A Welsh LA story: interview with the global business leader who's giving something back
Lyndon Faulkner is a Welshman who despite his incredible business career, you may not have heard of. He's been at the helm of LA-based Pelican Products, Inc (known as Peli Products in Europe) since 2006 - and has driven billions in revenue to industry-shaping, Fortune 100 companies. His influence and role in launching the Compact Disc (CD), Digital Video Disc (DVD) and Microsoft Xbox, stood him in good stead to become Pelican's CEO.
In 2008, Lyndon lead the company on an aggressive strategy of acquisitions and expansion, helping to increase Pelican's sales profits by 400%. We talk with Lyndon to find out about his meteoric rise from Newport born rugby player to global business leader - and why he’s funding a week-long masterclass for Welsh business leaders at his company's base in LA.
What was your childhood like in Wales?
I was born in the Gwent Valley of Wales, on a council estate in one of Newport’s tougher areas. My parents were hard-working people, my mother a secretary, my father a truck driver and later a steelworker. I had the opportunity to attend Bassaleg Comprehensive which was extremely good for my education and cultivated my love for sports.
What was your first job?
I had several jobs growing up in Newport, starting from a very young age. These included a paper round, assisting a local milkman with his dairy deliveries and spending entire summers on construction sites, simply to make the tea. Working from a young age instilled a strong work ethic in me.
Tell us about your rugby career.
I always loved sports as a kid, watching and playing rugby. Attending Bassaleg Comprehensive was very competitive and allowed me to hone in on my rugby skills. At 18, I began playing centre for Newport RFC and then for Pontypool RFC, considered to be at the height of their ‘Golden Era’. I played for Pontypool for 5 seasons, over 200 matches, winning the Schweppes Cup among other great rugby achievements before retiring from the sport due to a knee injury.
How did college affect your path in life?
I had not planned to attend college and was planning to sign up for the British Army, eager to serve the country. While I did enlist in the army, I was soon offered an apprenticeship with a well-known company, Thyssen in Bynea, West Wales. This allowed me to learn a trade and led to me attaining my qualifications in electrical engineering from South Gwent College. Unable to play rugby after my injury, I continued forward with my education and obtained an additional engineering degree. Shortly after, I was working as a research and development engineer at Nimbus Records, preparing to launch a brand new technological innovation: the compact disc (CD).
How did you apply your professional rugby experience to the business world?
Many of the skills I learned when playing rugby translated directly to the business world. Teamwork, camaraderie, competitive spirit and success. Those are many of the things at my core and I continue to apply them in business today.
What are some of the challenges you faced early in your career?
It has been a challenge getting people and companies to change their mindsets and accept new technology. Working with Nimbus, our job was to persuade the music industry that the compact disc was not a fleeting idea and could enhance the music experience over vinyl records and cassette tapes. I faced the same type of challenges and resistance in the movie industry when introducing the DVD over VHS tapes.
What is one of the biggest risks you have taken in your career?
In 2008, as Wall Street was in a financial crisis, I took a calculated risk with Pelican to acquire a long time competitor, Hardigg Industries. We moved forward with a high-valued ($200 million) acquisition when big deals like this were not being made. Timing, trust and a bold vision were crucial to making this calculated risk. And the risk has certainly paid off for Pelican.
What do you see as a business’s greatest resource?
I have found people to be a business’s biggest asset and I have always tried to surround myself with the best people. You have to have good employees and colleagues to drive the business forward. And people have to feel invested in the business to do their greatest work. I try and select the strongest and most innovative people for important roles and I have to trust them to do what they are supposed to do.
What attracted you to Pelican Products?
Pelican is and has always been an authentic brand. Pelican was started in 1976 and embodies our company vision, “Protecting all that you value”. Pelican knew who they were as a brand but had so much potential for growth and expansion. Coming to Pelican became a great opportunity for me to use my experience in international business and mergers and acquisitions to move the company forward.
What was involved in the decision to expand Pelican from the traditional cases and lighting business into the Consumer and BioThermal markets?
People say not to mess with something that’s working. We recognized that it was working, but what we were doing was not a fit for the next 20 years. So we had to evolve. If we market to a photographer, they know who Pelican is. If we market to a young person buying an iPhone, they possibly don’t know who Pelican is. We would not have been able to build the newer divisions under the traditional business methods. So we separated them out and brought in people that understand selling and marketing to our new consumers.
What is the common link between all Pelican products across the multiple divisions?
The common link is the need for reliable protection and quality products, regardless of what the product is. We make indestructible cases to protect our customers’ equipment, and we use that same innovative knowledge and goal of supreme protection when developing an iPhone case. The same objective of reliability comes into play as we continue to expand our BioThermal product line, used to transport pharmaceuticals and blood for life-saving purposes. Our lighting tools also offer supreme reliability across numerous industries.
Where do you see the Pelican business going ten years from now?
The sky is the limit for Pelican. The brand has a solid foundation of making high quality products that protect people’s valuables. Those valuables have changed over the years. Whatever people find most valuable in ten years, Pelican will be there to protect it.
The 'Meet the Makers' initiative you are sponsoring is the first partnership of this kind as part of the diaspora-led 'GlobalWelsh Academy'. What's prompted you to offer this opportunity?
I'm passionate about the GlobalWelsh community and the skills and talents we have in the Welsh diaspora. It’s exciting for me to be part of a programme where I can use my 25 years of international business experience to help Welsh companies grow inside and outside of Wales. We're sponsoring this initiative to support the effort to connect Welsh people across the globe.
Pelican Products, Inc. is a portfolio company of Behrman Capital, a private equity investment firm based in New York and San Francisco and is the global leader in the design and manufacture of protective case solutions and advanced portable lighting systems.
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