Sparks Electrical News

National Sales Manager for Aberdare Cables, Kern O’Reilly, has spent 21 years in the industry, gaining experience across many roles in the company. With a passion for interacting with and developing people, his experience and positive outlook are key to the company in today’s competitive electrical cables industry.

Personality of the Month Kern OReillySparks: Where were you educated?

KO: At the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), where I received a PMD Diploma.

Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry?

KO: For 21 years.

Sparks: When and where did you start your career?

KO: I started my career at S.A. PVC Cables in Jeppestown, Johannesburg.

Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?

KO: An increase in the number of players in the electrical cables industry.

Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?

KO: I have been in many roles in our company, namely Tenders Manager, Product Manager for M.V. Cables, Key Accounts Manager Mining Sector, Group Contracts Manger and finally National Sales Manager. In each of these roles I have been fortunate enough to be involved in many projects from which I have gained invaluable experience. These projects included the cable supply to the 2010 World Cup stadiums, Round 1 to 3 Renewable Energy projects, the Atlantis/Mossel Buy Gas Turbine Power Plant projects with Siemens and the Husab Uranium project in Namibia.

Sparks: Have you won any awards?

KO: In 2010 in my role as Key Account Manager for the Mining Sector, Aberdare was awarded a supplier award by the Anglo American Group presented in London. Anglo sent a communication which indicated that the customer relationship management from Aberdare was exceptional.

Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?

KO: Aberdare Cables prides itself in implementing mentorship programmes. I have had a few mentors in my career. One who particularly comes to mind is our former Sales Director, Chris Nichol. Much in the same vein as my career, Chris started out in the Formal Tender/Contracts division of Aberdare. Chris taught me that sales is about managing people; not only the people reporting directly to you, but your colleagues as well as customers.

Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?

KO: The competitiveness of the electrical cables market due to the excess capacity versus local demand. Added to this is the influx of cheap imports. With the assistance of the DTI, South African manufacturers need to expand into Africa and compete with suppliers from China, India, Turkey and the like.

Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?

KO: Interacting with people. Whether it is with colleagues or customers, business is all about relationships.

Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?

KO: I always tell my staff that the only person responsible for their careers and development is themselves. I enjoy developing people and mentoring, as I was mentored in my career. However, you can only develop a person who wants to learn and grow. I have been fortunate to assist and develop a few staff members over time who were junior sales people and are now managers in the company.

Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything?

KO: It is natural to look back and think of things that you could have done better. However, making mistakes is the best way to learn. Without my past failures I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry?

KO: It is difficult to attract the younger generation to the electrical field as it is not seen as a ‘sexy’ or ‘fun’ sector in comparison to other fields out there. It is, however, a very important industry which affects our daily lives. There is huge potential in this sector, especially in Africa.

Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors and electrical engineers?

KO: There is a symbiotic relationship between manufacturing and contractors. Innovation will therefore come about by a closer, more direct relationship between these two parties. In a highly competitive market, innovation is more important than unit costs.

Sparks: What is your favourite quote?

KO: Business is simple, people complicate it.

Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’?

KO: I would like to visit Honolulu, Hawaii; go on a gondola boat ride in Venice with my wife; and drive a sports car around ‘The Green Hell’, the Nürburgring track in Germany.

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