Tim McNeilly (right) with Markko Ekman, CEO of VEO Group, I.C. Electrical’s parent company
From beginnings as an apprentice electrician, Tim McNeilly says he's never stopped learning and developing and he's now the MD. He talks to BQ about his business, I. C. Electrical.
What is it that the company does?
That’s a great question and it’s increasingly difficult to answer now we’re part of Finnish company, VEO Group. The fancy term for what we do is electrification solutions, but our concept is fairly simple: we take any industrial electrical process right from design through to implementation and that includes any electrical discipline within the power and renewables sector, as well as food and beverage, and production facilities.
For example, in a power plant, we would take care of the entire electrical infrastructure including transformers, switchgear, control panels and distribution cabinets. We coordinate this with the process controls and ultimately offer a full turn key package, including design, manufacture, installation and commission. We also undertake 3D modelling and design – it’s a far cry from the pencil and drawing board where we first started.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to consider the short, medium and long-term needs of the business and, importantly, our team. This covers the day-to-day management, shaping the culture of the business and leading on its strategic direction. My job really is varied and being part of the board structure is quite different from the management side of things. Now that we are part of a much larger group, my role is even more diverse – no day is ever the same.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I cut my teeth as an apprentice electrician in 1988 and after becoming a fully qualified electrician.
I was self-employed for a number of years before joining I.C. Electrical as electrical contracts and commercial director in 2000.
Every training opportunity that has come my way over the years I’ve grabbed with both hands and I’m still on the lookout, even today. On top of my electrical qualifications, I have a number of different health and safety qualifications and in order to prepare myself for the MD role, I joined the Institute of Directors and enrolled on a number of courses. I’ve never stopped learning; there are always ways we can become even better at what we do.
What do you believe makes a good leader?
There’s no set recipe for a great leader, it’s a real mix of things. Above all, you need to be able to inspire people and I don’t believe in leading from the back. This involves gaining the respect of your peers both by doing and – most importantly – listening. You also must have courage in your convictions but be humble enough to know that we all make mistakes and accept it as part of being a leader.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest and most exciting challenge so far has been integrating into a much larger organisation - from £7m turnover as I.C. Electrical, to £112m as VEO Group. The learning curve has been steep but rewarding at the same time. Working as part of a multinational organisation has opened me up even more to different business cultures and it’s been a fantastic experience engaging and working with new colleagues all around the world.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Building a strong team around you to share the highs and the lows is one of the best ways to alleviate stress – even though sometimes the burden will be firmly on my shoulders and often solely my responsibility. Nowadays I try to take a step back – a good slow think helps rather than being alarmed. After 18 years in business, the things that cause me stress are completely different from those when I first joined in 2000. You learn to handle things better over time.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a top-level footballer – like many other young lads!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Laziness and untidiness are my top two pet hates and luckily we have a culture and team of people who are the exact opposite of those. We’re very fortunate at I.C. Electrical to be surrounded by smart, considerate and hardworking people who come from all walks of life.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have very ambitious plans; by 2023 we’re aiming to double the turnover of I.C. Electrical. We’re hugely proud of the drive and spirit of Midlands businesses and we want to continue forging commercial partnerships both here in the UK and through our growing international network. Above all, our customers are at the heart of what we do and expect a lot from us so we continually strive to provide the best service possible.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don’t rush into the hot seat, you will get there when you’re ready and able. Listen to the people around you and always remember who you are and where you’re from.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Enjoy it when you win an order, but not too much - wait until you get paid!
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement