CGL - Bringing brands to life

CGL title and facts

Let’s go back to the very beginning – How did CGL Retail Solutions come about? My background is in engineering and my wife Natalie comes from a marketing background so when we came back from working abroad to set up a business, screen printing and sign making was where we started. Mind you 1994 was before digital so a lot has changed since then, including our business model and services – we’ve evolved along the way.

How did you find setting up a new business, I’m sure there were a lot of highs and lows along the way? Setting up was fi ne but then we started to grow and become more innovative as time went by and the digital age arrived and we really had to think outside the box during the recession which really seemed to hit our industry and the hardware industry which we served most at that time hard and fast, I guess it was the first budget cut in most companies. That’s when we really grew the design part of the business and now we have a team dedicated to design from graphic design to 3D and Virtual Reality Design which is pretty awesome.


Virtual Reality Design sounds incredible! Tell us about that, what has the feedback been like? It’s really cool! When we introduced the concept at first most people didn’t really understand it as it is a very new type of design and we’re the only company offering it that I am aware of in Ireland and that’s how we like it, we like to be the innovators that others follow. The VR Design is amazing particularly in relation to the shop fitting aspect of the business as it offers the client the opportunity to walk through the store which in turn helps to identify problems or make changes prior to any practical work on the project. It also helps to limit subjectivity and manage expectations so we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

You have achieved so much over these past 23 years as a business, what is your vision for the company going forward? To continue to grow and develop the business as leaders of innovation in our industry, we want to be the ones that others follow. The VR Design element of the business is certainly an area we can develop and we think in the next few years it is how everyone will have to design as the area is growing faster than the iPhone trans- formed the whole mobile technology space.

What was your breakthrough moment in business? I guess after 5 or 6 years we knew we were in a good place although during the recession we had many a sleepless night as it did clean up our industry a lot and those who survived the recession really deserve to be still in business and doing well. When we moved from screen printing to digital it changed how we did business and how we could manage our people and production as it offered more control. A real turning point for the business was when we got more involved in displays and fittings. We went straight to the brands, I researched some of the biggest brands and linked up with the right people. I took pictures of their existing displays and sent them to marketing personnel along with some ideas of how we would like to redesign their displays which demonstrated our cutting edge and on trend designs along with quotes for same and thankfully it worked, they loved our ideas! It was a bold move but now we are the leaders in this market. Another breakthrough moment was when we realised we had excellent 3D Designers on the team and that we could present new concepts in a 3D proof to clients giving them a walk through experience. Other shop fitters at that time were not designing in this way and it really gave us an edge over the competition.

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Tell me about the support you received from your Local Enterprise Office Carlow? I think it’s fair to say we have engaged with training courses run by LEO Carlow over the 23 years as we continue to grow and develop our business. Over the years the Local Enterprise Office has been a constant support even in the early days when I did a start your own business course with Blaise Brosnan which I found really beneficial, so much so that I even sent some of the staff to do it also as it was so well rounded. Most recently 3 of my team have been doing the LEAN for Micro programme which is superb and really changes our managers’ line of thought and being LEAN in any business is critical and in our business operating LEAN and buying LEAN is a no-brainer and its good for the team to hear this mantra and thinking from the experts.

As an SME are you optimistic regarding the future?

Extremely! The quality of our work is remarkable and the team we have is second to none, our clients are happy and we are constantly in touch with showing them our latest projects and good offers. Another thing that makes us unique as a company and ensures our optimism for the future, we can print onto almost anything. This is done through our flatbed printer. This is a very large printer that we can print large 10’ x 5’ sheets of timber, metal and even on tiles etc. Anything that makes you unique is always a positive.

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Best advice you have received in relation to running a business?

Don’t be afraid to value your service and charge properly for the quality service you deliver. We have been asked to scrape the barrel and refused as we only deliver on jobs that are to the quality we are happy to be aligned to and clients respect that and have come to trust us for that very reason with their brands. It is also very important to find the best people and value your staff.


What advice would you give others starting out in business today?

Keep the quality right and every­thing else will fall into place…believe in yourself and DREAM BIG and with that combination and a lot of hard work and effort, you will get there.


Considering your focus on LEAN for business, have you any tips on costs and cash flow that you use in your business that others could learn from?

Bulk buy as much as possible and if you have a few jobs coming in that you know you will need a lot of a certain type of material for don’t be afraid to renegotiate your costs with suppliers on that basis. I also recommend that you stand back from a job and think through the produc­tion process first as sometimes on a big job a small time investment at the start of a project in creating something to help the job will save you production time and resources in the long run.

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How do you attract new customers and indeed after 23 years in business I’m keen to learn how you have retained your existing clients during that time?

Our business thrives on word of mouth, for example, we were responsible for quite a few display areas within the Harvey Norman superstore fit in Tallaght for our big brand clients which include Sony, Electrolux, Zanussi, Bosch, Neff, Siemens, Miele, Knomo, Philips, LG, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard to mention but a few. In fact Harvey Norman were so impressed with our team from the plans stage right through to the professionalism of our fitters that we now work directly for them too – that’s how this business grows. We do what we do very well and when clients engage us they know they can trust that the job will be of superior quality and a memorable representation of their brand.


With a workforce of 30 employees, HR Management is a vital part of your business - Have you any tips on how to get the best out of your team?

Well first of all without your team you are nobody and remembering that is crucial if you are going to succeed and create a good working environment! So to get the best out of them is vital and we enlist the very best people we can find and then train them in-house and upskilling as required, like sending them on LEO workshops or other training courses. We have even sent staff abroad for training at one time or another to learn specialist skills. You must also talk to your staff, inevitably there will be issues along the way but they are usually small ones that can easily be diffused by chatting them through and they are not always work related but can affect the person and in turn the team and the culture. Ensure your staff feel valued and are paid properly for the job they do and that the management system allows for promo­tions within the organisation as much as possible to keep people motivated and team players. When we finish a project everyone takes great personal and professional pride in it and that’s very important.

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