“Acknowledge effort but reward results” – CEO Q&A with Chris Mee of EHS International

By Business & Finance
19 June 2024

Chris Mee is the CEO and Founder of EHS International, the fastest-growing single-source environmental, health and safety provider in Ireland. EHS International offers a comprehensive suite of services such as safety management, process safety engineering, industrial hygiene, and advanced safety training technologies.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

To achieve a successful launch year. My new company EHS International was launched in October 2023 and already we have reached a milestone of 100 team members, hitting our target several months ahead of forecast.

I also want to position EHS International as the foremost provider of environmental, health and safety (EHS) solutions; both in Ireland and internationally. I am dedicated to ensuring our clients receive unparalleled services, saving them valuable time and resources while achieving optimal results.

EHS International came about because I saw a gap in the market. I established the Chris Mee Group (CMG) in 1996, a specialist safety consultancy firm, which I sold in 2021. Being an entrepreneur, I couldn’t rest on my laurels, I wanted a new challenge. Drawing upon three decades of frontline experience in the EHS sector, my decision to establish EHS International was driven by the recognition that companies need more than a variety of suppliers — they require a comprehensive, single-source EHS service provider.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

My first, and possibly biggest challenge to date, was assembling a great leadership team. It’s been hard work, but we really have the best in the business working for EHS International. This team of EHS and management specialists delivers the best possible services to our clients.

We also needed to create a strong pipeline of talent to ensure the continuity of our services into the future. We do this by nurturing young talented graduates in our in-house graduate programmes.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Motivating the team is an essential part of success in any company. I want to cultivate a culture of inclusion, collaboration, recognition, and professional development. By providing growth opportunities, acknowledging achievements, and fostering open communication, we create an environment where every team member feels valued and motivated to contribute their best.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

The EHS sector has grappled for decades with the mistaken perception that safety is an unnecessary cost. The truth is that a lack of safety management can cost lives, and much more. There is much evidence to support the latter fact. Despite the increased awareness of the benefits of good safety management it is still accurate to say that many senior managers/owners still have this mistaken perception.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

We are seeing a growing interest in single-source service providers. In addition, we see technology- driven solutions, a heightened awareness of sustainability, and a demand for holistic EHS services. Therefore, key trends include integrating digital innovations, fostering sustainability practices, and providing comprehensive solutions that shape the industry.

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

Consolidation is the major change that is needed in the EHS sector. Acquisitions and strengthening partnerships are the first steps. We would also see the insurance industry being a big driving force to drive improvements in occupational and environmental safety performance. Promoting industry-wide initiatives can enhance our collective ability to address global environmental and safety challenges.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

In our industry, the demand for specialised skills is pronounced, and EHS International is very attuned to such skills gaps. The environmental, health, and safety professional requires a broad range of competencies, and finding professionals who meet these criteria can be challenging.  To bridge these gaps, we have initiated several initiatives. Firstly we are undergoing a wide-ranging recruitment drive in Ireland and abroad. Secondly, we are setting up comprehensive graduate programmes and in this respect, we are currently seeking suitable graduates in EHS and related management areas.  Thirdly we are using technology to increase our scalability and reach.

How has Brexit affected you?

Brexit has introduced a layer of complexity and opportunity to our operations.  Our approach to adaptability and strategic planning has enabled us to navigate these challenges effectively. Maintaining agility, staying well-informed about regulatory developments, and fostering open communication with clients and stakeholders are integral components of our strategy. By doing so, we aim to mitigate the impact of Brexit on our operations and continue providing top-tier health, safety, and environmental solutions.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

The heightened awareness of health and safety measures has led to an increased and welcome emphasis on workplace safety. In addition, the digital transformation has accelerated, with EHS professionals’ adoption of technology for remote monitoring and virtual inspections. Remote working challenges have necessitated innovative solutions like virtual audits.

Mental health and well-being are now key considerations, and EHS professionals play a crucial role in addressing these aspects. Also, training programmes are essential to inform employees about new safety protocols.

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

Success, for me, is achieving our vision and goals. Our vision is to improve worker safety, business safety and safety in the environment. Our drive to succeed comes from our wish to make a positive impact in the EHS sector and exceed the expectations of our clients.

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

Two pieces of wisdom I have embraced are “It is important to acknowledge effort but to reward results” and “Persistence is important for success…. we always come up with challenges…. don’t give up.”

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

The launch of EHS International stands as a pivotal achievement. With a €5 million investment, we have established operations, currently boasting a team of over 100. Our robust senior team, strategic alliances, and ongoing recruitment drive underscore our commitment to excellence and growth.

What’s next for your company?

In the coming year, we aim to solidify our position as the fastest-growing EHS provider, nationally and internationally. Led by William Hogan, our acquisitions division is pivotal, committed to several strategic acquisitions and expanding our team.

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

Our vision is for EHS International to be a recognised trailblazer in the EHS industry, expanding our reach, diversifying services, and positively influencing global environmental, health, and safety standards. We want to lead by example, setting new benchmarks and earning the trust of our clients while contributing to a safer and more sustainable world.

What advice would you have to others starting out in business?

The first thing is to have a vision and a plan to get there. The second is to surround yourself with excellent people who share the same vision and are experts in their respective areas. Besides that of course, having adequate resources and financing is essential.

What is the best, non-business, book you’ve ever read?

Life on a Famine Ship. This book is a journal of the Irish famine and is a powerful reminder of our past. As an Irish person, I think it is essential to know and to remember our past. There is also a lesson for life and for business in this book. The Roman philosopher Cicero once wisely stated that to be ignorant of what occurred before we were born is to remain always a child.  The lesson here is to keep learning from our past and be open to continuous learning and self-improvement.

Another book that has a special place in my heart is Thirty-Two Irish Words for a Field by Manchán Magan. Besides being a cherished gift from my three beautiful daughters; the content is another example, if one was needed, of the richness of the Irish language, unparalleled in many other languages.

What is your favourite hobby?

Simple exercise — I make a point of doing some kind of exercise every day, whether it’s something simple like walking, or something more strenuous like cycling or the gym.

What is your mantra for life?

“Respect everyone and leave a positive impact wherever you go.”


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