Andrei Grech belongs to the category of CEO that has crafted his company completely from scratch. He started his career as an electrician with just one assistant and has since grown his company to a 70-strong, multi-skilled team.
It was his early days in the business that taught him everything, Andrei says – from how to design an effective system to how best to organise the accounting aspect. He learnt how to be an allrounder, and he has since passed this approach on to his management team because, for him, sharing his knowledge is critical to the company’s success. “The more we all know, the more we benefit,” he stresses.
Reminiscing about the early days of his career, Andrei says he was always interested in the electrical side of things. By 16 he was already tinkering on basic projects and, by 19, he was employed as a foreman.
“That’s when I decided to do my own thing,” he remembers. “I started to be more productive and proactive, and things grew very organically. I found I could handle having a number of projects on the go and it quickly grew from a job to a business. I have never looked back, and I think our success today stems from the passion we bring to the sector and the fact we really love what we do. That love made us want to be the best, and then it was simply about becoming as effective and efficient as possible so that the business became truly sustainable long-term.”
Asked about his milestone career moments, Andrei says that every day – and every project – has its landmarks. “There are targets to be achieved daily and things to get done every week. But that’s a good thing. It’s what keeps us active and always striving for what’s next.
It’s never good to settle into your comfort zone; the challenge is to stay focused and be sharp. Yes, it’s tiring sometimes, and you can take one step back to take two forward, but the result is always worth it. That approach has meant we have always been able to take on projects that are bigger and better, and we resolutely embrace the challenges that come with that. There is a solution to every client need.”
Going into further detail about what he enjoys most about his role, Andrei says it is the coordination and communication side of the business that keeps him motivated. “I am very much a people person,” he says. “I have clients who are my father’s and grandfather’s age, and it has always delighted me to sit with them and understand the needs of their businesses, and then to share my experience and give input. I learn as much from my clients as I hope they learn from us.
“Then there’s the team coordination element that is also so interesting. I guide our people when they go wrong, and celebrate with them when things go right; I share my experience where I can and gain their respect. The challenge, of course, is that you cannot manage everyone. There are always going to be people who aren’t manageable, whether that’s in your team or among your clients, and you have to accept that. After all, what’s true of life is also true in business.”
In fact, despite being such a technical business, Andrei’s success doubtlessly comes from his people-focused tactics. “We never really talk about ourselves,” he says, “but let our clients do the talking and have thus grown by word-of-mouth. We’ve now expanded to the point that we handle many of the major projects on the island; we’re almost always shortlisted for – or go on to win – the top jobs, and we have clients who have been engaging us for the full 16 years we have been operational. Marketing is critical, of course, but it’s far more crucial to be remembered by our clients for all the right reasons and for them to be happy to recommend us.”
It’s likely to be this approach that has seen the team at AG Group stand strong throughout 2020; the CEO says the company took the rough with the smooth over the course of the year. Yes, the team is working harder than ever, but Andrei is also focused on streamlining the business and making the entire company more productive. “I am adding more management positions and we’re expanding too,” he continues. “It’s certainly keeping us focused, and we’re pedalling harder than ever and finding a solution for any test that comes our way.”
Admittedly, Andrei says the construction sector is being hit, and will continue to be hit into 2021. With tourism and hospitality feeling the brunt of things, he expects there to be a slowdown, with many businesses going into survival mode to stay afloat.
“But once we get through that,” he says, “there will be a lot more opportunities, including hotels and tower projects being built, as well as the development of Bormla and more renovation work in Valletta. It’s going to be quite exciting.”
As he looks back on 2020, Andrei explains that, despite everything, it was still AG Group’s best year yet. Aside from the company’s core services of plumbing and electrical work, it introduced fumigation services to help bring in COVID-19-related business, and the team has already built a strong reputation around that, with a full set-up of trained personnel and chemical engineers to help businesses keep their staff and clients safe.
“As for 2021… no, we can’t make projections in the way we have done over the past few years but that doesn’t worry me too much. We have to work harder through the challenging moments and know that, while nothing is certain, we will overcome the hurdles. My plan is to work harder and smarter, and to remain open to every opportunity that comes my way. I am very positive about what’s to come,” he concludes.
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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