Business Leaders Lessons: with Cathal McMullan, Kane Group 

In this special series, we’re meeting leading voices from organisations across Northern Ireland for their advice and insights into business success.

We recently caught up with Cathal McMullan, Managing Director at Kane Group, a family-run building services firm with headquarters in Banbridge. Cathal delves into the core values that can help drive business growth. 

“I began working at Kane Group with my brothers over twenty years ago after finishing my law exams in Swansea. During this time, I’ve had the privilege of watching Kane Group constantly grow, expand, and take the construction industry by storm. Being Managing Director is a wide and varied role, which involves overseeing all aspects of the entire business".
1.) Get experience from the bottom up

Kane Group is a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) design and building contractor. Our head office is based in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, however, we have a strong presence across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Only recently we opened our new Birmingham office.

After qualifying to become a solicitor in 2003, I started the business with my brothers at Kane Group. However, it didn’t come easy, and I worked my way up through the ranks and across divisions including roles in office management, sales, finance data and HR. This varied experience has been incredibly valuable and is a great way to learn a business from the inside out. This has allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of both the opportunities and issues within the business.

2.) Embrace challenges  

Of course, the recent pandemic was a challenge for everyone, but for us, the aftermath has been even more so. Within our sector, there have been massive inflationary spikes on materials, the highest level that our industry has ever seen. At this moment in time, one of our biggest areas of revenue is from the residential market, however, construction within the UK has slowed.  

From as early as I can remember, my parents instilled a strong work ethic into my brothers and I and this is something we bring to our team. A strong work ethic and resilience goes hand in hand, so when a challenge like this occurs, a good leader will almost find enjoyment in adversity.

As a team we are trying to better ourselves and our service delivery to face this issue head on. We are constantly looking to diversify and one of the great things about adversity is that it inspires innovation. We as leaders challenge ourselves to learn transferrable skill sets and evolve our services, helping our clients stay ahead of the curve.  

3.) Setting core values

We have a number of core values within the business, one of which is a big focus on teamwork and mutual respect. We work across the UK and Ireland with a diverse workforce, so these values form the bedrock of the business which then feed into our collective work ethic.

Quality is another core part of our business offering, and we are always focused on producing quality in whatever we are doing. The high standard of our work internally translates to the overall output of the business for our customers. This approach has helped build and cement our reputation over the past twenty years, with new and existing clients and helped us evolve in this ever-changing industry.  

As a leader, setting core values that reflect your business’s ambition is essential to inspiring a team that wants to join you on your growth journey.

4.) Respectful partnerships

Successfully working together in a family business boils down to fostering strong professional relationships, just as you would in any other company. Every family has its own dynamic, but it’s massively important to respect each other as colleagues otherwise it can be easy to fall into family discussions. Now the company has expanded, our interests have grown and expanded with it. I would encourage anyone thinking about starting a family business or joining a family business to make trust and respect synonymous with how you build working partnerships.  

5.) Take criticism

There are many great benefits when working in a family run company, especially when it’s your family! When the business was smaller, we always said no matter how big the challenge was, there was at least five of us (myself and my four brothers) to put our heads together to overcome it. The family aspect is great for delivering unique feedback. There’s no agenda with us and you will always hear and give out honest feedback and frank criticism.

Another huge benefit for why family businesses can work so well is that you should have a great understanding of each other and what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are. This should lead to honest discussions on who’s best to fill each role to make the business as successful as possible, and that is exactly at the heart of why we do it.

At Kane Group, innovation, efficiency, and sustainability is the core of what we do. We work hand in hand with clients and are proud to deliver impactful residential, hospitality, education, commercial, and healthcare projects.