STEPHEN LAKIN – His fascinating story.
STEPHEN initially trained as an accountant and spent his early years as an internal liquidator for Dixons. “I did a maths degree, trained and qualified as an accountant. I did the job for six months, and didn’t particularly like it,” he says. “I got a job at Dixons as a ‘Divisional GM’ – which turned out to be an internal liquidator. It was the worst job I ever had. I don’t like laying off staff.”
Lakin turned what could have easily been a stalling period in his life into a significant turning point for his career – and for the global events industry. Part of his job at Dixons entailed liquidating the company’s professional hire division; after leaving Dixons, he decided to buy back all the stock (that he had put in a Dixons storage unit in Stevenage rather than selling on) for £40,000 plus VAT.
That company became Viewplan – the first company he took public, and which carved out a significant place in the market, providing AV and production equipment for broadcast, as well as corporate and West End events. From there, Lakin moved to Gearhouse, which he started from scratch and built up to become, at the time, the largest production equipment hire company in the world, with operations on five continents, just under 3,000 staff and was comprised of 63 companies.
He then floated the company on the London Stock Exchange to take it public in 1995, and in 1998 left the company to enter semi-retirement.
By 1999, Lakin was itching for something new. “I started Protec when I saw an opportunity when we won a large project in Saudi Arabia to launch the Faisaliah Tower in the late 90s. I looked at renting the equipment we needed from the UK but the shipping costs worked out too high so I decided to buy the equipment we needed for the show instead. At the end of it we ended up with 20 40ft containers full of equipment. I brought it back to Dubai and decided to start a company and Protec was born. It’s grown since those early days and we now have well-equipped facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Birmingham. It looks like retirement is not something I can manage. Certainly not when I love doing what I do.” And so the start of the new millennium will be remembered fondly by the entrepreneur as he opened the latest chapter of his remarkable career.
Stephen Lakin enjoys leading his key team – experienced production managers and technicians from the front line.
“A lot of people have impacted me along the way and I’m still enjoying the roller-coaster ride. I’m not one to harbour regrets; I have made a lot of money and lost a lot of money along the way … but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”
A lot of people have impacted me along the way and I’m still enjoying the roller-coaster ride. I’m not one to harbour regrets; I have made a lot of money and lost a lot of money along the way … but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.