June 19, 2023
By Line Goyette
Charlie Harte was appointed president and CEO of LEDVANCE Canada in February 2020.“We all know what happened on March 19 of 2020! That day, I walked out of the office, there was a half of my team I had never met yet, I was unfamiliar with my customer base and we did not know what COVID was. Not being a huge fan of Teams calls; I realized I could give the team the opportunity to lead.
So, I had people from within the team to do things they were not used to doing, but they did it, I watched people at a crossroads, pick up their phones and meet people outside. I tried to be an example, and we did things differently. I gave the team an opportunity to lead themselves in that period. ¨
A situation that might have put some people off, but for Charlie it was an interesting challenge to take up. This was not his first plunge into the unknown and the unexpected. From Northern Ireland, Charlie Harte arrived in Canada with a few dollars in his pocket, a university degree in accounting and the certainty that he would not follow the family path in his professional life.
“During university, I did an internship with a large company. My placement lasted six weeks, but right from the start I knew I was not going to have a career there. I realized very quickly that life in an office, compiling figures and slowly working my way up to management, was not for me.”
The consistency in his career and professional path is the development of his leadership in increasingly important positions in sales, marketing, technical and commercial support in construction-related sectors. “I’ve worked with great leaders who taught me how to deal with leadership in North America which is quite different from Great Britain. Here, I learned to lead differently according to the person you are leading.
Charlie Harte’s career, which spanned Canada and the United States, began at Black & Decker / DeWalt Canada, then moved on to Ipex and Irwin Industrial Tools. Mr. Harte was general manager for Canada at Uponor when he took over the management of LEDVANCE Canada.
Before accepting this important position, Mr. Harte asked to meet the leader of the company. “I knew my boss would be the US leader but I wanted to meet the global leader so I could know what was the company strategy. Vision strategy, so I met him, spent a day in his office in Boston, talking during one day about his vision, how far we could go, what controls has in its future, all the thinking about lighting, investments in patents, the desire to lead the business, the vision of the future, products, markets, the maths of the business, how they operate. I came out of that meeting quite invigorated” it was mid-December of 2019.”
Attitude and strategy are key all along our discussion, sales strategy, leadership strategy, attitude towards the challenges of the pandemic, etc. The triathlon athlete is always ready to offer guidance and support to his team, to be a listening ear, a skill he developed with the pandemic. “My leadership style is to support; the pyramid is inverted. I have something to learn from everybody. Life is about learning and I like to learn all the time.”
“The lighting market is going to change over the next few years. Consumer sales will be completely different, with long-lasting, energy-efficient products. At the commercial, industrial and institutional levels, the market will consolidate. We need to stay relevant. My root market for professional customers is through distributors, we recognize knowledge, availability, and service. We will continue through that channel, that will not change.”
“The short-term challenges are managing the discontinuation of fluorescent lighting since 40% of the market still uses fluorescent lighting. The transition to LED technology will have to be done via products that are environmentally friendly and competitive.”
Another challenge is rejuvenating the workforce. “Each generation has something to offer, an expertise of its own. People closer to retirement know how to establish links with customers, they can put a deal together, know how to talk to a customer. We are doing things differently today. The younger generation brings the use and understanding of technology. It makes your life so much easier, and they are open to change. A much-needed attitude in our industry.”
Conclusion for now
Just over 30 years after his arrival in the country, Mr. Harte is now at the head of LEDVANCE in Canada. Can we talk about a successful integration? “I certainly arrived in Canada as an immigrant, but I was a white man and I spoke English. Integration was less of a challenge for me than it is for many new Canadians today. This is one of his objectives at LEDVANCE. I want our team to reflect Canada’s diversity, and we’re well on the way to gender equality,” Charlie Harte concludes proudly.
Line Goyette is the managing editor of Lighting Design Specification
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