Tricel is a global provider of high performance solutions for the water, environmental, construction and materials industries.
Educated in St Brendan’s College in Killarney and Athlone RTC in Plastics Engineering (Grad P.R.I), Mike Stack joined the business in 1987 straight from college. Making his professional start in production, Mike became Engineering Manager in 1997, ultimately becoming Managing Director in 2004.
Tricel was founded in Killarney in 1973. The Group consists of seven trading companies across Ireland, UK and France with the main manufacturing hub and group headquarters based in Killarney. From the business’ humble beginnings in a shed in the centre of Killarney town, the group now operates under purpose-built 100k sq./ft of buildings in Killarney with a further 100k sq./ft of buildings in the UK and France.
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% with an extra 75 jobs created. The recession in Ireland had a detrimental effect on the Irish market forcing the Group to further focus on its existing UK market and also on further export markets. New products were introduced into the UK market to complement the existing product range and new markets in Europe, Middle East, Australia and the American continents were identified. As an example of the increased focus on new markets, the Group won the prestigious “Best Irish Company in France” award in 2012.
The Group also made a multimillion euro investment in R&D and plant & machinery within this period. This investment has led to continuous process and design improvements which have ensured the Group’s current and future success. The Group has forecasted turnover to double in the next four years. This will be achieved by the continuing expansion into new markets and through the introduction of new and innovative products. The Group now employs 90 people in Killarney and 245 in total across the Group.
Being a privately family owned business, the Group prides itself in supporting the local economy. Where possible, local manufacturers/service providers are the preferred suppliers of choice. The majority of the products manufactured and sold by the Group are made from GRP (Glass Reinforced Polyester). A range of products are manufactured across the Group and are grouped into the following four divisions: water storage, environmental, construction and materials. The broad range of products the Group manufactures have led to a large and diverse customer base spread across the globe. Customers include government agencies, multinational manufacturing companies, mechanical engineers, plumbers, hardware stores, sole traders and DIY enthusiasts.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
My mother and father started the business.
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%, 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.
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
Tricel is a family business started by my mom and dad, Anne and Con Stack, both now retired. Four of my brothers are working in the business and my sister is also a shareholder.
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 that we face in the future.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
In 2007, we exported 5% of our turnover and were highly dependent on the Irish construction market. By 2013, our exports had increased to 70% 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 were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
The best was from my dad who told me to make myself indispensable to the company and to our customers. I don’t recall any bad advice.
What top 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.
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
My mom and dad and Liam Chute (ex Kerry Group)
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
It hasn’t hindered it and is generally a positive in mainland Europe.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
We believe in brainstorming in teams, generating ideas and continuously working to improve the idea first and then the product.
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
Energetic and enthusiastic people who will contribute to the team.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
Yes we have. Starting in 2012, we have seen an improvement domestically year on year.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
It takes many things – belief, hunger, passion and a lot of luck.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
We are a nimble, flexible, highly motivated company with an excellent culture.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
Maybe I don’t have as much personal time as someone who works a 9 to 5 job.
How do you recharge your batteries?
Family, exercise and a little golf.