It takes a particular type of CEO to embrace the responsibility of running a 90-year-old family business that employs 600 people. But that is exactly what Mark Gasan did when the Gasan Group Board appointed him CEO of Gasan Group in 2014 and he took over the reins. Today it is a role he absolutely relishes.
“I am so proud to, this year, be celebrating 90 years of entrepreneurship at Gasan,” Mark says. “My grandfather’s first major milestone in business was the signing of the Ford concessionaire agreement with Henry Ford on 8 October 1928. As a family we continued to grow the business ever since.”
Mark explains that, throughout his grandfather’s career, he focused very much on the automotive sector, before diversifying a little into property. His father then took over when he was just 16 (when his father retired at 76), and he sustained the legacy whilst also expanding it to encompass insurance, building services and solutions, real estate and of course, automotive.
And, while Mark was always interested in the business, he didn’t automatically choose a route towards it. He graduated from Leeds University and took a gap year to study history of art before then dabbling in the company at the time when it was developing the Embassy Complex in Valletta. “I got involved in the Embassy project and started leasing out the shops, and really enjoyed it. It was then that I decided I wanted to get more involved, and quickly went into the real estate side of the Group before, slowly, getting involved across the board.”
“In 2014 at the age of 64, my father decided he wanted to take a back seat and implement a succession plan. I know it wasn’t an easy decision for him – especially after 40 years of waking up every morning to take very big business decisions – so his trust and confidence in me has been quite overwhelming. We have worked very closely together over the last 11 years and, in the end, it felt like a natural decision for both of us.”
Today, under Mark’s leadership, the Gasan Group has four main operating pillars – Gasan Zammit Motors in the automotive and marine sectors, Mekanika for building services and solutions, Gasan Mamo insurance, and a sizeable real estate portfolio.
“Our focus is definitely those four areas and their organic growth,” Mark continues. “I take the responsibility of running a Group of this size, which supports 600 families, very seriously. It is that which gives me the fuel to succeed and the vision to make that growth sustainable.”
When it comes to his approach to being a CEO, Mark likes to ‘lead by doing’. “I am very hands-on and hope I am approachable,” he continues. “I am resolute about my open-door policy; I am in constant contact with my team and, together, we tackle issues as soon as they crop up. My favourite part of the day is probably the time I spend walking the floor first thing in the morning. It is then that I can really catch up with everyone and get a feel of how operations are going at every level.”
Mark is driven by the desire to turn the Group’s strategy into reality; by putting something on the drawing board and making it happen successfully. “As an organisation, I think our biggest challenge is remaining focused; we must never lose sight of our long-term strategy. Of course there is a limit to how much we can grow whilst still being sustainable, but that is our constant goal.”
And with that in mind, Mark explains that he handles the stress and challenges of being CEO of such a mammoth organisation by constantly learning and innovating. “I am always educating myself,” he says. “Whether that’s attending events, conferences or reading, I like to be in- the-know about the latest way of doing things. I am also firm about my work-life balance, and manage time carefully between work, my family and our social life. I think the key is to always know your priorities, and to stay firm on principles and ethics. If you are resolute about that then everything else will fall into place.”
Now, with the 90th anniversary upon him, Mark is very much focused on the coming 10 years – and beyond. “The next major milestone will be our centenary, which is very exciting, and I hope to keep the whole team motivated as we work towards that date,” he says.
“I guess my own personal challenge is to ensure that as many of our four pillars as possible do fantastically well at the same time, as invariably there is always one that lags behind the success of the others for a while. That said, I think that, in general, 2019 will see the economy continue to grow and flourish, thus providing the right environment for businesses to thrive.”
As for where he would like to be in five years’ time, Mark smiles: “Less hands-on,” he says. “I would like to have empowered my team to be the best they can be, and to be working on an organic succession plan. In business, succession is so important. You never know what’s going to happen and the last thing you want is to leave a hole behind you."
“So, succession is as important to me as strategy, and I am currently marrying the two as we move forward with all the exciting projects that we have planned. It is my pleasure to keep crafting the business built by my father and grandfather. I plan to create something future-proof for my generation and the generations to come.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.