The ones, who avidly exhibit their endeavour of struggle and of valuable experiences, are leaders. The ones, who nurture the seeds of opportunities and provide an equal share of its fruits, to all those who’ve ploughed through thick and thin with unwavering efforts, are leaders. The ones, who comprehend the virtue of leadership, in its entirety, by pushing open, the muffling doors of their comfort zone and thus, setting upon the path to greatness, are leaders. One such leader is being brought into limelight in this edition of The 30 Powerful Leaders in Business. With an aim to project a noteworthy impact across his extensive portfolio of companies and to share what he has learned in life, this is Paul Luen, the CEO and Owner of Martek Group and Coptrz.
Paul’s unparalleled business acumen can be dated back to his first venture, at the age of nine, when he used to sell blackberries to shoppers entering the local supermarket. At the age of fourteen, Paul got a significant lesson about personal financial responsibility when he crashed his bike into a parked car and his parents took his wages for 30 weeks to pay for the repairs. These experiences were the foundation of Paul’s entrepreneurial journey.
Leading a Revolution
In February 2000, Paul founded Martek Marine, his first start-up venture, which was formed with £6,000 capital, supplying safety systems to commercial ships. In 2010, he founded Martek Lifecare to help reduce unnecessary deaths from sudden cardiac arrests. In 2013, he founded Lucava, named after his kids Luca and Ava to build and manage his property portfolio. In 2016 Coptrz.com was founded to help change the world using commercial drones. In 2017 Martek Aviation was founded to pioneer maritime application of drone services. In 2018 Lucava Developments was founded to rethink housing delivery using innovative modular construction techniques.
Talking about Lucava Development, Paul says that with high demand set against a dwindling supply, industry experts agree the market is calling for new, more radical building practices. This is where modular building comes in as a solution to the housing crisis in the UK. Lucava Developments delivers top quality and highly efficient affordable housing to housing associations, local authorities and buyers/renters, faster than anyone else, using modern methods of construction (MMC), whilst delivering secure and compelling returns for investors. By embracing the Government’s ‘Building for Life 12’ standard, Lucava creates places and communities with character that people love to live in.
Commenting upon the challenges he faced during his path to success, Paul expresses, “In 1999, I won a huge contract worth twice their turnover and bizarrely, this was to be the beginning of my end. Within 12 months, I was constructively dismissed, and I had to personally petition the high court in London, with no legal advisor as I couldn’t afford one, for redemption of my shares. It was a harrowing time which taught me many lessons that I’m grateful for to this day.”
During the initial phase of his first start-up venture, Martek Marine, Paul took no salary for 6 months and rented out a room in his house. He and his team quickly delivered 2 market leading products and world firsts, winning two Queen’s Awards for enterprise averaging 126% growth in the first five years. Meeting the Queen at Buckingham palace and visiting Richard Branson’s house were early highlights of his career.
Later, in December 2008, Paul saw the shipping industry indices plummet and it was clear the recession would be devastating on the company. On 4th January 2009, he released 25% of the staff, imposed a 4-day week and started a process to systematically re-invent the business. This was an epiphany moment for Paul and he realised he’d gotten complacent and had no real long-term strategy. “I was not the leader I thought I was and was grossly under-invested in my own and my team’s professional development. On reflection, I’m so grateful for the lessons that the global financial crisis taught me,” states Paul.
The subsequent years for him as well as the company, were focused on attracting and developing great people to build amazing cultures, whilst pursuing disruptive innovation in business models and new product development. When asked upon what his approach was, towards this achievement, Paul comments, “I take one step backward and two steps forward. I make sure that I have a clear roadmap towards my goals and that I am doing something each day to achieve it.”
At work, Paul is a straightforward, challenging, and supportive leader, committed to serving people to fulfill their potential. “Wasted talent, mediocrity and negativity annoy me,” states Paul. Throughout the years he’s invested more than £1million in continuous professional development (CPD), accessing some of the best courses, coaches and mentors around, reading hundreds of books. Paul makes sure that his team also uses CPD to improve their skills. Whenever there is bad news to deliver to his team, he does everything he could to deliver it to them personally, and not in a method that makes the communication one way. “This way I can empathize, answer tough questions or even take responsibility if I have to,” Paul expresses.
Paul’s business start-ups have so far generated revenues well in excess of £100million and have sold to more than 3000 customers across more than 100 countries. “I’ve travelled the world, seen and experienced things I could never have dreamed of; worked and played very hard which I continue to do every day. At heart, I’m a working-class boy from Hull who has dared to be different, taken a few risks and worked my hind off to get where I am,” states Paul.