Fox Marble, founded by Chris Gilbert and Etrur Albani in 2011, focusses on quarrying in Kosovo. However, while the quality of marble and dolomitic limestone was a drawing point – its reserves largely untapped – there was another reason behind the company’s creation.
Talking to Real Business, Gilbert explained that they tried to introduce a new industry and type of business governance to Kosovo. The industry, he said, laid dormant for decades, “the most likely reason being a history of conflict and poverty”.
Since its initial launch, Fox Marble has gone global, with data on the company’s website revealing that the shipment of marble increased by 33% over 15 years. But with such growth comes tremendous stress – and Gilbert shares how he unwinds after a tough day at work.
Founder: Chris Gilbert
Company: Fox Marble Holdings
Our enterprise has and will continue to provide employment, trade and regeneration in a previously troubled region. I would like Fox Marble to be remembered for re-introducing this industry and type of business governance to Kosovo, a country that has struggled to develop its economy following independence in 2008.
Your business model
We look for a sustainable business model capable of delivering good returns in the long term from a stable base. The business has to be responsible for stakeholders, shareholders, workforce, local community and its customers and demonstrating these qualities will generally result in longevity and profitability.
How do you measure success?
Success can be measured in a number of areas, profitability, sustainability, workforce happiness, customer satisfaction and the benefit to the community in which we operate. It is also important to be environmentally conscious and very health and safety orientated.
Last year we built our own processing factory in Kosovo and installed the most advanced Italian made machinery for cutting marble to size. A new trade showroom will shortly open in London. This will open many doors as we will be able to welcome more trade around the world from the Balkans region.
Our markets now include India, China, the US and Australia, as well as the UK and Italy. We are ambitious to open more new markets such as Japan, South Korea, Canada and South America.
How did you fund your business?
We listed on AIM and raised funds through a placing of shares. To date, I have raised £20 million.
Your biggest technology boost
Our factory includes a state of the art 5 axis CNC cutting machine which can process stone into all sorts of shapes and sizes quickly and efficiently. This kind of computerisation will lead our business efforts going forward.
In five years
My vision is to run a state-of-the-art marble company producing blocks, slabs and cut to size bespoke orders that have built firm, longstanding relationships with its clients and one that is recognised globally. We now have the ability to excavate efficiently in larger quantities than ever before with no damage to the environment.
Environmental sustainability is very important to us and our planet.
Your highest point
Listing our company on the London Stock Exchange has to be a high point, we were a startup and we proposed a marble company which had not existed on a stock exchange anywhere before.
We were operating in Kosovo and were the first public company to do so shortly after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. I am proud of my team and have worked with such dedication to make this a reality.
Your lowest point
As a young man l founded a small company which failed in the media sector. The loss of jobs involved taught me that it is most important to develop a conservative business plan in which targets can actually be achieved. Learning that risk management is a real part of any successful venture was the biggest lesson l learned.
What would you tell your younger self?
You will succeed and fail, make sure you learn from the results. Read more. Humility is an important characteristic to develop. Everything is always a team effort if it is going to be successful and the smarter the people around you the better chance of success you will have.
Your policy wish list
I would like to see a strong government promoting business-friendly policies with a focus on supporting entrepreneurial energy and effort, as well as international trade.
Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs?
Invest in your staff. Work to the highest ethical standards both personally and corporately – and insist everyone around does the same. Remember it is always a team effort and reward people accordingly in every way possible.
You may not be aware that I come from a musical background. After so many years in the music industry, there is nothing I would rather do than go home on stressful days and relax to some music.
Anything from opera (from Verdi and Wagner) to the golden age of rock (60s onwards) to contemporary music. Favourite acts include Martina McBride (Country) The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Current favourites include Adele, Drake and The Vamps
What would make you a better leader?
I aspire to develop staff through empowerment. I think in order for a team to grow, their creativity must be encouraged. Challenges should be set but always make sure that these are within grasp of their abilities.
On your reading list right now
Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future, by Ashlee Vance, is definitely worth the read. I admire entrepreneurs that create businesses from scratch, especially where new products or new technology is concerned.
A day in your life
When I am in London, my daily routine consists of attending to issues such as quarry management. I supervise our marketing, sales and distribution effort carried out by our team around the world and respond to any problems as they arise.
I also attend to shareholders who frequently contact us for updates. On occasion l am called upon to speak to the press and media, especially around results time and when we have major news to report. I travel frequently to Kosovo and to other parts of the world as we expand our company. I have recently been to India, the USA and Macedonia where one of our quarries is sited.
On your watchlist right now
Right now l am watching Versailles, the BBC TV series, and have recently watched Elizabeth 1st – Spy network about how she set up the world’s first secret service, which had much to do with her longevity and success in a very turbulent time and precarious time for her.