Maronna Filletti has dedicated 44 years of her career within the echelons of the M. Demajo Group, ultimately consolidating the success of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of the Group, focusing on cash automation, queuing systems, reverse vending machines, and the supple of high/low voltage energy and fibre optic cables, sub-sea cables, wing turbines, and other industrial equipment, including maintenance and support services. Over the years, she has earned accolades for her steadfast single-mindedness in steering the company to growth and, today, she’s also invested in seeing others fulfil their potential.

“I see my role as a strategic one – one in which, yes, I lead the company, but I also mentor a group of colleagues who will be future leaders, here and elsewhere,” asserts Maronna Filletti, the Managing Director of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, a member of M. Demajo Group. Maronna has, indeed, much to teach, having worked her way up through the ranks of the enterprise across more than four decades, with an approach characterised by diligence, loyalty and collaboration.

“I started out as a junior secretary and worked my way up through the organisation. I was given the opportunities to grow, but also rose to the occasion,” she says, stressing that she was mentored along the way, particularly by Joseph M. Demajo, then Chairman and CEO of the M. Demajo Group and one of the group’s founders, whose guidance was instrumental in building her confidence and know-how.

“He saw potential in me at a very young age – when I couldn’t even see it myself – and over the years, he invested in me. In turn, I invested in the organisation, moving up from PA to the Chairman and CEO, to HR Director, and later to Executive Director, and finally, now to Managing Director. I hope to give this another few years,” she says, smiling.

Indeed, while it’s clear Maronna’s success was built through hard graft, there’s a sense of infectious joy that she brings to the table. “I’m driven by the pursuit of excellence and my work ethos is centred around the principles of integrity, transparency and ambition. But I also want the team to feel excited about what they do. It’s not about coming into the office, nine-to-five, doing your work and going home, but it’s about genuinely enjoying it, meeting new people, challenging yourself, and having fun.” Such a positive approach is key, she says, for “we’re in a serious business and we need to have the mentality of ‘we will achieve’, rather than simply ‘we will try’.”

This mindset has been decisive in the evolution of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, which, today, focuses on four revenue streams, as Maronna explains, giving an overview of the business. “Originally, we were a trading company in the business of importation and distribution – mainly of household items. Today, however, we have diversified and offer products that serve B2B and B2C customers in the banking, retail, hotel, and supermarket segments, as well as Government entities and parastatal bodies, among others.

“In essence, we have a contracting division which overseas large-scale tenders such as the interconnector Malta-Sicily, and trenchless directional drilling, among others; a cash automation division; a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) unit; as well as a section managing our industrial equipment division with a team of technical specialists offering 24×7 maintenance and support services. This structure reflects our growing commitment to participate in the development of Malta’s infrastructure and its circular economy,” she asserts, highlighting the group’s mission statement: ‘together we achieve because we care’.

In this regard, she points to the organisation’s proactive approach to researching and applying for high-value public contract bids. “We’re focused on contributing to Malta’s growth as well as the safeguarding of its environment. We propose projects, we participate in other collaborations and we are also catalysts to change,” Maronna asserts, adding that, particularly in the arena of industrial equipment procurement – as well as in the sourcing of suppliers with whom to work in concert – “we ensure to integrate with well-renowned brands, and this boosts our expertise as well as our reputation for quality and service,” she attests.

One of the arenas in which the company has matured is its cash automation division, particularly as a result of evolving payment choices, post-COVID-19. “The world economy has become more digital and the use of cash is changing, creating new opportunities for us,” she asserts, emphasising data on banknote circulation in Malta. This data, compiled by the Central Bank, shows that by the end of June last year, euro banknote circulation in Malta had reached 33.9 million banknotes – a growth of 3.8 per cent compared to the previous year – at a total value of €2.3 billion – a rise of 4.2 per cent compared to 2022. “Cash is not disappearing, but there will be new avenues to explore within this revenue stream,” she says.

The ability to transform and shift, according to the challenges of modern times, is at the core of Maronna’s entrepreneurial spirit. “I don’t believe you can get discouraged by any of the challenges you face. You must believe in yourself and build resilience. Nothing is given to us on a plate, so there must be sacrifices and long hours, and I would also press anyone who wants to grow to study and build an academic background,” she asserts. Indeed, Maronna has, over the years, not only advanced within the industry by working in the trenches of the business world, but has also completed a Master’s in Business Administration, for which she submitted a thesis on the diversity of female leadership.

Equality of opportunity in the workplace is an issue very close to her heart, and she admits that “if I had been a man, I’m sure I would have reached this post earlier.” She believes her success is due to an “element of leaning-in”, but she also asserts that the organisation has to be open to providing opportunities across the board. “It cannot be just up to the individual. I achieved what I have within this organisation because my mentors saw my potential. They weren’t scared of widening the family circle and I became the first and only female non-family director, now Managing Director. You have to have visionary leaders – of either gender – who aren’t scared of change or of opening the circle. Once those conditions are in place, of course, it’s then up to the individual to remain committed.”

As a result of her work, Maronna has been recognised by the broader business community, having won three awards at Malta’s Best Businesswoman Awards 2022, including Best Businesswoman in Management, Best Contribution in Business Service and the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. While over a year has passed since then, “the experience definitely made me realise how important the recognition of your peers is and how it spurs motivation,” she smiles. To this day, she does not know who nominated her, but this acknowledgement of her efforts has further inspired her to mentor other young people in business. “Setting an example is very important to me,” she says.

This is what she also hopes to bring to her team, giving others what she has been privileged to receive – and she is convinced this is at the core of the enterprise’s success. Indeed, last year, while there was a need to grow the staff complement amid challenges in sourcing human resources, her colleagues at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd stepped up to the plate, “running programmes bigger than we had before and showing ourselves that we can be at the front end of the segments within which we operate.”

This year, she hopes to see more of her co-workers take on leadership roles. “By the end of 2024, I hope our growth strategy will have been achieved. And, on a personal basis, I want to feel that my partners here are also advancing – that is what will bring me deep satisfaction. The world is not just my oyster, but their oyster too,” she smiles.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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