Adaptability and forward thinking are crucial to succeeding in the ever-evolving business of building management. This is a narrative that Ruben Curmi, CEO of Harbour Solutions, strives to embody. With a career characterised by significant shifts and transitions, his journey to becoming CEO of Harbour Solutions has focused on adding value and improving customer satisfaction – a philosophy that has driven decision-making at Harbour Solutions and been instrumental to the company’s growth.

Ruben Curmi’s story of entrepreneurship began with his role as the Director of Galley’s Malta, a position that laid the foundation for his future endeavours. The move to CEO of Harbour Solutions was not just a change in title but a transformative shift in focus and responsibility. Under his leadership, the company has transitioned from its initial ICT focus to becoming a leader in Building Management Systems (BMS), a move that marked a significant evolution in the company’s direction. Beyond embracing new technologies, the adjustment was about understanding the changing landscape of building management and positioning the company to excel in this new realm.

At the heart of Ruben’s ethos lies a strong commitment to quality and innovation. His approach is characterised by an enthusiasm for delivering efficient, high-quality and customer-centric solutions – a philosophy deeply ingrained in Harbour Solutions’ operations and which reflects a commitment to excellence in engineering and an understanding of customer needs.

The executive plan for the company is clear-cut: to provide solutions that function effectively while also offering crucial value to clients. “My ultimate goal is to position Harbour Solutions so that it gives peace of mind to our customers,” he asserts. Ruben’s approach has led to significant milestones, including the strategic shift to specialise in BMS while adapting to market needs continuously. The priority is ensuring operational efficiency and fostering robust communication, continually finding ways to improve the client experience.

Importantly, for Ruben, efficiency and communication are not just about keeping the company on track. Rather, they hinge on having a firm vision for the future and steering the company towards it. “The people around me are a key factor to our success,” he says. “There’s one thing I really stress: even if you have support from great suppliers, you still need excellent people on the ground, people who know how to adapt the tech, understand customer needs and add value. But it’s tough. Currently, in a company of 30, we have 10 engineers,” he reveals.

The journey has not been without its challenges. Balancing the demanding nature of his work with his personal life has been a delicate act for Ruben. Despite it all, though, he finds time for family and personal interests. “I have several passions, including archaeology, nature, gardening, travelling, history, and history of art. I don’t think I have a perfect life balance. The business sometimes takes over. Thankfully, my life partner is also involved in the firm, so we manage together,” he shares, speaking to the importance of his pastimes as they provide avenues for relaxation and personal fulfilment – a perspective he endeavours to share with his team at Harbour Solutions too.

As CEO, Ruben has cultivated a spirit of constantly striving for excellence through forward thinking. “My role is predominantly about envisioning the future of building management experiences and creating a thought process that aligns with this vision,” he reflects. “More than just keeping up with industry trends, we must lead the charge in innovation and set new standards in the building management industry.”

Managing a company through such transformative changes is not easy. Ruben has navigated these waters by maintaining a balance between innovation and operational efficiency. The challenge of meeting the high demands of companies like hotels, coupled with the need to maintain quality and service, has been met with strategic planning and a focus on customer-centric solutions.

Despite the difficulties, Ruben sees numerous opportunities on the horizon. The potential for geographical expansion, particularly in the European market, stands out as a significant one. Discussions about new projects outside Malta indicate the company’s readiness to step into a broader arena, bringing its expertise to new markets and clientele. “The company has certainly come a long way, and we’ve collected several milestones along the way,” Ruben says. “One of our initial significant ones was signing the contract with Enemalta for a metering system. Others include the ISO 2001 certification and when we obtained supplier certification as systems integrators.” Since then, Harbour Solutions has worked on many high-profile projects, from The Shoreline Residence and Mercury Tower to the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta.

However, Ruben is forever looking forward and inward, emphasising the need for internal consolidation. Improving processes, enhancing consistencies and bolstering aftersales service are at the forefront of his agenda for the company’s future. By focusing on these areas, Ruben aims to fortify the firm’s foundation, ensuring that as Harbour Solutions grows, it remains rooted in delivering exceptional service and value. “Our next big opportunities lie in providing a better service to the customer. When so many projects happen simultaneously, there can be a struggle to keep up with the demand, but that’s also what success means; it’s an opportunity. We are setting up much-improved after-sales departments, and we believe we can create new business there.”

In an industry marked by rapid technological advancements, Ruben’s leadership focuses on agility and adaptability. Harbour Solutions looks set to embrace artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, which is a strategic move to stay ahead in the industry. This proactive approach prioritises the adoption of new technologies through understanding and leveraging them to enhance the company’s offerings and improve customer experiences.

Likewise, and thinking ahead, Ruben sees great value in ESG (environmental, social and governance). “A shift has happened. In the past, even though energy efficiency was important, it was a secondary requirement to convenience and luxury. Now, not least because of the global energy crisis, it has become a top priority,” he explains. Recognising the global shift towards eco-friendly practices, Harbour Solutions is committed to integrating sustainable solutions into its business model to make a conscious effort to contribute positively to the environment. The company’s alignment with ESG principles demonstrates its dedication to playing a vital role in shaping a sustainable future for the building management industry. “Thankfully, the EU is developing various supportive schemes because these initiatives – despite being sorely needed – don’t always make sense from an ROI perspective. Within the BMS sector, we must strike a balance between these energy savings and luxury and comfort.”

As Ruben reflects on the future, he acknowledges the uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead. The concern about sustaining the momentum of large-scale projects and the capacity of the market to support continuous growth is balanced by optimism and a healthy order book. The drive for the coming year is to find new niches and markets, ensuring that Harbour Solutions remains resilient and adaptable in the face of industry fluctuations. As Ruben explains, “one area we are looking to expand into further is the residential sector, which has a lot of potential.”

Under Ruben’s leadership, Harbour Solutions is continuing its journey characterised by strategic growth, sustainability and innovation. The road ahead is filled with opportunities for expansion, new partnerships and technological advancements. With a clear vision for the future and commitment to excellence, Harbour Solutions is well-positioned to continue its trajectory as a leading provider in the building management industry in Malta and abroad.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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