MD Dónall Regan's First Year At Camden

Dónall 1 Edit

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background?

I grew up in North Belfast with my parents, who both worked as teachers, and my two brothers. My Father was a motorsport enthusiast and this is something I have definitely inherited from him. I love watching Formula 1 and I am a huge fan of Lewis Hamilton.

After studying Law and Accounts at Queens University Belfast I secured my first placement at PWC, where I stayed for 3 and a half years training as an accountant. I worked 2 years in the Audit Department and then just under 2 years in the Business Recovery and Re-Structuring Department. I then moved to a niche accountancy practice called Keenan Corporate Finance, where I spent 11 years working in various corporate finance transactions and restructuring assignments. I learnt a lot from these two companies and gained invaluable experience.

What lead you to Camden?

As an accountant you can either be in practice or you can be in industry. I had always considered going into industry in some shape or form. During the first lockdown I thought to myself, ‘if I don’t make the move now’ (when I was in my late 30’s) ‘I will be a practicing accountant for the rest of my days’. Not that there is anything wrong with that! It just felt like the right time to try something different.

I was attracted to Camden as it is a well-established, local manufacturer with great potential for growth. I also found Camden’s dedication to sustainability enticing; it is rewarding being part of a company with a green ethos.

How have you found your first year at Camden?

Yes it has been good, but having never been in an industry role before, it has also been a real challenge and a steep learning curve. There have been several different factors which have remained challenging along the way, many due to the Covid outbreak. I imagine it was odd for anyone trying to start a new job in the middle of a pandemic.
Even as lockdown restrictions are lifted and life, as it was before Covid, starts to get back to normal, we still face various challenges. The effects of Brexit, labour and goods shortages, general global supply chain issues, and more recently energy and fuel prices rising have all had an impact on how we do business.

There have been many positive experiences, the main one being getting to know the team. Camden have an excellent workforce and it has been rewarding to see colleagues progress and develop their skill sets. I have been able to change up and even create new teams to maximise potential, which has been a thoroughly enjoyable aspect of the job.

What has been your biggest challenge?

There are two big challenges that stick out –
Last summer we had a significant labour shortage, we were not on our own on that with most manufacturing companies in Ireland having had the same problem. It was fuelled partly by Brexit and partly by the bounce in the economy once the restrictions of the pandemic began to be lifted.

Second biggest one is an ongoing issue - good shortages and price increases. Lots of goods come out of China, who had switched a lot of its focus to Covid PPE, and they haven’t really caught up since then. This has caused a shortage of supply which drives prices up and we are still fighting that.

How did you overcome these challenges?

In terms of labour shortages, we have moved our wage rates, changed our bonus structure, and hired a recruiter. We’ve also looked at wider agency staff from different firms to make it all work, but it’s an ongoing problem that we will continue to try and deal with as best we can.

In terms of the price increases we are limited in what we can do but we have a great procurement team who try and fight against rising prices. However, you need to be very careful with certain products, because if you fight too hard negotiating price then you can drop down someone’s priority list and may not get the goods that you need to fulfil sales orders.

What are your values as a company leader?

Being a leader is more about managing people than managing processes. You need to know when to be firm with people but ensure that you are always fair. You must know and understand personality characteristics and adjust how you deal with individuals to get the best out of them. I think you also need to be transparent, honest and possess great communication skills. Being the most intelligent in the room does not make you the best leader, you need to have the appropriate skills to effectively translate your thoughts and ideas across to your team.

Camden is a large company and you do have to balance a wide variety of competing departments and interests, which is something that I have found challenging. You can’t give everything to everyone at once and with so many different departments all in need of a certain level of attention or resources, you must prioritise and budget effectively. Leadership has a price; you are never going to please everyone and you’re not always going to be liked and I think a good leader needs to square that in their own head.

How do you ensure that your values are upheld by Camden employees?

It’s very difficult, your initial reaction is probably to lead by example, show that you are one of the team and demonstrate the values that you set out and expect people to adhere to. There is also a balance of knowing when to get involved and when to get off the pitch. I want my colleagues to learn and develop independently so that they can execute their job to the best of their ability and feel a sense of accomplishment. If you are in their way micromanaging them all the time, then they won’t learn how to use their skills effectively to carry out their role. I encourage staff to ask for support if they need it, so I will know when to get involved and when to stay out of the way.

What do you think of Camden’s company culture, and do you plan to implement any changes?

Camden culture is typical of many NI manufacturing business, it’s fast paced, it’s tough and its high energy. At Camden there is very little downtime, staff work very hard throughout their shift. High energy is required because we have short turnaround times and high customer expectations. You will find that is how most manufacturing businesses operate.

The culture can be tough, but it is one many staff enjoy and adapt to. The number of long-term staff Camden have retained is testament to this. There are several people who have been here 20 years plus and continue to want to stay here. I am conscious that there are some people who don’t fit in with our culture and who do not want to progress their career at Camden and that’s fine. I would like everyone who starts here to stay, but that’s not possible as it is highly unlikely that how we operate will suit everyone. However, we will continue to try and work with our staff to improve company culture in whatever capacity we can.

In the past year we have introduced a charity partner and staff benefit scheme with the hope of improving work satisfaction and mood. We officially partnered with mental health charity ‘AWARE NI’ last summer and have been involved with some fantastic fundraising events such as boat races and raffles. I am looking forward to joining the team in our upcoming sponsored sunset hike up Cave Hill. These types of events are excellent for team bonding and have a real ‘feel good factor’ that comes from raising money for an excellent cause.

In February 2022 we introduced MediCash, a medical cash plan for all staff that have been here 6 months plus. This staff benefit allows Camden employees to save money on medical and dental bills. There are also savings available on shopping and entertainment, every little helps! I’d encourage all staff to frequently scroll through the app to see what is on offer.

What are your plans for Camden?

I want to continue to grow the business in a sustainable fashion, with an aim of increasing the efficiency of our processes and systems. I plan to progress with our research and development as we continue to update and expand Camden’s product range. I want to increase efforts into market research and have open conversations with our customers to ensure we are meeting their needs.

We pride ourselves on being an environmentally conscious business with impressive recycling facilities and Carbon Trust CO2 Measured Label to back this up. I think Camden have ticked a massive box in terms of green strategy, but we need to make sure that continues and try and implement that green ethos into other areas of the business. It’s not always achievable, but if we can, we should and we are open to suggestions from both our employees and customers regarding this topic.

We also pride ourselves on being a large-scale employer in the local community. Recent data would suggest that 90% of our workforce come from the Antrim and Ballymena area. I am proud of that, and I would like that to continue. I would also like to be more involved with our surrounding community and help with local projects and charities. With improved corporate social responsibility my hope is that Camden will remain a well-known company with a great reputation in the local community.

  • Competitive Turnaround

  • 5 Trade Centres

  • 15 Year Guarantee

  • Trading Since 1983

  • 80% Recycled