architect or designer as they often have a greater understanding of the requirements involved.

And your major success to date?
In 2017, we secured our largest lighting contract to date at La Mer, Dubai. It is a landmark beachfront development that opened to the public in January this year. We manufactured 1,500 decorative outdoor light fixtures for the project within an extremely tight deadline of eight weeks.

All 1,500 can withstand moisture, high humidity, high temperatures, the salty sea air and intrusion from wind-blown sand. It is one of the largest outdoor decorative lighting projects in the world.

Who do you most admire in business and why?
My parents have guided me every step of the way as we continue to grow Mullan Lighting. They have grown their business, Electrical Wholesaler, from scratch both off and online over the past 30 years and have lots of invaluable advice to offer.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
I would have to say no. When we needed investment during the early stages of the business, banks were not lending. Thankfully, we’re in a position now to grow the business solely from working capital.

What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
We have noticed many times that people who genuinely want to work are discouraged from doing so as they’d lose all welfare benefits. The incentive to return to work – for older people in particular – is diminished by how the welfare system is set up.

There are certain risks involved in returning to work. Many people worry about the possibility of having to seek welfare benefit once again and the delays and, perhaps, unnecessary bureaucracy of this system. Financially, many people can’t afford to take this risk.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Managing the growth of a manufacturing business can be challenging. All the processes we employ are subject to continuous improvement to gradually better everything we do and help the company scale. Trying to maintain a high-level of customer service at scale can also be challenging. Customer service issues are better prevented in the first place. We’re constantly working on improving quality control at every stage of the manufacturing process.

How do you see the short-term future for your business?
The future is very positive. We are working on larger complete hotel fit-outs within Ireland and across Europe.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
I have never thought about how much the business is worth in monetary terms. Often the skill-sets and individuals employed within a business are its most valuable resource. At Mullan Lighting, the team is incredibly dedicated and hardworking and I’m grateful for this. Would I sell the business? No.