November 2010 - Issue 135
“We have weathered the storm economically-speaking; it’s now time to capitalise on the foundations...”
General Manager, James Thomas Engineering
Date & place of birth:
December 15 1974; Fladbury, Worcestershire, UK
Your first job after full-time education?
After my GCSEs, I attended sixth form doing A-Levels in Economics, I.T. and Graphical Communication, and the combination of the last two led me towards James Thomas. I used to work there in the school holidays drilling PAR cans by the thousands!
Post sixth form, I continued to work there just to save money before deciding what to do next. A position came up in the drawing office and I pestered the boss until they gave me a shot at it!
You obviously saw a bright future for James Thomas Engineering?
JTE was famous locally as everyone knew they made lights for Top Of The Pops — big news in Pershore! So, yes, I desperately wanted to go somewhere within the company.
What were the highlights of your 10-year career with the company?
So many... it’s too difficult to highlight them all. I guess the first major project I managed was a significant one in my memory. It involved a roof system in Korea! Having to travel there to put the system up, for the first time, at age 21 was quite a big deal to me then!
But returning to the company I really grew up with has to be the best moment for me. Now that James Thomas has the PixelRange brand that has a different customer base but still the same ethos of quality and innovation, and to return now being general manager is not only an achievement but an honour. Heading the company into the next decade with such exciting new products, like our new PixelSmart fixture, JTE’s Xtruss, working alongside the industry’s finest in Andi Watson, it gets no better.
What then inspired you to start your own company?
I simply felt I would never really test myself until I tried working for myself. And at that time there was nowhere for me to ascend in JTE.
You must have seen a gap in the market...
Yes I did, it was to import Xenon Lamps for a then unknown U.S. manufacturer, since bought by Philips. I had exclusive distribution and thought it too good to miss.
What led you to go back to working for someone else and joining MA Lighting?
MA was too good an opportunity to miss; a fantastic company with a great heritage not dissimilar to JTE, and I could return to the industry I love.
And I believe a chance meeting at the TPi Awards changed the direction of your career once again?
It did. I bumped into my old mentor and friend John Hickinbotham from JTE and he said they needed some fresh direction.
What have you brought to the table since re-joining James Thomas Engineering?
One word: experience! In the short time [five years] since I moved on from JTE, I had experienced so much in and out of the industry, I knew I had far more to offer now than then.
What is the current focus for both PixelRange and JTE?
The same as everyone else — success! We have exciting new products coming through from both areas of the company: X-Truss and PixelSmart being the first of these. It is important to maintain the strength of the brand names for the coming years and these products really invigorate their respective brands. We have weathered the storm, economically-speaking; it’s now time to capitalise on the foundations I have laid over the last year.
And for the future?
At this stage we are concentrating on delivering these new products to market. These will spawn a new generation of exciting products. In my mind the most important thing any company can do is listen to end users, which is why I have been working closely with a certain Andi Watson. Lighting designers know far more than me what they want to use!
What occupies your free time?
Since the birth of the Blackberry my life has little free time! But I still find time to concentrate on my other passions: keeping in shape and also kickboxing. My ultimate goal was to achieve a shot at a British kickboxing title but with work, and spending time with my wife and daughter, I do not get to put as much time into it as I would like. But at least I rarely get black eyes as a result!
Your desert island disc?
Radiohead’s The Bends.
What was the first gig you attended?
Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1988!
What would be your advice to a teenage Paul Young?
Never be afraid to take risks. You will achieve nothing without taking