Having opened in 1977, Dolphin Electrical Wholesale celebrated 40 years in business on November 14 and, as having founded the company alongside her husband, Harry, Noeleen is the well-known face of the successful independent electrical wholesaler.
A well-known and respected individual in the Irish electrical industry, Noeleen has been integral in the company’s continuing success. She recently welcomed her son, Colin, into the business but despite the new addition, retirement isn’t on the horizon.
“I love the electrical industry and I’m proud that we have reached 40 years in business,” she said. “That is thanks to the loyalty of our customers and suppliers and our staff.”
The appetite for industry knowledge hasn’t waned in 40 years.
“There’s always something new in our industry and I love that. But it bugs the hell out of me if a customer comes in talking about a product that I don’t know anything about! I’m not one of these people who will pretend – I’ll admit I don’t know anything about it, but I’ll go to great lengths to find out more and get that product in for them. I don’t like letting customers down.”
Noeleen is steeped in the electrical industry and feels her first job at O’Reilly Electrical Wholesalers gave her the best possible start.
“Mr O’Reilly was a fantastic mentor. Some of the lessons I learned in those early days still help me now. O’Reilly’s covered domestic, commercial and industrial products, so that gave me a great grounding.”
The last 40 years haven’t been without their challenges though. The company has ridden the storm of two recessions but, on a personal level, the toughest period was in 1989 when Harry had an accident that left him unable to work.
“The whole industry rallied round us and I will never forget that,” Noeleen explained. “We received 100% support and, while we had debts to pay, everyone was very understanding. “I was brought up with being told that your word is your bond and we were known for that. We had worked hard to build a reputation as a trustworthy company and that made all the difference when Harry had his accident.”
There is another old adage that is important to Noeleen – that you must ‘cut your cloth to suit your measure’. “I couldn’t live the high life jetting off on sun holidays or hitting the golf course every other day when I knew that people were waiting payment. I just don’t think that’s how anyone should operate in business.”
Rather than considering herself to be a trailblazer in a male-domindated industry, Noeleen is more about equality – her attitude is that she wouldn’t ask anyone to do a job she wouldn’t be prepared to do herself. Another important trait is that she still believes that it is important that she gets to know her customers.
“That’s been the best part of my work here – getting to know people. You can’t provide a service without knowing your customers.”
Some may call this business model old-fashioned, but the more apt term would be tried and tested. Looking to the future, Noeleen has started to impart her vast knowledge and experience to her son, Colin, who joined the company earlier this year. Her husband, Harry, still plays a role in the company and is on hand to help out when needed.
“It’s great working with Harry and Colin, but I’m in no hurry to retire. I enjoy my work. I get to regularly meet people I’ve known for years and get to meet new people all the time. Then there’s the new products to learn about and looking at how we remain competitive. It’s a proud moment for us all at Dolphin Electrical to reach 40 years in business, and we’re looking forward to adding plenty more years to that total!”