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TSM growing into a second generation of leadership

By: Jim Johnson

April 23, 2014

This is a time of change at TSM Control Systems as one generation gives way to another.

As father and founder helps prepare sons to fully take over the family business.

As new ideas, new energy and new management take hold.

But this also is a time of great growth for the Dundalk, Ireland-based company that makes blending and control systems sold around the world, a company that has created a name for itself since 1977 by building reliable machinery but knows it can do better on marketing and customer relations.

Jim O’Callaghan started TSM in 1977 before his sons were even born.

Shane O’Callaghan and Richard O’Callaghan, the second generation, remember discussing the family business around the dinner table while growing up as children. But those boys are now men with an appetite to take the company to new heights.

Jim O’Callaghan says there’s the “harsh reality” that the company he founded 37 years ago needs to move beyond the founder’s vision and control.

“They are both a lot younger than I am. And they have new ideas. New energy if you like. And much greater ambitions,” he said.

The senior O’Callaghan, who describes himself as a “techie, fundamentally,” has stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the family business as General Manager Richard O’Callaghan and European Sales Manager Shane O’Callaghan put their stamp on TSM.

Theirs, admittedly, is a wider view.

There was a time when TSM was satisfied with making reliable machines that would run year after year after year, with little need to check in with customers after the purchase was made. With more than 10,000 installations in 60 countries, the company’s technology and reliability have been codified. Business has been successful and solid.

But now, with the changing of the guard, TSM views itself differently. Dependability is still a cornerstone of the company, but TSM is placing much more emphasis on marketing, customer relations and exploitation of the firm’s patented technology to increase sales.

That new approach was on display at last year’s K Show in Düsseldorf, Germany, where the company introduced its new blending technology — both batch blending and continuous blending — as well as a new logo.

The K Show happens only once every three years, gathering plastics people from all over the world to Düsseldorf. A lot can happen between these triennial shows, and that certainly was the case for TSM.

Sales grew by more than 50 percent during the three years leading up the show as a management transition took taken place. Along with the O’Callaghan brothers stepping up, TSM hired in a new management team to help support the new vision.

“In terms of the succession part, we don’t make any secret of it. A very challenging journey. We’ve been very disciplined about it. There’s a lot of planning that’s gone into it. It’s very challenging for the rest of the organization as well, for the people in seeing their natural leader as it was changing over to the next generation. and the transfer of trust and responsibility,” Richard O’Callaghan said.

With so many suppliers out there fighting for business, TSM sees its future as not only an equipment maker but also a partner with its customers, he said.

“It’s too easy to supply a piece of equipment that sits there and someone forgets about the customer. Now we have to differentiate ourselves best with better service and be more engaged with our customer base,” Shane O’Callaghan said.

Along with manufacturing in Ireland, the company now has regional offices in Alpharetta, Ga., Taichung City, Taiwan, and Guangzhou, China, to provide a better support network for those folks.

“It’s a family business. We’re going to maintain that element to it, but take the family business and change it into this corporate structure, a scalable enterprise, a crack management structure,” Richard O’Callaghan said.

“We are getting to know our customers more and more and that means it’s a true partnership with them,” Shane O’Callaghan said.

“The family values are still there. We know our sales partners intimately. We’re getting to know our customers more and more. That means it’s a true partnership with them,” he said.

A large part of Richard O’Callaghan’s job, during the past couple of years, has been putting together the senior management team to help lead the change.

 “I suppose it’s an element of just wanting to take and grab and run with it. Create something really big. We’re in a great place as a company. We’ve got an atmosphere of change. The culture is changing with the business,” he said.

Declan Byrne was brought in to lead TSM global sales and business development, and he knows how to talk up the business. That’s for sure.

“The company is very much in a growth phase. We have expanded our office network. We have increased the people in those offices. We even have introduced our new branding,” he said. “The energy now that is behind the company is tremendous.”

“We’re positioned for tremendous success,” he said. “What I see is energy. If you have energy in any business, you have a lot going for you.”