Pratley, a truly South African success story, was established in 1948 by George Pratley. Drawing from 70 plus years of experience, the company has filed over 350 patents worldwide and is involved in the manufacturing and marketing of brand leading electrical cable termination products to global markets. Today, the company is still very family-orientated, with George Pratley’s son, Kim, and grandsons, Andrew and Charles, taking the company forward. Sparks Electrical News spoke to Andrew Pratley about the company’s involvement in the electrical industry.
Sparks: Where were you educated?
AP: I grew up in Krugersdorp and matriculated from Krugersdorp High School. Thereafter I studied IT at Monash University and obtained a BComp degree in 2005.
Sparks: How long have you been involved in the lighting industry?
AP: I have been in the electrical industry since 2005.
Sparks: When and where did you start your career?
AP: I started working at Pratley in 2005 as an IT administrator, although I had numerous holiday jobs at Pratley prior to this. I am currently part of management.
Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years in the industry?
AP: The unfortunate demise of SEOs in South Africa and the skills drain to foreign shores. Also, I believe industry has endured a lot of frustration in recent times when dealing with the SABS, specifically regarding product testing and certification. This has the effect of hampering innovation.
Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?
AP: I have personally been involved in the development and marketing of many of Pratley’s new electrical products. There isn’t one that stands out above all others, but one of the most exciting of recent times has been the development and launch of Pratley’s Ex e/n certified Rectangular Enviro Box.
Sparks: Have you won any awards?
AP: As a company we have won several awards over the years, including a Technology Top 100 award and Mogale City Business of the Year.
Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?
AP: Most of my inspiration is drawn from my grandfather, George ‘Monty’ Pratley, who started the company in 1948. He overcame numerous challenges both personally and professionally to build a successful business. My father, Kim, has mentored me into who I am today. He is a highly dedicated and principled man.
Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?
AP: Besides the red tape and over legislation of business in general, getting products certified by the testing authorities has become an enormous challenge. I believe this is largely to do to skill shortages, lack of adequate equipment and in some cases, mismanagement too.
Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?
AP: I enjoy the fact that every day brings a new challenge. Because I get involved in the management of many operating divisions in the company, every day is different. It’s definitely not a boring job.
Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?
AP: Employees need to be proud of what they do and who they work for. They need to believe in something bigger than simply doing their job each day. We have a policy statement that says, “The performance of our products must exceed all others on the world market.” When they begin to see the proof of that for themselves through their daily work, the motivation flows naturally.
Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything?
AP: No, I wouldn’t change anything.
Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?
AP: Yes, but equip yourself with practical skills that are needed by the electrical industry. Find a niche in the market and exploit that through educating yourself. We have a skills shortage in the country, and at the same time, a huge unemployment problem. It may sound a little pessimistic, but I would rather advise a school leaver to enter the market with a mindset that they will not find a job easily. Take charge of your future and never rule out entrepreneurship.
Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors, electrical engineers or lighting designers?
AP: Verify manufacturer’s claims before committing to the purchase. Do not take price at face value. Find products that have features and benefits that will save cost months and years down the line. Remember that safety is not negotiable, and lives can depend on the correct choice.
Sparks: What is your favourite quote?
AP: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is attributed to Albert Einstein.
Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’
AP: To visit Antarctica, run a marathon, and write a book.