Lisa Gingell of Chesterfield's T-mac Technologies
PUBLISHED: 16:29 10 December 2013 | UPDATED: 09:58 11 December 2013
After making the transition from PR executive to company director, Lisa is now one of the county's key business 'movers and shakers'
On hearing of a Chesterfield family firm whose board of directors includes a former PR executive, I was intrigued to discover how they had made the transition from the world of marketing to a cutting edge technology business.
In 2002, at the age of 24, Lisa Gingell (née Wilkinson) had left a job in Scotland where she was working in property PR for Weber Shandwick, and was on her way to London to start the job of her dreams in fashion PR. Staying with her parents for a few days en route, they invited Lisa to join FAW Electronics, the successful technology company they had set up in 1978. With little experience in technology Lisa was hesitant at first because she couldn’t see what her role would be: ‘I had no problem with the thought of working with my parents or brother Jonathan [who has a degree in computing and management], but initially I just couldn’t see what value I would add to the company.’
However, it soon became clear that the skills Lisa had gained working in PR, communications and branding could be applied to her parents’ business. Although her main role was to look after marketing and design, her first task was to improve communications within the company. As a result everyone became more aware of how their job related to others and what impact their role had on customers.
Lisa’s business acumen also soon came to the fore. At a meeting in 2003 with her father and brother they had the idea to apply remote monitoring technologies to heating and air conditioning units to ensure they were operating at optimum performance. The subsequent development of a product that allowed companies to monitor and control technology remotely, delivering average energy cost savings of 20 to 30 per cent, put the company ahead of the field: t-mac Technologies was born.
It was Lisa’s task to develop a strong brand identity that differentiated t-mac from the competition and clearly communicated the product’s merits. She explained: ‘Where many companies often go wrong is having a great product or service but very poor marketing; no one will buy from you if you’re not known or appropriately positioned in the marketplace, which you can’t say of t-mac. We have worked hard to achieve a strong identity and we retain the services of Weber Shandwick to look after our PR.’
The transition from PR executive to company director has had its challenging moments, Lisa explained: ‘It is difficult when your heart and soul is so entwined with something that is a big part of your life to think about anything else, but I realise that you do have to switch off in order to be more efficient.’ Over the last decade Lisa has
learned to ‘switch off’, which she assured me does happen when she’s horse-riding or running. She has also learned to delegate to her team. Asked for the negatives that come with running a business, Lisa struggled for an answer, other than dealing with staff issues. ‘It is really sad when you have to let anyone go, which isn’t often, but nonetheless when someone doesn’t share your passion you can’t help but take it a little personally.’ Otherwise, getting out of bed in the morning isn’t an issue for Lisa. ‘It sounds a little clichéd but I really do
relish each day, which is another opportunity for us to do things better and to keep looking for that next big idea.’
Lisa did admit that at first she felt the need to show that her position in the company was based entirely on her ability and had nothing to do with it being her parents’ business. ‘When I first started I probably over-compensated by trying too hard to be superwoman. I didn’t want to be a passenger and looking back I don’t think that was ever an issue, but I did feel the need demonstrate my worth.’
The company came through the recession in a strong position and Lisa told me they have an ambitious annual growth target of 40 per cent. Her confidence is based on a world-class product range – still manufactured in the UK – a fantastic team of engineers and designers, and an increasing number of business sectors that remain untapped.As well as carving out a role in the business, Lisa is genuinely interested in maintaining a family atmosphere with t-mac’s personnel. ‘I think everyone in business needs to have their wits about them because not everyone works to your agenda – employees, suppliers and customers naturally have their own interests at heart – but I think if you treat people fairly then you don’t have to rule with a rod of iron.’
Finally, I asked Lisa if she ever doubted that she could make the transition from PR to running a technology business. She replies
unwaveringly: ‘The moment I realised that my skills could be applied to the family business I had no doubt whatsoever.’