Catching Up With Kurt – Marc Meili
Kurt: G’Day everyone, thanks for catching up with Kurt. I’m Kurt Gidley and today I’m joined by our Managing Director, Marc Meili. Marc welcome along! Now, mate, you’ve got a wonderful story – travelled to Australia backpacking in the early days. Tell us a little about that.
Marc: Well that’s some years ago, the backpacking part. I had the opportunity to come to Australia when I was 23 and I actually arrived in Perth at the time when I couldn’t speak a word of English. I somehow managed to buy a car, a station wagon, and that got me on a six-month journey sleeping in the back of a van.
Kurt: Before you kicked off Protech in 2006 you were a former engineer.
Marc: Yes, but before that I actually did a fitter and turner trade back in Switzerland where I spent half of my life before I moved overseas. I wasn’t very good at it, and then I decided to actually back it up with an engineering degree later on.
Kurt: You say you were working in engineering, manufacturing and aerospace, what year was that? And where did the idea come from to start Protech?
Marc: Good point. I had the opportunity to work in a general management capacity in a very interesting engineering business and then for some reason or another I was looking for another opportunity. At the time I was completing an MBA as well at QUT here in Brisbane. I did this at the time to polish up on my English, but also obviously to learn more about general management and about how organisations work. I did sort of a concentration on entrepreneurship and I was very intrigued by this. So, I kind of knew one day I wanted to be the master of my own destiny. At one point I decided to make the exit from this engineering business and start Protech and that was probably the biggest leap of faith I have ever done.
Kurt: Yeah, sure. Was it scary to make that call?
Marc: It was massively scary because you suddenly enter into a world you’re not familiar with. With anything, if you’ve never done it before. The thing at the time that made me do it was I guess the confidence in what I had learned over the years, in various different countries, in various different industries and so forth, but also at the time I was on the receiving end of our services. I was in a fast-moving manufacturing business and we had recruitment services and labour hire services at the time and for me, as a client, I just watched that environment and thought that wasn’t really that great an experience. Me as a client, I thought the services provided were sub-standard. I saw the interaction between the service providers and the employees in our factory area at the time and thought there was always a bit of friction going on. And then from a recruitment consultant’s perspective, every six months there was a new face, and I thought this can’t be good. So that’s where the idea was born. I said, geez, ok, if I want to start my own business what do I know? And I think probably what came out of it was the technical industries is what I felt comfortable in with trade, technical engineering and manufacturing, so I knew I was ok with that. And really from there I thought if I’m going to do something it’s got to be better than what I have received and I sat down one day before I even wrote the business plan, or actually the first line on the business plan was ‘Our Purpose’; our purpose to doing business. For me it was ‘well it’s got to be to be a positive influence in people’s lives’.
Kurt: You mention 13 years. It must seem like a long time ago. It’s been a fairly rapid rise for Protech. What’s been some of the challenges and what’s been something that you’re really proud of?
Marc: Challenges is one of the key things. In the early years we had some extreme challenges. We had some challenges that weren’t necessarily in our control and so forth, but we have overcome them and really what it did for me was build resilience; some significant resilience building in that time frame. But like any business there’s challenges, and as you grow a company as well, grow from two to three people into 150 people with a few thousand field employees, there is different stages of growth and different stages of challenge. But what I’m really proud of is that we are an organisation with great people. This organisation is way beyond me as a single person, having started from scratch. This is now an organisation that lives its own life, driven by the people within. That’s what I’m most proud of.
Kurt: Last of all, you just mentioned there’s up to 3000 employees under Protech, 150 internal employees around the country. How do you sleep at night?
Marc: Good question! Sometimes I don’t. It’s a very good question Kurt. As an overall I have faith in my people, and our people. I have faith in the systems we have built and the people managing those systems. We have core values that are aligned, and that’s the ultimate test for us in the organisation: believing that our core values will make our people behave in a certain way so that I can sleep at night. They are equally as caring about our field employees and look after their safety, and equally as caring as working with each other on a day to day basis. So really, it’s the faith in my people that allows me to sleep. But sometimes I don’t sleep that well either!
Kurt: I can imagine! Marc Meili, thanks for catching up with Kurt.