CEO Q&A: John Roche, Ion Solutions

Business, Interviews, Ireland | Wed 14 Mar | Author – Business & Finance
john-roche-ion-solutions
John Roche, Ion Solutions

John Roche, Ion Solutions, speaks of the changing communications industry and merging two successful companies into one organisation.


Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

Ion Solutions was formed on 1 January, 2018 by merging sister companies Eurotek Ireland and Avtek Solutions, so our main focus at the moment is to continue enhancing the services we provide to our clients and ensuring they see and feel the benefits of the merger. It’s also important to us that we continue operating a great working environment for our team, who have been extremely supportive of the recent changes in the business. Over the next 18 months, we plan to engage in strategic growth through a combination of organic development, acquisitions and entry to a number of new markets.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Ion Solutions supplies and installs audio-visual, broadcast television and digital video communications equipment, as well as delivering creative and technical services to indoor and outdoor live events, conferences and exhibitions. We operate in a fast-changing technical environment and it’s crucial that we are flexible enough to respond to the needs of our clients. We celebrated 50 years in business in 2017 and I think that demonstrates that we have what it takes. In many ways, the main challenge we face is to constantly ensure we continually provide the best service possible, continue to stay ahead of the game and make sure our company strategy reflects this.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

A satisfied and motivated team is crucial to our business – we’re a front-facing business and customer service is a vital part of the service we provide. For this reason, we focus significantly on our teams’ needs and ensuring they are happy in their work. 

Each member of the team undertakes extensive training when they join Ion Solutions, meaning when they are working on-site and dealing with clients or the public, we’re confident in their ability to handle any situation.

The work we do is very collaborative and team work is key to our success. We always encourage people to use their own initiative, particularly when they’re on-site and solutions need to be found in a timely and efficient manner. We’re also very supportive of those who want to progress their careers within the company.

Ion Solutions is a multi-generational company. We have some staff members reaching retirement age while others are just out of college, so we ensure we take time to understand the needs of the new working generations such as Generation Z, the first generation of ‘digital natives’.

Q. What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

Like all businesses in Ireland, we’re concerned about Brexit. We work with clients across Ireland and the United Kingdom so the fluctuating value of sterling needs to be watched closely, as is any contraction in the economy brought on by companies tightening their belts in preparation of a potential economic downturn.

The exponential rate at which technology is advancing is something we’re always conscious of. We spend a lot of time, money and effort ensuring that we are at the forefront of technological progress and attending international conferences and exhibitions. We need to continually safeguard our business to make sure we’re ahead of the game. We have a selection of multinational clients and we have to ensure that the services we provide are at the cutting edge of technology at all times.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

There are lots of exciting developments at the moment, particularly around collaborative virtual workspaces, cloud-based services and facilities, and developments in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Companies are changing their work practices to reflect the changes technology are having on the working environment. For some companies, this means investing in products such as StarLeaf, to assist with multi-site video conferencing. For others, who have decided to take their meeting technology to the next level, there are more extensive options such as Bluescape. We recently held a showcase in the RDS, called ‘Activate’, to highlight these technologies and we got a great response from clients. It’s crucial for us to be at the cutting edge of these advances so we are in a position to provide the best services possible to our clients.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

We’d like to see better standards across the entire audio-visual communications industry along with improved training and education for those wishing to enter the industry. Many of our team are highly qualified engineers and technicians who want to continually progress their careers with clear training paths.

We’d also like to see procurement procedures evolve in such a way that they encourage customer service and innovation.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

We have noticed a skills gap in the multimedia area, particularly in terms of both technical and creative skills and we are currently engaged with a number of education establishments to help them address these gaps. 

We appreciate the role that third-level colleges have in preparing students for work in the AV industry and to complement this, we have strengthened our work placement scheme and plan to establish our own internal training academy for 2018 to help address any shortcomings.

Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

The banking crisis and the economic recession which followed presented challenges. We had been in business for over 40 years at that point so, of course, we had experienced difficult times before. As a result, we were conscious of the need to periodically reinvest in the business despite the challenging market. Our strong ongoing partnership with our bank was also an advantage. We also sought and found new opportunities for outsourced and other models that worked for us and our clients.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Initially the shock of the referendum result caused a slowdown in the market, with clients stalling decisions. This has become less apparent in recent times and we have strived to proactively put steps in place to deal with all eventualities.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

To me, success is defined as longevity in business, strong ongoing partnerships with clients, a high level of customer and employee satisfaction and extremely robust social responsibility and governance. Our aim is to be the best in the business, providing our clients with first-class equipment and technology backed up by top-class customer service.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Listening is crucial in building a business. You have to listen to customers in order to give them the best possible customer service. It is also important to listen to your team as they are, after all, the people who understand every aspect of the business. Also treat people as you would like and expect to be treated.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

We held a town-hall meeting for our team in autumn 2017 to explain more about the merger of Eurotek Ireland and Avtek Solutions and the formation of Ion Solutions. We received fantastic feedback from people about the event and we were blown away by the team’s positivity and their willingness to embrace change.

Q. What’s next for the company?

We will continue to support our valued clients, offering them new and increased services. We’re also aiming to continue our growth organically and through acquisitions, while also looking at new markets.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?

We see significant opportunities ahead for 2018 across the full spectrum of services we provide including managed services, audio-visual installations, broadcast TV and live events.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Our aim is for the Ion Solutions brand to be firmly established as a recognised identity.

Listening is crucial in building a business. You have to listen to customers in order to give them the best possible customer service.

Ion Solutions is the new name for Eurotek Ireland and Avtek Solutions. Bringing together the best of both companies, Ion Solutions is setting new standards in the delivery and management of visual communications solutions across the entire business spectrum:

Live Events: Delivering high-end AV equipment, creative input and specialist technical support for conferences and live events in Ireland and abroad.

Systems Integration: Designing, supplying, installing and managing broadcast television, AV systems, digital signage and content creation technology.

Managed Services: The provision of expertise and manpower, both on-demand and under contract, to manage, maintain, and operate clients’ facilities and systems.