First Graphene (ASX:FGR) – Craig McGuckin



The CEO Mindset - Craig McGuckin is the Managing Director of First Graphene (ASX:FGR)

Craig McGuckin is the Managing Director of First Graphene (ASX:FGR), a leading graphene supplier in the commercial-scale manufacture of high-quality graphene products. They have a primary manufacturing base in Henderson, near Perth, WA, and is incorporated in the UK as First Graphene (UK) Ltd. and is a Tier 1 partner at the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC), Manchester, UK. Commercial applications are now being progressed in composites, elastomers, fire retardancy, construction and energy storage.

What’s your journey in becoming a CEO?
I started my career as a surveyor at Griffin Coal in Collie Western Australia working in other positions from Mine Planning Engineer to shift manager. I was head hunted by Ausdrill Ltd to head up their ground support division and become Manager for Drill and Blast. I returned to Griffin as the Mine Manager prior to becoming Managing Director of Grimwood Davies Drilling. I spent 11 years in the oil and gas industry as founding Director and General Manager for Rheochem PLC, a specialist drilling fluids company. During my time at Rheochem I was instrumental in establishing the business in New Zealand and India and securing both an AIM and ASX listing. The business was sold to an American company, Newpark, for $45m in 2011.

Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercialising?
First Graphene is a specialist 2D materials company. We have commissioned the world’s largest industrial scale, high quality graphene manufacturing facility at Henderson in WA.

The commercialisation process involves dealing with companies which will benefit from using our PureGRAPH® branded product in their products. After the initial introduction there is a period of engineering and testing as we design a methodology appropriate for the customer. Once designed, the customer needs to make the decision to adopt the material in its manufacturing facility. This process can take 6-12 months from initial enquiry to adoption.

We frequently have 20-30 enquiries from potential customers at any point in time, so we need to be efficient with our choice of parties to focus on. There needs to be a clear path to adoption and sales revenue as opposed to general curiosity. In due course we will be selling PureGRAPH® to many different customers for a wide range of products.

At this point we are focusing on applications and products that have the shortest route to adaptation, with the potential for larger volumes of graphene.

How are you managing with the current COVID-19 pandemic on both business and personal fronts?
We are fortunate our business does not require employees to be in confined quarters working physically close to each other. Our graphene manufacturing business is not labour intensive and there is plenty of room for workers to stay safely separated. So, our manufacturing business is not really implicated.

One area that has slowed down is the work being done at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre in Manchester, UK. As it is located on the University campus it has been affected by the lockdown of tertiary institutions in the UK.

What is the most exciting thing about running your business?
The opportunity to be involved in a new industry, that of 2D materials, is very exciting. It is not a matter of following a road map because there isn’t one. We have to call on our collective previous business experiences as we pave our own road rather than just copying what someone else has done. There is a lot of research and developmental experimentation involved requiring great dexterity. The research and business plans need regular monitoring and adjustment as we gain more experience in this new and disruptive chemical.

There is an enormous sense of satisfaction as our spirit of innovation has led us to become the world leader in the manufacturing of high quality graphene powder fit for use by industry. Nevertheless, we see there is still a steep learning curve ahead of us and an ongoing need to continue our research and development.

For me, as CEO, it is wonderful to lead such a dedicated team of professionals who share the dream of making graphene a truly commercial product as opposed to a heavily promoted novelty. We are turning visions into reality.

How do you measure success?
The conventional measure of success in business is the establishment of a profitable operation that has sustainability and growth opportunities. In this case, that cannot be achieved without building a team of talented personnel and motivating them to give 100% effort.

I measure success by the strength of the team and their loyalty to the vision and to each other. Being a CEO is a bit like being the captain coach of a football side. It is about motivating the players to give their best and to grow as individuals at the same time.

What do you think is the most important quality about being a CEO of a listed company?
The job of being a CEO is becoming more complex as time goes by due to increasing government regulation and social responsibilities. Skills across a number of disciplines are required in order to understand what is going on, but being multi-skilled doesn’t mean you also take responsibility for every task. The ability to delegate and trust the judgement of key members in the organisation is vitally important.

On reflection of my role as CEO I have come to the conclusion it is leadership skills that are of greatest value. Demonstrating appropriate behaviours, motivating the team to achieve success in their roles and inspiring them to join me on this often chaotic path we call business are the goals I work towards each day.

What is your favourite book?
Most of my reading is work-related, but of late when I find time to read for enjoyment I turn to Lee Child or Chris Carter novels.

What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia?
We are the leader in innovation for the commercialisation of graphene materials for supply to companies that have a reciprocal desire to be one step ahead of the competition. We are not a promotional company out to grab all the headlines by saying what we are going to do. We prefer to be assessed on what we have developed to date. When you compare First

Graphene with other graphene sector companies, and you cut through the promotion to see what has really been achieved, you will certainly be impressed. We believe we offer our shareholders the opportunity to participate in an exciting growth curve over the next 5, 10 and 20 years as the commercialisation of graphene accelerates.

How can people connect with you?
Email: Linkedin Profile

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FGR Managing Director, Craig McGuckin (left) with Steel Blue Founding Director, Ross Fitzgerald

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