During the current Covid-19 crisis, Garry Connolly, Founder & President of Host In Ireland interviews Shane McMahon, Sales Director for Europe at Tate, a provider of access floor and underfloor service distribution solutions for achieving high performance & sustainable office and data center environments and a valued Host In Ireland partner.
Garry: Hello, Shane. How you doing?
Shane: Good Garry. Welcome to my attic.
Garry: I'm just looking at it there. You look very relaxed there, are you just back from a 24 kilometre run or something?
Shane: Just the 7 this morning actually.
Garry: Are you in Dublin?
Shane: I am in Dublin, on the edge of the Park. The Phoenix Park that is.
Garry: And what’s it like?
Shane: It’s funny actually, up until the elevated measures, we’ll call them, it was actually getting a bit uncomfortable, with the amount of people getting close. So they have lots of smiley faces painted on the ground now with two metres wide apart to keep your social distance. I suppose over the last few days people are far more conscious of getting out of the way. It's strange for a very busy place normally, but it's fantastic as well at the same time. There is an awful lot of families there, just dad's out with the kids, it's usually the Mam's or it's usually gangs of lads on bikes. But an awful lot of family get-togethers been seen there.
Garry: Of course, you've got very young children.
Shane: I've got a one and a half year old, Look to start off, we’re all doing fine here really to be honest. In the grand scheme of things we’ve very little to complain about. My wife is a primary school teacher. So she's one of those ones that has been sent home and told to sit on her thumbs. She's doing her best to keep kids occupied with all sorts of lessons and not drive parents completely demented. So between the two of us were trying to juggle the one-and-a-half-year-old
Garry: Tabby McTat has had a few runs and The Gruffalo I guess?
Shane: The Gruffalo, I could almost recite it word for word now.
Garry: Have you learnt anything about yourself that you thought, you know, it's a time for self-reflection and all these types of things, have you genuinely learned something about yourself?
Shane: Well I suppose there's the things I've learnt and then there's things I've been told. Honestly the most poignant one is that, it's funny and somewhat depressing, that it takes a crisis of being away from people for you to get closer to people. We've made a routine now of video-calling my parents every day with the little lad and same for my wife's parents and same for my siblings as well. You know, we would rarely speak that often but for some reason now because we're all isolated and we all have far more time on our hands we're actually getting an opportunity to chat more and that's, it's a positive in the negative. And I've also learned that this is actually the longest consecutive period that myself and my wife have actually been together without me spending a night in a hotel away or travelling with work. So after 12 years, you know. It's interesting.
Garry: She won't be watching this, you can say anything you want. But in terms of the team, you mentioned there about your team, and obviously you're part of a global team, working in a global industry has everybody globally adapted at the same level, is everybody as technologically proficient or there’s no choice, they have to be?
Shane: We’ve all I suppose, Tate, as part of the Kingspan Group, we've all taken instruction from the top and the instruction has been very clear, ’Guys were in this for a very difficult period now and it's all shoulders to the wheel’ but difficult decisions have had to be made at local levels across various geographical regions because some locations its absolute lock down, some locations it’s far more fluid and we've some divisions of the Kingspan Group that are providing to the HSE, the NHS, in building emergency hospitals and things so the plants need to keep running and everyone will need to feel like their Frontline staff. Within our Tate business itself, we're all about making data centres as energy efficient as possible and now that the sector is being tested to the maximum I don't think it'll ever come in for more of a stress test than this. There's a surge of demand. It's like everyone's running out and buying toilet roll only for us, it's on a different product set. So yeah, we've all had to adapt, we're all working from home but keeping the wheels of industry turning in the best fashion possible. And I think we’re learning a lot of lessons as well. We had already gone into some R&D projects to try and create virtual training hubs. We've had to fast track those now so that installation teams on sites can continue without myself, or one of my colleagues, going to be able to talk them through. So it's fast-tracking, it’s making people adapt, a lot of positives. But look, let's not forget. This is all positive in the shadow of what is actually happening. We're not in an ICU bed and I think a lot of thought and pause has to be given to those.
Garry: It's interesting, one of the things that's come up consistently in these sessions that we're having is exactly what you said. Yesterday somebody described the people who work in the industry, and around the industry and particularly in the operational side, that they're like astronauts. Why is that? Because actually astronauts trained for failure. In a strange way, if you listen to an astronaut, he's not training for the success, he’s training for the failure. What if? And this has been the opportunity for that infrastructure that you and Tate and Kingspan have been growing and building for the last 10 years, I guess and possibly longer, to test it.
Shane: That’s it, yeah It’s testament to everyone involved that, guys we can bend and adapt and flex. It's gonna be a long difficult road to coming back to where we've all been but, we’ll all come out the far end stronger.
Garry: Obviously different parts of the world are opening up at different stages, you mentioned before we came on, that South Korea and places like that are slowly returning to pre sort-of ramp-in, if that's the right word. And is that starting to see, in your business pipeline as well, that there's other places actually actively on-sites.
Shane: I suppose geographically, yes there's markets that are opening up very slowly
but I suppose the nature of the construction sector and our local aspects of it here. Okay, we may not be supplying as much to the actual construction sites, but the purchase orders are building up, the pre-construction phases are ploughing on faster than ever because architects and engineers are now actually able to devote the time and not have to be on-site. We're going to have this accordion effect, of project stages building up and then it's just about being ready, primed when the release does happen. Personally, I think it's going to be a very slow ramp back up for all, for everyone, both on a professional and a personal level. I don't think that there's going to be a bounce-back that a lot of people are talking about, it's going to be slow because if we're to take heed from what the HSE or the World Health Organisation is saying, it's “Guys we're going to need to maintain our social distance until a vaccine is out there” and it's just the unknown that we're living in now.
Garry: Yeah, I think your context, you only look about 15 years old, but obviously you've been here before because the context that you're saying is that, relative to others and relative to other geographies and relative to a lot, we're doing okay I think that's the way you can go through these things. You got to have more empathy, right?
Shane: Yeah, we've been slightly inconvenienced. Well, personally, I’ve been slightly inconvenienced, that's all I'm going to call it because there's a hell of a lot of good stuff that I can claim from this. For the first time, I'm able to put my son to bed every night. That, to me, is a privilege.
Garry: But not the Gruffalo?
Shane: No, I won't go into the book we read but I can definitely recite it from cover to cover blindfolded.
Garry: Before we jump off, three words…What would you say? What are the three words to close out the session?
Shane: It's not about you or me, it's all about those people Thanks to the Frontline workers.
Garry: I think that's a great way to end it. Thank you so much. Stay safe. There is a great second book in the Gruffalo series, you might be interested, delivered from Amazon.
Shane: Room on the Broom, is it?
Garry: You've been there already! Thanks a million Shane. It's been a pleasure.
To find more great Barstool Chat interviews go HERE